divorce

How to File for a No-Fault Divorce in Michigan

Filing for divorce can be a very difficult and traumatic process. Not only are you putting an end to a relationship and life, but there can also be assets to separate and custody arrangements to settle. Nessel & Kessel, premier Michigan divorce attorneys, can help you navigate these complicated and, and often emotionally charged, waters.

Michigan operates as a No Fault Divorce state. This means the spouse filing for divorce does not have to prove fault of their soon-to-be former spouse in order to file. All that is needed to file is to give a reason that the state honors for divorce. The most common reasons given are “irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of the marriage”.

A spouse cannot object to a petition for a no fault divorce. The petition itself will be viewed by the court as an irreconcilable difference. Fault does become an issue in regards to child custody, property rights, and spousal support. In terms of actually filing, however, both spouses do not need to be in agreement for the divorce to proceed.

It is important to note Michigan does have residency requirements in order to file for divorce. At least one spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least six months. The spouse seeking divorce—also known as the plaintiff in the process—must file in the county in which they have lived with their spouse—the defendant—for the last 10 days.

The plaintiff pays a filing fee and files a complaint within the family division of the circuit court, asking to be granted a divorce. This complaint identifies the parties involved, describes the grievances, and how they are seeking remedy.

The court then issues a summons, along with a copy of the complaint, to be served to the defendant. They have 21 days to respond by filing an answer in the same circuit court. If the defendant fails to file an answer or responsive plea, the court may enter a default judgment and rule in favor of the plaintiff.

If both parties reach an agreement for divorce, and do not want to go to trial, they move into the settlement process, where the division of property, assets, debts and liabilities, and settling matters of child support, custody, and visitation.

In the event of a trial, the plaintiff and defendant move into the discovery and pre-trial procedures phase of the divorce. The discovery phase is used to gather as much information about things like debts, assets, and net worth though interrogations, depositions, and subpoenas. Lawyers use the pre-trial procedures to attempt to settle the divorce before going to trial, using various meetings, evaluations, and conferences.

If the pre-trial procedures are unsuccessful at settling the divorce, the final step is a divorce trial. Michigan allows trials before a judge or a jury. Both options function very much the same. Each party explains the nature of their case, calls witnesses, and proves their evidence. After the trial has ended, the judge or jury will arrive at a verdict.

The Right to Same-Sex Marriage… And Divorce

Even as I sit down at my keyboard today, writing this seems counterintuitive to that which the attorneys of Michigan’s Nessel & Kessel Law, and their clients are traveling to the nation’s capital next week to argue, but the more I think, and the more I type, the more I realize the issues are one, and the same.

For years same-sex couples and activists have fought a system stacked ever-so-clearly in favor of heterosexual couples for the right to marry — and the right to divorce.

Considering same-sex divorce

The D-word. It’s not a word any couple wants to think about considering. But it happens. Same-sex couples love the same as straight couples; they cohabitate the same; they fight the same; and sometimes, they seek same-sex divorce.

Just as marriage equality is poised to sweep the whole of the nation once and for all, same-sex divorce is poised to boom. And that’s no surprise, for the simple fact of the matter that more couples are eligible to be married, and so more are eligible to be divorced.

A recent study done by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that out of the 640,000 total same-sex couples in the United States, 50,000 of those couples married in 2011.

Imagine that number today, four years later.

What the Williams Institute also found was that, in states where it was allowed, the marriage rate among homosexual couples was rising quickly toward that of heterosexual couples (e.g., In Massachusetts, in 2011, 68 percent of gay couples were married, compared to 91 percent of heterosexual couples).

Durability and longevity of same-sex marriage

Some have argued: But the evidence shows that same-sex marriages are more durable, and last longer than straight marriages! Well, yes. For now.

While what Williams Institute researchers found backs up this claim (About one percent of gay marriages dissolve each year, while that number is double for straight couples.), that just can’t last. People are fickle, and fight; people cheat, and they lie. People get married, and stay married for all the wrong reasons.

Love is love, no matter the sex of the lovers.

But just as true is this:

Irreconcilable differences are irreconcilable, no matter the sex of the couple.

That is why, just as heartily as we will argue for same-sex couples’ right to wed, we will open the doors to our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan for couples seeking a same-sex divorce.