In the previous article we introduced a well known book, The 10 stupidest mistakes men make when facing divorce: And how to avoid them, written by Joseph E. Cordell, an attorney practicing in Missouri. One of the difficulties you are likely to face when making decisions about your marital future and what is best for your future after divorce, is finding relevant information. Cordell’s book, while it is well written and probably very relevant to people living in Missouri, doesn’t accurately reflect family law here in Michigan.
One of the issues that Cordell focuses on in his book is why a man should never move out of his marital home, for fear that his wife’s attorney will accuse him of abandoning his children and the family home. “Abandonment” might be a significant concern for men living in Missouri, but in Michigan we do not accuse a father who moves out, of abandoning his wife and children.
Abandonment is not the only issue that Cordell refers to in his book that doesn’t apply to Michigan law. Another point that he raises as something that men should be concerned about is their family home. According to Cordell, a man who moves out of the home, even temporarily, during divorce talks, is likely to find that he cannot return. In Michigan, however, this is not the case.
Brandy Thompson, a family law attorney at the Kronzek Firm, says that a man in Michigan is free to move out of his family home without fear that he will lose his legal rights. “Even if he picks up and leaves,” Thompson says, “he would still be entitled to his martial portion of the home. Yes, it might be difficult to resume living in the house once he leaves, but only if the spouse requested and was subsequently granted a court order preventing him from returning.” With regard to long-term separations, keep in mind that the amount of each parties’ post separation contributions may have an impact on the division of equity in the marital home. These contributions include mortgage, taxes, and maintenance of the home.
The issue of whether or not to move out during a divorce is different for every couple.
The issue of the family home ties into one more important factor that Cordell notes in his book – personal possessions. According to Cordell, when a man packs a bag and “goes to stay with friends for a while”, he tends to take only what he can fit in an overnight bag or two. The result of course, is that he left everything else at home. That means all personal paperwork, all financial information, all important documents. And that’s not even including any items of personal value you may own, like family heirlooms or special gifts from friends.
Realistically, there is always a risk when one person moves out and doesn’t secure personal paperwork and documentation first. While it is against the law in Michigan for someone to hide or destroy paperwork that will be needed during the discovery process, it can happen. It is also against the law in Michigan to hide assets, access personal information on someone else’s computer, “hack” your spouse’s online bank account, or even read their personal emails and texts. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen though.
So while a person who moves out is protected by the law, and will not lose assets or access as a result of that move, we do advise you to ensure that if you have important documentation in your home that will be needed during the divorce, ensure that it is in a safe place first. Also, if possible, meet with an attorney prior to having an argument with your spouse about divorce. That way you can be fully prepared for all eventualities.
If you are considering a divorce here in Michigan, but aren’t sure what your next steps should be, come and talk to us. The experienced attorneys at the Kronzek Firm have spent decades helping the families of mid-Michigan with all of their family law related needs, whether it’s divorce, custody, asset division, CPS. We can help you too.