Ending a marriage is never easy, but a Metro Detroit divorce attorney can help you complete the process as quickly and fairly as possible. At Sumner & Associates, we understand the challenges involved in a divorce. We will work with you to ensure that you receive your fair share of your marital property, financial support, and parenting time.
We offer legal aid in all family law and divorce matters, including:
- Legal Separation
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Property Division
- Pension Rights
- Visitation / Parenting Time
- Post-Judgment Modifications
- Friend of the Court Issues
When Can I File for Divorce in Michigan?
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state — you do not have to prove that your spouse caused your breakup. Instead, you simply must show that your marital relationship is irrevocably broken. The state has a residency requirement as well. You cannot file for divorce until either you or your spouse have lived in Michigan for at least six months. There are also waiting periods before you can finalize your divorce. For more information about the timing of your divorce, contact Sumner & Associates.
How Does the Divorce Process Work?
- Filing a petition for divorce. One spouse begins the divorce process by filing a “complaint” for divorce with the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse live. One of you must have lived in that county for at least 10 days.
- Serving the complaint. The spouse filing for divorce must serve the other party within 90 days of the filing. Papers are served by a sheriff’s deputy, in person, or by certified mail with return receipt requested. The receiving spouse has 21 days to file a response. If the spouse does not respond, the court will enter a default judgment.
- Temporary orders. Either spouse may request temporary orders for child support or spousal support at this time. Temporary orders also include custody arrangements and visitation schedules. If one spouse has been abused by the other, the court can issue a temporary restraining order.
- Waiting period. Couples without children must wait two months, while those with children are required to wait six months.
- Divorce settlement. Most divorces start in mediation with both spouses attempting to come to some agreement. Agreements can be reached with the help of a mediator. Issues related to the children can be negotiated with the Friend of the Court.
- Litigation. If couples can’t reach agreements on their own, they have the option to litigate their divorce. This is the traditional contested divorce that you see dramatized on television (mediation would make for boring drama). Litigation is more costly and time-consuming, but cannot necessarily be avoided.
- Finalizing your divorce. The final step in a divorce is the judgment or decree. The order specifies each spouse’s responsibilities to the other, including child support, alimony, custody, and visitation. It also finalizes property distribution.
What Issues Are Involved in Divorce?
When a marriage ends, you must resolve a wide variety of legal issues, including child custody, child support, visitation, property division, and alimony. Sometimes, you and your spouse can quickly resolve these issues — especially if you have a nuptial agreement in place. However, these matters can quickly become contentious. For this reason, it’s always best to work with a knowledgeable Detroit divorce attorney. And a lawyer might also help you avoid unnecessary delays and disagreements by streamlining your negotiations and encouraging dispute resolution.
Can Same-Sex Couples File for Divorce?
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Michigan (and the rest of the United States), same-sex couples also have the right to divorce. However, LGBT couples sometimes face unique challenges during a divorce. For example, because these marriages are relatively recent, you might face complicated property division issues. Property that you accumulated before your marriage might be considered separate, rather than marital property. This can also make alimony and child custody issues difficult — especially if your children were adopted or born before you married.
An experienced Detroit divorce attorney can help you protect your interests and streamline the difficult and emotional process of divorcing your spouse. If you have questions about same-sex divorce in Michigan, contact us today.
Dividing Marital Property in Michigan
Michigan is an equitable distribution state. In other words, each spouse should receive a just and reasonable portion of the marital property. However, your property does not have to split 50/50. A variety of factors can impact each spouse’s property share, including:
- How long you were married,
- How much you contributed in marital assets,
- Age and health,
- Financial and personal circumstances,
- Income potential,
- Whether your conduct contributed to the marriage’s breakdown, and
- Concepts of equity and fairness.
Your marital property might include real estate, vehicles, pension and retirement accounts, savings and investments, art and collectibles, and personal property. It’s also important to understand that you’ll have to divide your marital debts as well as your property.
However, certain assets aren’t always considered marital property. For example, items you accumulated before the marriage and inheritances are sometimes considered separate property. (You do not have to divide separate property during a divorce.) If you think an asset is separate property, contact a divorce attorney immediately for help protecting it. You can also designate an asset as separate property through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Most people cannot handle property division issues on their own. Typically, you must perform a complicated analysis of your assets — determining whether they are marital property and evaluating their worth. For this reason, you should contact an experienced divorce attorney at Sumner & Associates for a personalized analysis of your case.
What Happens If There’s a Nuptial Agreement?
A valid nuptial agreement can protect your property, streamline the property division process, and help you avoid liability for your spouse’s debts. While prenups (and postnups) are typically associated with the very wealthy, they’re a great financial planning tool for all couples. If you were wise enough to get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, make sure you tell your divorce lawyer about the document. It might save you a lot of headaches and money.
