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Getting a Divorce When You Don’t Have Any Minor Children
Getting a divorce takes time and money and while it is common that children are involved in a divorce, it is not the case with every divorce.
Every state has different rules and requirements for getting a divorce. Michigan is considered a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that there does not need to be a reason given for filing for divorce - neither party has to prove cheating, abandonment, cruelty or any other reason to file for divorce. The only requirement is that the party filing for divorce verifies there is no likelihood the marriage can be saved at the time the file for divorce and at the time the divorce is finalized. It does not matter if your spouse wants a divorce or not so long as that requirement is met.
A married couple is able to get divorce in Michigan even if they were not married in Michigan, as long as they have followed the residency requirements for the state. In Michigan, this means that one or both parties need to have been living in the state for at least 180 days before filing for divorce. A party will file for divorce in the county in which they resided at least 10 days prior to the filing.
Types of Divorce
While it may seem like there is just one type of divorce, that is not true. Parties can file for divorce, annulment or separate maintenance. A phrase that is tossed around a lot when people seek to separate from their partner is “legal separation.” While this may be something that is acknowledged in other states, it is not in Michigan. A couple may separate from each other, move to different residence or different states, but they still remain married and can still be liable for their partners.
Divorce without children typically resolves itself faster as the statutory time frame a couple have to wait to get divorced is 2 months versus the 6 month wait with children. What that means is that the earliest you can be divorced is 60 days after the date of the filing. Hopefully, within that 60 days, the parties can agree on the division of their assets and debts and they can be divorced. If not, then the case will continue and it is then up in the air as to when the divorce will be finalized; that depends on what needs to happen or what needs to be resolved with the case.
Seeking an annulment, which states that the marriage was not legally valid is very difficult. An annulment is not the same as a divorce. Contrary to what may be in the movies or on TV, an annulment can not be granted based on the length of a marriage, (i.e. even if the marriage lasted only two weeks, so the parties cannot get an annulment instead of a divorce.), you never lived together or you just decided that you don’t want to be married anymore (buyers remorse).
There are very specific reasons annulments are granted including:
Age - one or both parties were under the age of 18 (or 16 with a parent consent) when they were married
Bigomy - one or both parties were still married when the marriage took place
Incompetence - one or both paties were not capable of entering into a contract when the marriage took place
Relatives - the parties are closely related to each other
Consent obtained under distress - one of the parties was forced in to the marriage
Improper ceremony - the ceremony was performed by someone who lacked legal authority to do so
To receive an annulment, one party must file all the necessary paperwork for a divorce and also provide sufficient grounds for an annulment. This can take more time and money than a divorce.
Though Michigan does not acknowledge “legal separations”, there is something however, that allows for divorce without actually being divorced.
Separate maintenance is a court case between a married couple in which assets are divided, custody and spousal support is determined, but in the end, the parties are still legally married. The couple remains married after all of these things are done. Reasons for choosing separate maintenance instead of divorce commonly are health insurance (if one party has good health insurance and the other party has poor or no health insurance) or for religious reasons.
However, if one party files for separate maintenance and the other party decides they do not want to remain legally married after all is said and done, then that party will counter sue for divorce and the case will proceed as a divorce.
First Things First
Once a married couple has decided to divorce, there are several steps to take. First the proper paperwork needs to be filed with the court to dissolve the marriage. Then the other party needs to be served.
Once the paperwork is in motion the two parties can begin to divide marital property (assets acquired during the marriage) which include but are not limited to home(s), car(s), furniture, art, retirement accounts, businesses, bank accounts and pensions. This division also includes any debt either of the parties may have.
In Michigan, the law divides martial property using “equitable distribution,” which works to give a 50-50 split to both parties. However, if the parties agree to something else, they are able to do so and is usually in their best interest. If the parties do not agree, then the Court will make the decision for them.
There is also separate property which can consist of, but is not limited to assets required before the marriage or property received through a gift or inheritance. These items are generally not divisible and remain the party who owned them prior to the marriage. There are always exceptions to that rule, so it is wise to consult an attorney about the rights you may have.
After the paperwork has been filed, hearing dates are set with the court. In the state of Michigan, 60 days is the standard time frame before a divorce is final. If both parties can agree on all terms and division of assets in the 60 days, a divorce will be granted.
During the time between filing and the court hearing, the parties can begin to divide assets. They can also attend marriage counseling if reconciliation is something either or both parties are hoping for. If reconciliation is reached before the divorce is finalized, a dismissal of the complaint can be stipulated. If later on, it is decided that the marriage is no longer viable, a new complaint will need to be filed.
Spousal support is a monetary sum given to one party by another. This sum can be a one-time requirement, last for several months or be paid for many years. It all depends on many factors. However, no party is guaranteed spousal support. While other states may have a length of marriage that automatically gives them spousal support, in Michigan it is on a case-by-case basis.
In cases of a single income family, spousal support may be awarded to the party not working outside the home until such employment has been secured to maintain an equivalent lifestyle as before the divorce.
Other factors that are usually considered when the court determines spousal support can include (but are not limited to) age, health, ability to work, treatment during marriage, length of marriage, current living situation, and ability to pay spousal support.
Each case varies in the amount of spousal support that is awarded and length of time the support is given. Not all divorces end with a party receiving spousal support.
Ask an Attorney
While it is not 100 percent necessary for each party to have an attorney or separate attorneys when getting a divorce, it is recommended to have a lawyer look over all paperwork before filing final paperwork with the court.
Once the paperwork is finalized in court, it becomes the final word. Even if one party decides that what is in the document is not what they meant, it does not matter. So it is important to have an attorney review all documents to ensure the proper verbiage is used.
In contested divorces, it would be wise for both parties to have attorneys, to help keep the process moving and make sure proper procedures are being followed and each party is being represented fairly.
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