In 2012, when Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise, she used a strategy that many people don’t realize has far-reaching consequences – she left the state of California, where the couple lived, and filed for divorce in the state of New York. Why, you may wonder, did she travel to the other side of the country to file for divorce, and what could this possibly have to do with your divorce? Let’s take a look…
In the case of Katie Holmes, California is like Michigan in that it is a no-fault divorce state. This means that a divorcing couple is not required to cite the reasons for their divorce, beyond the fact that they have experienced an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” The state of New York, on the other hand, isn’t a no-fault divorce state, which means that the reason cited for the divorce could influence how a judge determines issues like custody, asset division, and spousal support. While in Michigan, a Judge would consider numerous factors in deciding these same issues, the parties are not required to allege fault to obtain the divorce itself.
In Michigan, jurisdiction, residency and venue are important. Venue refers to which county in the state you will be filing for divorce in. For most couples, this means that if you live in Ingham County, you will file for divorce in Ingham County, and the same applies to Eaton County, Clinton County, and all of the other counties here in the State of Michigan. But what happens if your spouse files for divorce in another county?
Under Michigan law, a party to the divorce must have lived in Michigan for 180 days before he or she can file for divorce.
So it would be much harder for someone from another state to do what Katie did here in Michigan. But when it comes to filing in another county, the rule is that you must have resided in a county for 10 days before you can file for divorce there. This means that your spouse could, should they choose to, secretly establish residency in another county in Michigan, and then file for divorce there. But why, you wonder, would anyone want to do that? Surely it would only complicate the process even more for everyone involved. Which it would. But in contentious divorces, that right there may be reason enough.
Unfortunately, It is not unheard of for a spouse who has professed that he or she needs some time to think and make decisions about the future, to use that time to establish residency in another county. There are a multitude of reasons that another county may be appealing. Factors such as family support, employment, and even a belief that a certain county might be more favorable may contribute to a choice of filing for divorce in another county. Sometimes the decision is made simply to frustrate the other party.
Besides the obvious inconvenience of travel time (especially if the county they have chosen is on the other side of the state) there is the issue of custody arrangements. It will be much harder to move children back and forth between your two homes if they are hours, as opposed to minutes, apart. Such a move, could certainly affect a custody arrangement.
If you and your spouse are considering divorce, and you think your spouse may be using their “soul-searching” time away to set up residency in another county, you should to contact a family law attorney immediately. Waiting may result in you litigating your divorce in an unknown county hours away. Call us today at 517 886 1000. We can help you.