My son, Connor, and I recently had that experience, and besides wrestling with your conscience as to what is morally necessary and appropriate, you do have certain legal obligations you need to satisfy.
Brody, Connor’s dog, was born on the mean streets of Flint, and maybe as a consequence he had a mean streak that no amount of love could extinguish. Regardless, on Jan. 5, while staying with Connor’s friend in Ohio, Brody bit a young woman. Fortunately, her wound appears to be healing well, and I am helping Connor deal with the obvious civil consequences of his dog’s act. But what does the state or your municipality require of you under such circumstances?
In Wadsworth, Ohio, state and local law mirror one another, and while we violated the letter of both, we complied with the spirit of the law. Within 24 hours you are to report a dog bite to the local health department, have the dog examined by a veterinarian and confine the dog for a minimum of 10 days for observation. Additionally, the dog is not to be removed from the county where the bite took place.
Connor’s friend initially confined Brody, but because Connor was in the midst of moving home to Michigan, he had to choose to either have Brody impounded for 10 days in Ohio or bring him home. He brought him home.
The logic of the law is to ensure that the victim has not contracted an infectious disease from the bite, particularly rabies, and to maintain control over the dog to confirm that. Knowing that, we felt we could honor the spirit of the law, even though I have now confessed to violating the animal control laws of Wadsworth, Ohio.
Here in Ingham County, Mich., we have an Animal Control Ordinance that requires the owner of a dog that has bitten anyone to handle the dog “in accordance with the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians Inc., (NASPHV Inc.), Compendium of Animal Rabies Control 1989, as amended.” Like Ohio law, the compendium recommends confinement and observation for 10 days, with the dog to be evaluated by a veterinarian at the first sign of any illness.
Connor brought Brody home Jan. 7, and for the next nine days we confined and observed him with great love and affection, which was returned many times over. On Jan. 16 (with Connor at his side) we did the right thing and had our veterinarian put Brody down, after examining him to ensure he was not suffering from any contagious diseases. The young woman who was bitten has been provided with confirmation from our veterinarian that Brody was healthy at the time of his death, and hopefully she will continue to heal both physically and emotionally.
As for Connor and I, while we did not follow the letter of the law, we respected its intent and purpose, and in the end, did the right thing.
In 1971 Michigan’s divorce law was changed to provide for “no-fault divorce.” Prior to 1971 you had to allege, and then prove, that your spouse had either committed adultery, was incompetent, imprisoned for more than three years, deserted you or was a habitual drunkard to get divorced. Now all you need allege and prove is “that there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” That is all that is required to dissolve your marriage.
That does not mean that “fault,” in all its traditional forms, is not relevant when seeking a divorce. Behaving badly still has its consequences.
If you have minor children, bad behavior can certainly impact which parent gets custody, as well as the type of parenting time granted to the non-custodial parent. When resolving a custody dispute, the Child Custody Act requires that a judge consider “the moral fitness of the parties involved,” whether the parent can provide a “stable and satisfactory environment,” and “domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against, or witnessed by the child.”
When it comes to property division, “fault” is one of many equitable factors the court may consider in dividing the property of a divorcing couple. While many judges are reluctant to consider fault, and the Michigan Court of Appeals has cautioned that it not be overemphasized, the trial court may weigh fault in the balance when deciding who gets what.
So when you hear that Michigan has “no-fault divorce,” don’t assume that fault doesn’t count.
It’s a matter of endurance. Marriage, that is. In her book, “The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married,” Iris Krasnow interviewed 200 women managing to stick it out in long marriages.
“I have found in my collection of wives who remain in long running marriages that the majority of them share these common traits: They have the guts and determination to stick it out, no matter what. And their laments about their marriages aren’t because of anything serious. It’s the subtle nuances of living with one person in one house for a very long time that grates at the soul, and that causes a simmering malaise. It’s the grind of the ordinary that drives people into thinking, ‘Is this all there is? I want more. I want adventure. I want change.’”
So, should you decide to “stick it out,” or call Noud & Noud? Before calling me, ask yourself: “Will I really be better off (emotionally, financially, socially) divorced? Will being single again really make me happier?”
If the answer to either of these questions is “No,” divorce may not necessarily be the answer. As Krasnow says: “Who stays married and who doesn’t is a question not always about commitment or deep abiding love — it’s about endurance.”
Make sure your capacity for endurance has reached its limit before calling Noud & Noud. But if it has, we can make the fresh start you are looking for a reality.