Five Myths about Divorce in Michigan

I regularly meet with people from southwest Michigan, and field a wide range of questions relating to the procedure and substance of getting divorced in the state of Michigan. The process can be confusing, and if you aren’t trained and experienced in the subject, there is little doubt you may be left with some questions. Below are five ‘myths’ I frequently discuss with prospective clients.

Myth 1: Divorces take years, or can be over in days.

Truth: Divorces in Michigan can be lengthy, but Courts are typically very uncomfortable with excessive delay. In fact, judges are required to set matters for trial within a year, absent unusual circumstances.

Divorces are also generally unavailable within a matter of days. Michigan law requires a minimum of 60 days after the filing of the petition for divorce IF the parties have no minor children. If there are kids involved, six months is the minimum wait.

Myth 2: Divorce is ‘All or Nothing’

Truth: Michigan law requires that the Court divide marital property “equitable.” Although individual cases may contain unusual circumstances, the general principle of fairness and equity are always applied.

Myth 3: Divorce means you “get half” of everything.

Truth: Again, the overriding principle for distribution of marital property is equity or ‘fairness’. People sometimes misunderstand what ‘marital property’ actually is in Michigan. Many things fall into the expansive definition of ‘marital property’, but generally if one party owned it prior to marriage, it is not marital property.

Myth 4: You can opt-out of child support.

Truth: In theory, two financially-stable, collaborative, healthy and cooperative parents could reach an agreement regarding child support, and the Court could consider approving it. In reality, child support will be calculated pursuant to Michigan Child Support Formula and be entered as an order of the Court.

Myth 5: Every case has alimony / Michigan doesn’t have alimony.

Truth: Spousal support, also known as “alimony,” is alive and well, although the general trend within the state and across the United States is a movement away from awards of permanent support. This is not because there has been a widely-supported cultural shift away from such a concept. Rather, more cases than ever involve financial circumstances where traditional gender and/or financial roles are not present. There is also a much greater chance that both parties have a realistic ability and opportunity to seek education, new employment or other opportunities to support themselves. Newer concepts of spousal support, such as support awards of a temporary basis, or support awards specifically designed to pay for the recipient’s education or vocational retraining, have also become commonplace.

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If you would like to further discuss these topics, or other topics relating to divorce, please contact me by telephone at (269) 389-0687 or by e-mail at brendan@guilfordlaw.com.

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