To begin the process of divorce in Michigan either you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least six months before you file. Michigan has “no-fault” divorce; which means that you don’t have to prove a reason to get a divorce. Your spouse doesn't have to agree to give you a divorce. You can get a divorce even if you are the person who did something that made your marriage end.
There are several issues that will be decided in a divorce action. The following is a brief summary of some of the major issues decided in divorce:
Property and Debt Division: Your marital property will be divided fairly. Your marital debt will also be divided fairly. Marital property and debt are those items of property and debt incurred during your marriage. While whose fault the divorce is will not prevent a divorce, the court may weigh fault when it considers property division.
Spousal Support (Alimony): The court will also decide if you or your spouse will pay spousal support (alimony). Awards of alimony are unusual, if both parties have a work history and are able to work, particularly where marriages are of short duration.
Children: If you and your spouse have (minor) children together, the court will decide who they will live with, what the parenting time arrangements will be, who makes the decisions about the children’s lives, and how much financial support each parent will provide.
Custody: Child custody refers to both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means the right to make important decisions about your children, like where they go to school, what religion they are, and non-emergency medical decisions. Physical custody refers to who your children live with. Both legal custody and physical custody can be sole or joint. Sole custody means only one parent has that type of custody. Joint custody means the parents share that type of custody.
Child Support: Child support is awarded using Michigan’s Child Support Formula. The formula is based on the income of both parents, the number of children, and how often the children stay with each parent. Child support is usually ordered until a child is 18. However, it can continue until the child is 19 ½ if the child is in high school full time and is likely to graduate.
Friend of the Court: While your divorce is pending you and your spouse might be referred to the Friend of the Court to meet with an evaluator. The Friend of the Court evaluator may try to help you and your spouse reach an agreement about custody, parenting time and child support. If you can't reach an agreement, the Friend of the Court will probably make a recommendation to the court. The recommendation is not a court order and will not become a court order unless a judge signs it.
Facilitation and Trial: There is no right to a trial by jury in a divorce case – the judge the case is assigned to will decide the issues of custody, support, alimony, property division, debt division, and all other issues in the divorce. You are entitled to a trial, to present evidence and witnesses, and have the judge decide all issues in your divorce case. Many courts use a facilitation services, where the parties and their attorneys meet with a mediator who tries to assist the parties to reach a settlement and avoid a trial. If a settlement can be reached, you will be saved the attorney fees associated with trial preparation and trial. Your issues will be decided in a final divorce judgment that dissolves your marriage.
Modification of Your Divorce Judgment Later: Many decisions made by the court or agreed to in your settlement in a divorce case are final decisions – such as the dissolution of your marriage, the division of your property or debts, or whether alimony is to be paid by anyone. However, decisions regarding your children – where they live, who controls their lives, the amount of support paid – are capable of being modified until your children reach the age of 18 (or 19 1/2). Alimony can be reserved in your divorce judgment and revisited at a later time.
Suzan Gabbara is the attorney at Frank D. Eaman PLLC who handles our divorce and custody cases. Our firm will ensure that your rights are protected from the beginning of your divorce case until the judgment of divorce is entered. We will represent you and protect your interests in every step of the divorce process to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.