However, not every nuptial agreement is valid. If you were coerced into signing a prenup — or it contains illegal terms — the courts might not enforce it. At Sumner & Associates, a divorce lawyer can help you evaluate your nuptial agreement — and either dispute or enforce it in court.
Can I Get Alimony in Michigan?
Sometimes, a spouse can demand spousal support or alimony. Alimony can help a husband or wife care for a couple’s children, obtain additional job training skills, or rebuild after a marriage. While spousal support is typically a temporary benefit, some spouses receive alimony for extended periods of time.
If you believe you need spousal support after a divorce, contact a divorce lawyer immediately. A divorce attorney can help you assess your circumstances, apply Michigan’s laws, and build a compelling demand for spousal support. A Detroit divorce attorney can also help you fight an alimony request — or demand the modification or termination of alimony if your ex’s circumstances change.
Spousal support protects spouses whose primary role in the marriage was to raise the children and care for the home or otherwise have significantly less earning power or assets than the other spouse. Property distribution of major assets will play a role during the negotiation process. The idea is to allow the other spouse to maintain their standard of living after the divorce has been finalized. When the court makes a decision on alimony, it will consider a number of factors. These include:
- Conduct of both parties during the marriage
- How long the couple was married for
- Ability of one party to maintain their standard of living with their current income
- Property distribution agreements negotiated during the divorce
- Ability to pay alimony to the other spouse
- Needs of both parties after the divorce
- Employability and education level of the spouse requesting alimony
Likewise, a judge may determine that neither party is entitled to spousal support if their incomes or asset holdings are roughly similar. Prenuptial agreements can also set limits on spousal support.
How Do I Get Child Custody or Visitation Rights in Michigan?
Most parents value their time with their children more than anything else. And, during a divorce, children need their parents’ love and assurance more than ever. Therefore, it’s important to establish a fair custody schedule that is in your child’s best interests.
Ideally, you and your spouse will negotiate and resolve custody issues outside of court. However, child custody and visitation is frequently a disputed issue during a divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on child custody issues, the court will decide them for you. When awarding child custody, courts consider a variety of factors, including:
- Emotional bond between the parent and child
- Parent’s ability to care for the child’s emotional, physical, and financial needs,
- Child’s need for stability,
- Child’s connection to his or her school and community,
- Parent’s moral fitness,
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence, and
- Child’s personal preferences (if age appropriate).
The courts cannot consider a parent’s gender when awarding child custody.
Hiring the right Metro Detroit divorce attorney can make a huge difference in a child custody dispute. Your lawyer will help assess your child’s best interests and present evidence supporting your custody claim. This ensures that the judge has complete and accurate information. A divorce attorney can also help you enforce or modify an existing child custody order.
How Does Child Support Work?
Parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children. During a divorce, you’ll have to address child support with your spouse if you have children. While many families can amicably agree on child support issue, they can also become an emotional and divisive issue. A divorce lawyer at Sumner & Associates can help you fight for child support — and file a petition to modify or terminate child support if your circumstances change.
Parents are also required to support their children regardless of whether or not they have visitation rights. Parents who do not have primary custody can only claim the children as dependents if they obtain a written consent from the custodial parent. Form 8332 must be signed and filed each year. The parent with custody is waiving their right to claim the children as dependents. This can be negotiated during the divorce.
While child support typically ends at the age of 18, a child support order can remain in effect while a child is completing high school so long as that they are no older than 19 and 6 months. The child must attend regularly and make a reasonable attempt to attain a diploma.
Child support payments are calculated using a strict formula that considers the income of both spouses. The parent with whom the children live is entitled to child support payments. The court considers the gross income of the non-custodial parent.
If there has been a change to your income, debts, or earning capacity, child support orders can be modified to reflect your current situation.
Can I Annul My Marriage?
While a divorce terminates a marriage, an annulment declares that it never existed. In Michigan, you can get an annulment under limited circumstances, such as when your marriage was obtained by fraud or coercion. While an annulment voids your marriage, you might still be eligible for child support, child custody, and alimony. To learn more about annulment, contact a divorce attorney at Sumner & Associates.
Speak With a Metro Detroit Divorce Attorney
The attorneys at Sumner & Associates, P.C., have experience with family law issues such as divorce, alimony, annulment, legal separation, child custody, child support, domestic violence, shared assets and other aspects of the painful divorce process.
When you work with a divorce attorney from Sumner & Associates, you will receive legal representation that is equally compassionate and aggressive. We have over 50 years of combined experience in Michigan and are prepared to guide you through your divorce. Contact us for a confidential evaluation today.