Divorce in Michigan: When “Fault” Matters in a “No Fault” State

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means that in order to file for divorce you are not required to prove that anyone is at “fault” for the breakdown of your marriage. In other words, there doesn’t have to be proof of abuse, infidelity, or any other harmful behavior for the court to grant your divorce.


But what if there was? What if you spouse cheated on you with the nanny? Or with their coworker? Or with a different prostitute every week for seven years? And what about abuse? What if your spouse really was abusive? What if they verbally or physically or psychologically abused you for years? Do these kinds of things play a role in a divorce here in Michigan? Yes they do. Because while this may be a no-fault state, “fault” still plays a role in divorce proceedings.


Does it matter with regards to whether or not the court will grant you and your spouse a divorce? No, it won’t. But it will matter with regards to other areas that pertain directly to your divorce, like child custody, child support, and spousal support.


For example, if a wife can prove to the court that he husband made a regular habit of hiring prostitutes to relieve “work tension” on the way home, then the court is likely to consider the husband to be “morally unfit.” As a result, there is a good chance that custody may be awarded to the mother with only visitation granted to the father.


The direct result of this, of course, is that because the mother is now considered to be the primary caregiver, the child support payments that the father will be required to make will be substantially larger than if the parents had joint custody.


Conversely, if the father can prove that the mother was abusive during the course of the marriage, either to him or to the children, the court is likely to award custody to the father and may even deny the mother the right to unsupervised visits with her children.


It is important to note however, that while these kinds of issues can and often do have a direct impact of child custody and therefore child support issues, spousal support is usually less affected. In most cases, when a spouse can prove that the “fault” for marital failure lay in their spouse’s choices, it often only affects the division of assets or spousal support for about 10% worth.


So the question one must ask oneself in these situations, is whether or not the time, effort and cost involved in proving your spouse’s fault is worth getting only five or ten percent more of the divided assets. For most people, when you look at it that way, the answer is often “no.”


The best way to get a good idea of whether or not “fault” will affect the way the court divides your assets, and awards custody and support, is to talk to a family law attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer will have a good idea of how your case is going to shape up, and whether or not you and your spouse are even going to need to appear in court.


If you have questions, concerns or are looking for a clearer understanding of what lies ahead for your divorce, contact the family law attorneys of The Kronzek Firm. We have decades of combined experience, and can help you navigate through this difficult time.