Where should I file for divorce in Michigan?

As people worldwide welcome in the New Year, many couples will decide to call it quits.  Every year, divorce filings peak in January.  Whether it is linked to New Year’s resolutions or the post-Christmas lull that gives many time to reflect, divorce attorneys across the country will find themselves with new clients come January.  Google Trends data further confirms the New Year divorce spike, showing divorce as one of the most popular searches this month.  Our Michigan family law attorneys explore the New Year’s divorce peak and some important facts you should know if you are considering filing for divorce.

The “Divorce Month”

January is known as the “divorce month.”  During this month, divorce rates increase by one-third in many regions.  This increased divorce trend continues for the first few months of the year, ending in early March. There are several factors that influence this annual trend. First, the sharp rise in divorce filings correlates with the coldest months of the year, in which many are forced inside.  More time together during the winter weather and holidays could bring marital issues to a head.  Further, many unhappy couples have been considering divorce for some time, but wanted to make it through the holidays.  Once the holidays have past, divorce becomes imminent.

For couples in marital discord, divorce may be a first step towards a happier future.  As such, couples contemplating divorce should use the New Year to find out their legal rights and initiate the process, if they so elect.  Potential Michigan divorce filers should review some facts below to get started with their divorce.

Filing for Divorce in Michigan

To file for divorce in Michigan, you will need to meet the residency requirements.  To be considered a Michigan resident with standing to file, one of you must live in the state for at least six months.  You will want to file in the county in which you or your spouse lives.  Divorcing spouses should consult with an attorney right away to find out their rights when it comes to vital issues like property division, child custody, child support, and alimony.  With effective legal assistance, you can obtain your fresh start this New Year.  

What are the most common causes of divorce?

When you say “I do,” you anticipate that it will be forever, but the reality is that close to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.  Researchers are constantly trying to uncover what causes some spouses to divorce, while other marriages withstand the test of time.  One new study has linked divorce to feelings of tension within the marriage, particularly where the wife feels tension.  Michigan family law attorney Don McGuigan discusses this new research and other top causes of divorce below.

Marital Tension Among Wives Predicts Divorce

Researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research followed 355 couples over a course of 16 years.  The study revealed that marital tension tended to increase over time.  Husband’s tensions increased at a greater rate than wives, but it was raised marital tension among the wives that predicted the marriage ending in divorce.  The tendency for divorce increased even more when men reported low levels of tension, and wives held high levels of tension.

Couples can learn from this study by finding methods to discuss and deal with feelings of tension. Having realistic expectations going into the marriage and keeping open lines of communication could prevent a marriage from reaching the point of divorce.  Marriage counselors may also help couples find ways to reduce tensions.

Top Causes of Divorce

Leo Tolstoy’s famous book Anna Karenina starts with the poignant quote “[a]ll happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  This phrase has proven to be accurate for divorce, as each divorce stems from a unique set of circumstances.  Nonetheless, there are certain factors that exist in a large number of divorces, leading researchers to name these the top causes of divorce.  Some of the most common causes of divorce include:

  • Financial troubles
  • Mismatched expectations
  • Lack of communication
  • Infidelity
  • Constant arguing

For some couples, divorce is the best pathway to individual happiness.  Contact a family law attorney if you are considering divorcing your spouse so as to protect your legal rights. 

Will I have the right to make major decisions for my child post-divorce?

A Michigan divorce case has garnered national attention for its focus on the issue of vaccines, and now a second child custody case involving vaccines will continue to keep the matter in the spotlight.  Rebecca Bredow is the mother of a nine-year-old boy.  She objects to vaccines on religious grounds.  The boy’s father, however, wants the boy vaccinated.  A Michigan judge ordered Bredow to vaccinate her son, but she refused and was placed in jail for five days.  The boy’s father had his son vaccinated when he had custody of the child.  Now, the judge has issued a 50/50 physical custody ruling over the objections of the boy’s mother.  

In the same court, Lori Matheson from Walled Lake, who shares custody with her ex-husband, is objecting to vaccinating her two-year-old daughter based on religious and medical grounds.  Like Bredow’s case, Matheson’s ex-husband wants the child vaccinated.  The parents will soon go before the judge to present expert testimony focusing on the safety of vaccines.

Legal Custody in Michigan

As parents, you will constantly need to make vital life decisions for your child.  From medical matters to education and religion, your decisions will mold your child’s future.  Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions for your child.  These decisions could include where he or she will go to school, what religion he or she will be raised with, and whether your child will be vaccinated.  Under Michigan law, legal custody can be distinguished from physical custody, which means who the child lives with.  At times, the court will grant joint legal and physical custody.  Other times, the court could provide one parent with legal custody and split joint physical custody.

Custody is often a crucial concern for divorcing parents.  While some parents will be able and willing to work together to continue to make vital life decisions for their child, other situations require court intervention.  Anyone considering divorce should contact a family law attorney as soon as possible for assistance with your potential child custody matter.  

Divorce and Debt

How will our debt be divided in a divorce?

Most Americans today are straddled by debt. An estimated eight out of ten Americans are in debt in some fashion, according to financial data by Pew Charitable Trusts. Mortgages comprise the majority of debt for many of us, but others may be burdened by credit card debt, outstanding student loans, medical bills, and the like. In a divorce, your joint debt will need to be distributed, much like your marital property. Our Michigan divorce lawyers at McGuigan Law discuss what you need to know about debt division in divorce.

Separate vs. Marital Property

Debt is treated like an asset in a Michigan divorce. Michigan law divides property into two general categories: separate property and marital property. Separate property is any property acquired by either spouse prior to entering into the marriage. It can also include property received by inheritance or a gift to one spouse during the marriage.

In a divorce, separate property will generally be awarded to the party to which it originally belonged.  However, separate property can become marital property if it is commingled or mixed with marital property.  A divorce court will accordingly carefully trace the origin of all debts and the use of funds during the marriage.  

Marital property is any debt or property acquired during the marriage.  Under Michigan law, marital property will be equitably distributed between the spouse.  This means that debt and marital property will be divided fairly, which might not be exactly equally.  In dividing marital debt, some factors to be considered include:

  • The source of the debt;
  • Each party’s contribution towards acquisition of the debt;
  • What the debt was incurred for;
  • The earning power of the parties;
  • The needs of the parties and children;
  • The number of years the parties were married; and
  • What property each party will receive in the divorce.

Michigan courts will generally aim to assign debt roughly equally in the divorce.  Courts may depart from this approach if the circumstances so warrant.  Parties that receive a greater share of marital property could receive more of the debt load.  

If you are divorcing your spouse and concerned about how your marital debt will be divided, contact a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Your divorce attorney will advocate on your behalf so that you receive only your fair share of the debt.