Divorce practice varies from court to court and even within individual courts, depending on the assigned judge. It is important to have an attorney who is familiar with the particular procedures to assure a successful result. Success, in a divorce case is commonly viewed as arriving at fair agreement for a reasonable cost. This reduces the prospect for continuing post-judgment litigation, particularly important when children are involved.
Every divorce case is unique. Different attorneys may offer various opinions as they provide clients with counsel depending on that individual client’s needs. Careful examination of an individual client’s situation is a must when determining the best strategy for their case. Most counties have their own Web sites and these can be helpful when searching for general information. Web sites may include forms, procedural and scheduling arrangements, Friend of the Court information, and often general information about divorce and other family proceedings. It can be difficult and stressful navigating through the system when you’re not familiar with it. Hiring an attorney provides peace of mind that you will not be taken advantage of throughout the process.
In The State of Michigan property settlements during a divorce follows the rule of equitable distribution. This generally means that marital property will get split 50/50, however, there is no mandate that property awards to each party be equal.
Caselaw establishes a list of factors that courts should consider in dividing property. The most frequently cited list of considerations is the source of the property, contribution toward its acquisition, the number of years of married life, the needs of the parties, the needs of the children, the earning power of the parties, and the cause of the divorce.
Child Custody Disputes
The law of child custody has come full circle: it has changed from the ancient principle that a father has an absolute property right to his children and their services to the idea that a mother is almost always the best custodial parent, to the current gender-blind “best interests of the child” philosophy espoused by the Michigan Child Custody Act.
Child support may be awarded pursuant to several Michigan statutes. A child has an inherent right to the support of his or her natural or adoptive parents. If there is no biological or adoptive relationship giving rise to a support obligation, a child is usually not entitled to support.
Alimony and Spousal Support
Many people have the misconception that spousal support is a thing of the past in Michigan, but the issue is raised in almost every divorce. Generally, spousal support is a useful tool, especially when the attorney is representing a spouse in a long-term marriage or where there is a substantial disparity in income between the spouses.
Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
Michigan law provides that “[a] contract relating to property made between persons in contemplation of marriage shall remain in full force after marriage takes place.” MCL 557.28. An antenuptial agreement may be used to vary or relinquish rights and interests in another’s property and estate that parties would otherwise have acquired through marriage.
The property interests and rights of a surviving spouse include the rights to an estate, to remain in the marital home, to dower, to a homestead allowance, to elect against the will of a deceased spouse, and to exempt property or family allowance. All of these rights may be waived, wholly or partially, before or after marriage, by a written contract, agreement, or waiver signed after full disclosure. MCL 700.2205. The property interests and rights of a divorced spouse may include an equitable share of the marital property, a portion of the separate property of the other spouse, and spousal support.
Couples use antenuptial agreements for various reasons: they often are concerned with the inheritance rights of children from previous marriages; they want to keep property that they bring to the marriage separate; and they hope to avoid controversy and litigation over spousal support and the disposition of property in the event of death or divorce.