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Common Misconceptions About Divorce in Michigan

Steven L. Rotenberg, PLLC Jan. 13, 2022

Any time you are going through a difficult transition in life, well-meaning family and friends are usually ready and willing to offer advice. Whether it is a health crisis, job issue, or divorce, the advice, solicited or not, will be abundant. The problem is that the advice you receive may be inaccurate.

If you are considering divorce or have been served divorce papers, you should make decisions based on facts about Michigan law. For more than 20 years, Steven L. Rotenberg, PLLC has been offering sound legal advice to clients getting divorced in Bingham Farms and throughout the greater Detroit, Michigan area, including Pontiac, Monroe, and Mount Clemens.

Here are some common misconceptions about divorce and the facts regarding them.

Misconception 1: You must get divorced in the same state you were married in.

So long as you or your spouse has been a resident of Michigan for at least 180 days prior to filing and a resident of the county in which you are filing for at least 10 days preceding the filing, you can file for divorce regardless of the state you were married in.

If your spouse was born in or is a citizen of another country, you have a minor child under the age of 18, and a judge believes there is a risk the non-citizen spouse may abscond with the child to another country, the minimums do not apply.

If you are not both residents of Michigan, a Michigan court has jurisdiction to grant a divorce; however, it does not necessarily have jurisdiction over the division of marital property.

Misconception 2: If adultery was involved, the cheated-on spouse gets everything.

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. What that means is that there is no requirement to blame one spouse or the other for the breakdown of the marriage. One spouse needs to attest that the marriage is irretrievably broken. That also means that one spouse can’t keep the filing spouse from obtaining a divorce.

Although adultery is not grounds for divorce in Michigan, proof of adultery or any other poor behavior during the marriage can be considered by the judge when awarding alimony and dividing marital property.

Misconception 3: What we have will be split 50/50.

Michigan is what is referred to as an “equitable distribution state” which means marital property and debts will be divided equitably between the spouses. “Equitable” is not the same as “equal” or “50/50.”

Generally, the assets and debts a spouse acquires prior to the marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances received during the marriage, remain separate property and are not subject to division. Any assets and debts acquired during the marriage are marital property which will be divided equitably.

There are some exceptions to what is and is not “separate property.” It is not unusual for spouses to commingle separate assets after the wedding day. For example, your spouse might have bought the home you live in before you got married but you have been paying the mortgage or for improvements from a joint checking account. That could make at least some of the value of the home marital as opposed to separate property when you divorce.

Misconception 4: In child custody agreements, the mother always gets primary custody of the children.

Under Michigan law, the gender of a parent is not a consideration for which one is awarded primary custody of the children. The court’s concern is the best interests of the children. To that end, with few exceptions, the law encourages the involvement of both parents in their children’s lives and in making decisions about their children, reflected in the child custody arrangement.

Misconception 5: The children get to choose who they live with.

The law does provide that the wishes of children old enough and mature enough to voice an opinion regarding who they live with can be taken into consideration regarding custody. However, at the end of the day, the court will render a decision regarding the best interests of the children in awarding primary physical custody.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Because even the most amicable divorces are such emotional events in anyone’s life, your family law attorney will be the calm in the storm. You can count on Steven L. Rotenberg to have your best interests at heart and to fight for them.

If you are considering divorce or have been served divorce papers, get the facts from someone who knows them. Call the Bingham Farms, Michigan, office of Steven L. Rotenberg, PLLC today.