No-fault divorce doesn’t mean that fault doesn’t count!
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.
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