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What is the Difference Between Fault and No-Fault Divorce?

by | Dec 28, 2021 | Uncategorized |

While there can be blame, guilt, and other factors that lead to the breakdown of a relationship, the concept of fault in divorce carries a specific meaning in the practice of law. In many US states, the person filing the petition to dissolve the marriage must state some grounds for seeking divorce. Adultery, abuse, or incarceration are examples of fault, though it is usually sufficient to claim that the marriage has been irretrievably broken. Michigan divorce laws do not require a petitioner to plead a specific reason, making the state a no-fault jurisdiction.

However, while you may not need to claim fault when initiating divorce proceedings, it can still have an impact during the process. Misconduct by one party may affect the rights of the other, so the laws provide options for redress. A Michigan divorce attorney can explain the details as they pertain to your situation, but a summary explains the difference between fault and no-fault divorce.

Overview of Michigan’s No-Fault Divorce Laws

When referring to fault versus no-fault jurisdictions for divorce, the concepts focus on what is legally required to end the marriage – as separate from how misconduct affects divorce issues. In Michigan, the petitioner must allege that:

  • The marriage has broken down to the extent that the relationship has been destroyed; and,
  • There is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.

No other statements are required, and these allegations are all that is necessary for the court to legally end the marriage. In other words, the other party could refute that the marriage has broken down or state that the relationship could be preserved. BUT the judge cannot deny divorce or force the petition to stay married just because there are disputes over the two factors above.

How Fault Impacts Specific Divorce Issues

Even in a no-fault jurisdiction like Michigan, fault that rises to the level of misconduct will most definitely impact the proceedings. Wrongdoing may be an issue for the court to address when making determinations on: 

  • Property Division: Michigan follows the law of equitable distribution when dividing assets between the parties to divorce, a concept that focuses on fairness. If one party wastes or dissipates marital assets, he or she could be held accountable. Typically, the remedy is reducing that party’s share or imposing other penalties.
  • Alimony: When determining the amount and type of spousal support, a court will consider the party’s past relations and whether conduct by one caused the marital breakdown. However, there are many other statutory factors, including the length of the marriage, age, separate incomes, and many others. As such, fault alone does not dictate alimony.

Learn More by Consulting with a Michigan Divorce Lawyer

Michigan may be a no-fault state for purposes of divorce, but fault can certainly have an impact on your case. If you were accused of wrongdoing or sustained losses because of your spouse’s misconduct, please contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins. We can schedule a consultation with an attorney who will assess your situation and advise you on the laws.