The Family Law Leader

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

A: You are correct. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. However, that does not necessarily mean that fault is irrelevant in a divorce case. It used to be that, in order to obtain a Judgment of Divorce, a person needed to plead and prove one of several "grounds for divorce". The most common of these were irreconcilable differences, mental cruelty, abandonment or physical abuse. In the 1970s, the legislature enacted the No-Fault Divorce Act. Under that statute, a party seeking a divorce must state in a complaint for divorce and testify in open court that "there has been a breakdown in the marriage or relationship to the extent the objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved".

The fact that a person is no longer required to prove grounds for divorce does not mean, however, that fault is irrelevant in a divorce proceeding. In certain cases, the court will take into account whether the fault of one party or the other has been a primary cause of the breakdown of the marriage relationship. If the court finds one party primarily at fault, it may skew the property division in favor of the other party. In addition, fault of the parties in causing the breakdown of the marriage relationship is one of the factors that can be considered in spousal support determinations. Finally, if the court finds one party to be at greater fault than the other, it may apportion attorney fees against the at-fault party.

For more information about the meaning of no-fault divorce in Michigan, click here.

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