What is the legal process for obtaining a no-fault divorce in Michigan?

Understanding No-Fault Divorce in Michigan

In the realm of family law, Michigan stands as a no-fault divorce state, meaning that a spouse seeking divorce does not have to prove the other party's wrongdoing or fault to dissolve the marriage. Instead, it is sufficient for one party to assert that the marital relationship has broken down irretrievably. This modern approach to divorce reflects a shift from traditional fault-based divorces, which often required showing evidence of infidelity, abuse, or abandonment.

The Legal Framework

The foundational statute governing no-fault divorce in Michigan is Section 552.6 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. Under this statute, the essential ground for divorce is the existence of 'irreconcilable differences' that have led to the breakdown of the marriage. The legal process for obtaining a no-fault divorce in Michigan involves several key steps.

Filing the Complaint

The first step in initiating a no-fault divorce is for one spouse (the plaintiff) to file a Complaint for Divorce in the circuit court of the county where either spouse resides. The complaint must state that 'there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.' Once filed, the complaint must be served on the other spouse (the defendant).

Waiting Period

Michigan law imposes a waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. If there are no minor children from the marriage, the waiting period is a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing. However, if minor children are involved, the waiting period extends to six months, although courts may waive part of this period under certain circumstances.

Temporary Orders and Discovery

During the waiting period, courts may issue temporary orders concerning child custody, support, and property issues. Additionally, both parties engage in discovery—a legal process allowing them to obtain information from each other relevant to issues such as asset division and alimony.

Settlement or Trial

Most no-fault divorces in Michigan are settled without going to trial. Spouses may come to an agreement on their own or with assistance from mediators or attorneys. This agreement will address all relevant issues including property division, alimony (spousal support), child custody, and support. If an agreement cannot be reached, these matters will be determined at trial.

Judgment of Divorce

Once an agreement is reached or after a trial has concluded, a Judgment of Divorce will be entered by the court. This document finalizes the divorce and outlines all terms of property division, custody arrangements, support obligations, and any other pertinent matters.

Historical Context

Michigan's adoption of no-fault divorce legislation in 1971 marked a significant change in how divorces were obtained. Prior to this shift, individuals had to prove fault which often resulted in lengthy and contentious legal battles. The move towards no-fault divorces was aimed at reducing hostility and simplifying the process.

In conclusion, obtaining a no-fault divorce in Michigan requires following statutory guidelines that prioritize an amicable resolution over proving fault. The process encourages transparency and fairness while acknowledging that sometimes marriages simply do not work out despite best efforts.