If you are planning to file for divorce because of your spouse’s behavior or actions, or if your spouse has already filed for divorce, you may be wondering if you will need to prove fault. Further, you likely want to know if proving fault will affect the outcome of your divorce. For example, if you prove that your spouse cheated on you, will you be eligible to get more marital assets as part of the property division process in your divorce? Or if your spouse engaged in abusive behavior toward you or your children, can you ask the court to make certain decisions about support or custody?
Generally speaking, the fault of one or both spouses in a divorce will not stop the divorce since Michigan is a no-fault state for divorce purposes. However, some situations may exist in which your ex’s fault may be relevant to the outcome of your divorce in such areas as custody, spousal support, division of property and attorney fees.
When it Comes to Divorce, Michigan is a No-Fault State
When you are thinking about fault and divorce, it is critical to understand what we mean when we say that Michigan is a no-fault state. While certain states still allow spouses to opt for a fault-based divorce in addition to a no-fault option—many states used to have an only fault-based divorce system, but that has changed—Michigan only has a no-fault option. Accordingly, even if your spouse’s behavior is the clear and unequivocal reason that you are filing for divorce, the divorce court will not require you, or even ask you, to prove fault. Instead, you will only be required to allege the following in your complaint for divorce:
“[T]here 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.”
To be clear, Michigan law requires the spouse who files for divorce to allege that no-fault information quoted above. In addition, the law is clear in stating that in the complaint for divorce “the plaintiff shall make no other explanation of the grounds for divorce than by the use of the statutory language.” In other words, even if you want to include grounds for divorce in your complaint, Michigan law does not allow you to do so. Once you meet the timing requirements for the divorce and allege the no-fault basis for filing your complaint, the divorce can be granted.
When Can You Raise Issues of Fault?
As we have discussed above, Michigan courts will not even consider fault-based grounds for divorce in the complaint for divorce that you file. Are there any situations in which you can raise the issue of fault?
In some situations where domestic violence or spousal abuse has occurred, or in situations involving particularly egregious behavior by your spouse, that fault may be considered in a divorce property settlement. The court may also consider similar information in divorce cases when deciding issues pertaining to child custody, spousal support and attorney fees. In particular, if one party is linked to any acts of violence or abuse, the court even limit child custody and parenting time.
Contact Our Divorce Lawyers in Michigan
If you have questions about divorce and fault, our Michigan divorce attorneys are here to assist you. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to learn more.