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What Are Grounds for Divorce in Michigan?
Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state; however, the words “no fault” may be misleading. If the parties reach a final settlement on all issues, fault is not a factor. If there is a dispute about alimony, property, support, parenting time, or custody, fault may become an active ingredient in resolving these issues. For this reason, your collaborative divorce attorney may go over the indiscretions of the parties with you.
Basically, Michigan has one ground for divorce: “There has been a breakdown of 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.” In court, some judges require only a recital of this assertion. No details need to be provided.
Going through a divorce can be one of the biggest changes in a person’s life. When divorce issues arise, you need a passionate legal representation. You should first consult with a Michigan collaborative divorce attorney who has significant experience in helping families with divorce case proceedings. When divorce threatens your future, you want the most amicable resolution possible. Call a Rochester Hills collaborative divorce attorney today at Sumner & Associates, P.C. for help. Our lawyers provide strong advocacy, legal advice, and aggressive court representation.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
When divorce makes its way into TV and movies, it’s usually highly contentious. This is because drama thrives on conflict. This kind of divorce is one that has gone to litigation. While Michigan does not permit fault-based grounds for divorce, issues such as adultery, abuse, and other serious problems in a marriage can be considered. No-fault divorce does not mean the divorce is uncontested.
When couples dispute key issues such a property distribution, alimony, child support payments, and custody there is really only one option: litigation. In cases where couples want to keep key issues out of the courts as much as possible or want to untie the knot as easily as possible, mediation is an option. But what if a couple wants an amicable separation, but there are a number of key issues under dispute?
Traditionally, they had nowhere else to turn. It was either litigate the divorce at great personal expense over an extended period of time or mediate the process. Today, there is a third option which splits the difference. This is Collaborative Divorce.
What Is the Difference Between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation?
Many believe that collaborative divorce is the same thing as mediation. That’s not the case at all. The purpose of collaborative divorce is to arrange an equitable solution without the drawn out conflict created by litigation. Mediation can accomplish the same thing, but it does so differently.
In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has an attorney.
In mediation, opposing parties may or may not be represented by counsel. Typically, the divorce is mediated by an attorney who is trained to mediate divorce cases. The attorney drafts a divorce decree, both parties sign, and then it entered into the record by the court. In a collaborative divorce, each party has attorney representation. The attorney’s job is not adversarial as it is in divorce litigation. The attorney guides their client in the process.
Each party signs an agreement to move forward with the collaborative process.
Another key difference in a collaborative divorce is that each party signs an agreement to go forward with the collaborative process. This means each party must agree to not go to court and not use the threat of litigation as part of the negotiation. To do so represents a breakdown of the collaborative process. If the collaborative divorce breaks down, the divorce will then go into litigation.
All parties engage in a four-way negotiation.
In a collaborative divorce, parties come to the table with their attorneys and enter into informal discussions about each spouse’s goals. Ideally, the spouses will have spoken to their attorneys about what they hope to gain after the divorce is finalized.
Experts other than attorneys may be brought in to discuss options.
During a collaborative divorce, the attorneys may request the aid of financial advisors, childcare specialists, and others to aid in the negotiation process. This is all geared toward helping the couple reach an amicable agreement.
Is a Collaborative Divorce Right for Me?
Not every couple will be comfortable with the informality of a mediated divorce. Not every couple will be comfortable going into mediation without an attorney. Collaborative divorce was meant to fill a middle ground between litigation and mediation. Spouses entering a collaborative divorce may be further apart on key issues than those opting for mediation, but averse to the adversarial process of litigation.
When considering a collaborative divorce, both parties will need to consider what they’re hoping to get from the divorce settlement. In cases where one party has turned to stone and is unwilling to budge on certain issues, the collaborative process may not be well suited to their needs. Additionally, in relationships where there was a serious power imbalance between the spouses, a collaborative divorce may not be appropriate.
While collaborative divorce is cheaper than litigation, it is still more expensive than mediation. Nonetheless, you have access to attorneys trained in collaborative law and experts whose job it is to help both parties come to an agreement. In mediation, you don’t, necessarily, have access to anyone. The attorney mediating the divorce cannot give legal advice to either party. They are neither your advocate nor are they there to help you negotiate an amicable settlement. Their function is purely to mediate.
How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?
- Each party hires an attorney who has experience in collaborative divorce.
- Each party (including attorneys) signs a contract agreeing not to litigate or threaten to litigate. They commit to a period of time during which negotiations take place and vow to treat all parties respectfully. They also agree to disclose their financials freely. Withholding information would be cause to terminate the collaborative process.
- A team of experts is recruited to help with the collaborative process. This can include childcare specialists, financial advisors, tax specialists, and a divorce coach.
- All of the parties come together to work out an agreement for the disentangling of finances, a custody arrangement that works toward the best interests of the children, and the division of property in such a manner that takes care of all parties.
- All parties reach and sign a settlement.
- The attorneys prepare the agreement and file it with the court.
In cases where one party withholds information from the other party, threatens the other party with litigation, or otherwise does not abide by the terms of the collaborative agreement, the process is terminated and it goes into litigation. The biggest risk of the collaborative process is that it will at some point fall apart and the parties will have to begin the process anew with different attorneys.
What Are Some of the Similarities Between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation?
Both collaborative divorce and mediation are faster, less expensive, and far less formal than litigation. They offer the couple more flexibility, keep their finances out of the public records, and helps in reducing the amount of conflict in the divorce process.
Contact a Rochester Hills Collaborative Divorce Attorney Today
To learn more about your options, contact a divorce attorney today at Sumner & Associates, P.C.