Grounds for Divorce in Michigan

Continue reading to learn whether a spouse's actions can be used during any part of a divorce case.

Unfortunately, divorce becomes a reality for roughly 50% of married couples every year. To make the process less contentious, the state of Michigan has adopted a no-fault process so spouses don’t have to point fingers at each other or place blame to end their marriage.

Michigan is a No-Fault Divorce State

In the past, some states required spouses to show fault, meaning that one spouse committed specific marital misconduct—like adultery or abandonment—which caused the divorce. Today, all states have adopted a no-fault method of getting a divorce, although some states continue to also allow fault-based divorces as well.

Michigan is a purely no-fault divorce state. You can request a divorce even if your spouse objects to it, and you only need to show the following:

  • there has been a breakdown in your marital relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and
  • there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.

This may sound complicated, but it’s not. To put it simply, if your relationship is over, there’s no chance that you and your spouse can work it out, and you’re willing to testify to this in court, a judge will grant your request for a divorce.

In one Michigan case, a husband moved out of the marital home to live with another woman after he and his wife separated. This fact was enough to convince the court that there was a breakdown of the marriage. In another case, the court approved a divorce even though the husband argued that he still loved his wife, but the wife testified that she would never return to live with him as husband and wife, and her testimony also demonstrated a history of her husband's verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.

How Does No-Fault Divorce Work in Michigan?

The initial divorce process in Michigan is quite simple. The spouse that wants a divorce needs to file a complaint for divorce with the court. The complaint will include details like the date of the marriage, whether there are children, whether there is marital property, whether there is a breakdown in the marriage, and whether one spouse wants spousal support.

In addition to these statements, you must also tell the court that you meet Michigan’s residency requirement, which means that at least one of you must live in Michigan for at least 180-days immediately before filing the complaint, and you must also be a resident in the county in which you’re filing for at least 10 days. These residency requirements— especially the requirement for the county—will help prevent one spouse from filing for divorce in a county that they believe will get them a more favorable outcome.

If you meet the requirements, Michigan also has a minimum waiting period before the judge will hear your case. The minimum waiting period is 30 days, but if there are children, the period is 180 days. This allows couples to attempt to work things out before the court orders a divorce. In some domestic violence or child abuse cases, a judge may shorten the 180-day waiting period to 30 days, but there is no situation in Michigan that allows a judge to reduce the wait time to less than 30 days.

At the end of the divorce process, you will appear in front of a family court judge and state under oath that you meet the residency requirements, and that your marriage is over with no chance of reconciliation.

My Spouse Caused Our Divorce, Does it Matter?

Maybe. Although Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, you may be able to ask the judge for a more favorable property settlement or spousal support award because of your spouse’s misconduct. Additionally, if your spouse was abusive, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or absent, you may also be able to convince the court your ex is an unfit parent and request full or primary custody.

For example, if a husband physically abused his wife and threatened to kill her, she could file for divorce and ask the judge to award her more of the marital property to help her pay medical bills or recoup costs from missing work due to her injuries. Not every judge will change the property, custody, or spousal support awards due to one spouse’s misconduct, but, this is the only time a judge can consider it during the divorce process.

If you’re contemplating filing for divorce, or if your spouse filed for divorce, and you need to know what to do next, contact an experienced family law attorney near you for help.

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