Grand Rapids Attorneys & Counselors

616.828.1195

44 Grandville Avenue SW, Suite 200 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

Divorce FAQ

Q: I’ve heard Michigan is a no-fault divorce state.  What does that mean?

A: This is somewhat of a misnomer.  It is true that anyone in Michigan will be granted a divorce without regard to anyone’s fault.  But, that’s just to be actually, technically divorced.  Before the law changed, you had to have a good reason to get divorced or you would not be allowed to be divorced.  Now, you must merely cite irreconcilable differences and you will be granted a divorce.

However, the fault of a party still can be considered for all of the issues typically involved in divorce proceedings including custody, parenting-time, spousal support (alimony) and property division.

Q: I’m worried about my kids when the divorce if finalized.  How will custody be awarded?

A: When kids are involved, this is usually the first thing on parents’ minds.  There are several technical factors that the courts are required to analyze including the ability of each parent to properly care for the child, the moral fitness of the parties, and the current home living arrangements for the kids.  The unique facts of each case must be closely analyzed to determine which decision is in the kids’ best interests.

However, generally speaking, the best way to think about the proper custody arrangement is to consider what has, is, and will work best for the kids once the parties separate and divorce.  How will they get to and from school and/or daycare?  Is one party working too much to properly care for the kids?  Who has developed the best parenting skills to care for the kids on a primary basis (eg: feeding them, taking them to doctor appointments, disciplining them)?  Does one party’s home and neighborhood work better for the kids than the other spouse’s?

While each case is different, these are the kind of fact-specific questions that must be answered to determine what is best for the kids.

Q: How does Child Support Work?

A: There is a formula that provides how much child support should be paid by one party to the other.  And although there are several figures that need to be plugged into the formula, the most significant data is the parties’ respective incomes, the number of children, and the number of overnights each parent has with the children.  After entering all the appropriate data, the formula spits out a number and that’s the amount of child support.

Q: Is there Alimony in Michigan?

A: Yes.  It is called Spousal Support (SS).  However, unlike Child Support, SS is not formula driven.  There are no hard mathematical rules for calculating SS.  Rather, a divorce judge considers several specific factors provided by Michigan case law to make a determination.  Among the more significant factors are length of marriage (the longer, the more likely SS will be awarded), income disparity (the greater the disparity, the more likely SS will be awarded), the needs of a party requesting it and the ability of a party to pay it.  Fault is also a factor in SS analysis.

SS is typically tax-deductible to the payor and taxable to the payee.

Q: I’ve heard all property is divided 50/50?

A: Typically yes, any “marital property” will likely be divided on a 50/50 basis.  However, if property was acquired before the marriage or inherited or gifted to one party during the marriage, it might be considered “separate property” (not marital) and thus not divisible on a 50/50 basis.  But typically any property acquired during the marriage (since the date of your wedding until the date you are divorced) is considered marital property and divided equally.

Also, a court is free to do whatever is equitable (or fair).  If a 60/40 split would be fairer given the facts of the case, a judge can make that ruling.

Q: Are Prenuptial Agreements Enforceable in the State of Michigan?

A: Yes.  In Michigan, Prenups are generally enforceable according to the terms of the parties’ contract (the pre-nup).

Q: I just moved here, could I file for divorce here in Michigan?

A: You must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days before you can file for divorce.

Q: How long will it take before my divorce is finalized?

A: If you have minor children, there is a mandatory 180-day waiting period before you can be divorced.  If you have no minor children, there is a 60-day waiting period.  And these are just minimal amounts of time.  If the parties can reach a settlement of all issues in their divorce (eg: custody, parenting-time, support, property division, etc…), it can be done relatively quickly.  However, if the parties are not able to agree and a judge must decide these issues for the parties, it can take much longer than the minimum waiting periods.  Because the courts’ dockets are so backed up, a divorce could take 9-15 months before it is finalized.

Q: I’m a small business owner.  Does my spouse have any claim to my business?

A: In all likelihood yes.  Unless you have a Prenup protecting your business, business ownership interests are marital property.  Typically, the court will try to place a value on the business-owning spouse’s interests in the company and then award the non-business owning spouse 50% of that value.  That is usually paid by offsetting the other property divided (so the non-business-owning spouse gets that amount in more property).  Or, sometimes the business-owning spouse is ordered to pay cash for that value.  Usually the value is arrived at by agreement of the parties or by the parties hiring expert business appraisers.

Q: What happens with retirement accounts and pensions in divorce?

A: If the accounts or pensions were accumulated (or earned) during the marriage, they are marital assets divisible usually 50/50.  So, if wife has a 401(k) with $100,000 and husband only has $50,000 in his 401(k), you add the two together and the total “marital 401(k)” amount is $150,000.  Each party gets $75,000.  So, wife would owe husband $25,000 from hers to equal it out (assuming all other marital property is already divided 50/50).  There are rules that allow the $25,000 to be rolled-over without penalty or taxes.

Traditional pensions, paid in monthly sums upon retirement, are also divisible with the other spouse receiving his/her share of that monthly sum upon retirement.

Compassionate Family Law Counsel

If you are in the midst of preparing for a divorce and have any questions regarding your situation, please feel free to contact Wade McConnell from our Family Law practice group at 616.828.5380.