Common Fallacies (maybe lies) about Michigan Divorces

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1. The property is all in my name so she can’t get it. FALSE.
The name in which property is held (title) does not mean much in the context of divorce. All marital assets (however titled) get divided in a Michigan divorce.

2. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, so the fact that (s)he cheated and thereby caused the breakdown of the marriage relationship, means nothing. FALSE.
In Michigan one does not have to allege or prove fault in order to obtain a divorce. But, fault that caused the breakdown of the marriage relationship is something that the Court can consider when equitably dividing the property or when considering spousal support (alimony). If (s) he was abusive and that caused the breakdown of the marriage relationship, the Court may decide that a 55-45 split is more equitable then a 50-50 split.

3. She was a stay at home mom and I earned most of the income during the marriage, so I get most of the property. FALSE. 
If the two of you decided that one of you would be a stay at home parent, then the work in the home supporting the children, counts as much as the work outside of the home supporting the children.

4. We were only married for ten years, so there can’t be any alimony (spousal support). FALSE.
Some counties used to have a general rule that there was no spousal support (alimony) unless the parties were married for perhaps 13 – 17 years. Those days are over. Now, given the right facts, spousal support can be ordered even in marriages of much shorter duration.

5. She put me through college and I got a graduate degree, but that’s simply history. FALSE.
Michigan divorce courts may decide to treat the advanced degree as property, subject to division, or award the working spouse restitution for any moneys given to the student spouse to earn the degree or more commonly may estimate what the person holding the degree is likely to make in that particular job market and subtract from that what he or she would probably have earned without the degree and then equitably divide that sum.

“Whether or not an advanced degree can physically or metaphysically be defined as `property’ is beside the point[;] [c]ourts must instead focus on the most equitable solution to dissolving the marriage and dividing among the respective parties what they have.” Postema vs. Postema, 189 Mich. App. 89 (1991), stating that most Michigan Courts “have agreed that fairness dictates that a spouse who did not earn an advanced degree be compensated whenever the advanced degree is the end product of a concerted family effort involving mutual sacrifice and effort by both spouses.”

But even with advanced degrees, living apart may be more expensive then living together. As one court stated: “One of the tragedies of this divorce, as in so many others, is that what used to be financially adequate is no longer enough. As the trial court aptly stated: “The tablecloths * * * will not cover both tables.” Woodworth vs. Woodworth, 126 Mich. App. 258 (1983).

6. She has always been a stay at home mom, but once I file she will have to get a job. FALSE.
If the stay at home mom has been out of the job market for a considerable time, the Court may very well order Spousal Support to more equally dividing income. If she has been out of the job market for a number of years, Spousal Support may also include a provision to first allow for education so that the stay at home mom gets needed updated skills and job experience.

7. It is essential to be the first to file for divorce. FALSE.
It usually doesn’t make much difference, if any. Establishing custody before a divorce filing may be important. If (s)he has the kids 24/7 for weeks on end and the other party never complained and never saw the children, a strong precedent has been established as to how custody ought to be set in the future. Being the first to file thereafter, normally means nothing.

8. I smoked pot twice per day, but that doesn’t mean anything. FALSE. 
Courts will sometimes consider the criminal behavior of one party when dividing property. It is not a big jump to jumping from crime to ascribing fault that the Court can consider when deciding how to divide the marital property.

9. I inherited $25,000.00 from my grandmother five years ago, but we spent it. She should have to pay that back. FALSE.
If the inheritance was jointly used or commingled with other assets, the Court will consider it a gift to both of you and it will not have to be divided.

10. I found a cheap divorce attorney and I figure I can save a few bucks.
GOOD LUCK. 

If you save $500 in attorneys fees but lose $2,000 in assets, you drove a bad bargain. Find an attorney who will vigorously represent you without losing sight of your ultimate goal – not losing your shirt to your spouse or to your attorney.

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