The Meaning of No-Fault Divorce
Since the early 1970s, Michigan has been a no-fault divorce state, meaning that the parties are not required to plead (state in the complaint or other papers) or prove (show evidence in court) a reason for the divorce, other than the statutory standard which is set forth in every complaint for divorce. The key statutory language provides that a divorce will be granted on proof of the following:
“There has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” (Michigan Compiled Laws Section 552.6)
This is a relatively simple standard to meet, and a judgment of divorce is in nearly all cases granted at what is called the pro confesso or pro con hearing based upon the plaintiff’s testimony that the above standard has been met, without further explanation or presentation of evidence. Understand, however, the no-fault divorce standard does not mean fault is irrelevant in divorce proceedings. In the context of custody and parenting time, the moral fitness of the parties is a key factor. If one party has perpetrated acts of domestic violence against the other, been unfaithful, committed crimes, or abused substances, this conduct can influence custody, parenting time, property settlement and spousal support. Do not let the concept of no-fault divorce stop you from telling your attorney of any of these instances of bad behavior, whether by you or your spouse, as they will most likely be brought up if your case goes to trial. Even in a no-fault divorce jurisdiction the conduct of the parties during the marriage is relevant. The role of fault is discussed in greater detail in the custody, property division and spousal support sections of this site.