Divorce Urban Legends
There is a lot of information about divorce circulating out there. Depending on your source, and when taken in the proper context, some of it is accurate. Unfortunately, much of it isn’t, and it’s often difficult to tell what’s real and what’s merely a divorce urban legend. We can help. Getting information from your friends and co-workers can be reassuring, but it can also be very misleading. There’s always some guy who claims to have five children, never sees his children and pays just $100 per month for child support. Or maybe you’ve heard that Michigan is not an alimony state from someone who heard it from someone else. Often times people tell you what they want you to hear, or they are just plain wrong. Misinformation can cause a lot of wasted time, energy, and can be quite costly. Knowing what’s real and what is not can go a long way towards getting you through this and reaching your post-divorce goals. With that in mind, here are a few common divorce urban legends you should know the truth about.
If you live with a partner for a certain number of years, does Michigan law consider you to be married? People throw the term “common-law marriage” around often. It’s thought of as a kind of de facto marriage, when two people live together as if married, but without actually tying the knot.
While a handful of states still have common-law marriage, Michigan does not. Marriage still makes all the difference in our laws. So, for example, if you have been together with your wife for ten years, but have only been married for five years, the length of the legal marriage is all that matters for purposes of a divorce case. If there is no legal relationship between the parties, there are no obligations or entitlements.
If, however, you live together without being married and do things jointly such as put both names on the title to a house or share bank accounts, those actions do create legal rights and obligations as it relates to that house or that particular bank account.
Also, if you have children together but are not married, that creates obligations related to custody, parenting time and child support. Without a marriage, however, there is no legal responsibility for each other.
Adultery Changes Everything
Many people think adultery will cost a person everything in divorce. If you cheat, you lose the children, the car, the house, etc. Right? That’s not actually how things work. In reality, an affair may cost you your marriage, but it doesn’t always impact divorce settlements.
An ongoing affair can make it harder to reach a settlement in your divorce because of the emotions getting in the way. In general, however, adultery has a very small impact on property settlement. One exception would be if you can prove your wife spent considerable amounts of money on her boyfriend, and assuming the right factors are there, you may make a claim for that amount in your divorce case.
Given that Michigan is a no-fault state, it is no longer required to prove fault to get a divorce. If you want a divorce, you get one, and there is no way to prevent it from happening. Also, approximately 95% of divorce cases settle, so expecting your wife to being punished in the terms of the agreement is not likely to happen. If you are the one cheating on your wife, the same analysis also applies.
In some ways adultery can affect spousal support, and it can also potentially affect a decision regarding child custody. If the extramarital affair is going on in the presence of the children, decisions on custody can potentially be affected. Overall, it just does not make much difference at all in your divorce case.
Mothers Always Get Custody
The deck is stacked against fathers. Mothers always get the kids. These are statements you hear often. Many believe that when it comes to child custody cases, the courts automatically hand children over to the mother.
Although many men feel they’re at a disadvantage in child custody battles, legally speaking, there’s no preference given to parents based on gender. Admittedly, it doesn’t always work out like that. But on paper, each has the same right to pursue custody.
The overriding goal is to serve the child’s best interests. Above any other factors, that is what guides custody decisions. Courts recognize the value of keeping both parents in a child’s life. So unless there are extreme circumstances, even if you don’t get custody, you have the right to regular parenting time and a meaningful schedule with your children.
You Can Refuse the Divorce
Getting your spouse to consent to divorce certainly makes life much easier, but it’s not required. No one can force you to remain in a loveless marriage, and neither spouse can deny the other a divorce. It’s possible for one person to make it tough on the other, but the idea that one of you can refuse the divorce is not true.
Once you have filed the appropriate paperwork, the ball is rolling. Part of the process involves serving the documents to the opposing party. Your spouse then has a certain amount of time to respond. If that doesn’t happen, you can file for a default judgment. This essentially grants you a divorce on your terms because your spouse didn’t object.
The Court Can Order Marriage Counseling
This is a common misconception. There is no mandatory court ordered marriage counseling, so this approach does not work. ADAM attorneys have met with many men who would rather save their marriage than divorce. We can help with that too by offering solid advice about the do’s and don’ts when reconciling.
The disputes when two people are getting divorced can be many, but the argument is not whether or not there will be a divorce. That right is absolute and there is no stopping it from happening.
All Divorces Go To Trial
One of the first images that springs to mind when you think of divorce is probably a courtroom. That’s not how it usually goes. While they can and do happen, the idea of an intense, drawn-out divorce trial remains largely an urban legend.
Ninety-five percent of divorce cases reach a settlement in one way or another before trial. If both spouses agree on the important issues, a split can be fairly simple. Usually, the less complex a marriage (i.e., short term, no children, little shared property), the smoother things often proceed.
Some of the worst fighting ever witnessed can erupt from a very short term marriage ending in divorce. Emotions can run high and settlement discussions have to be handled properly by an experienced attorney.
Where there is more conflict, tools like mediation or arbitration are frequent options. These processes allow both sides to sit down with their spouse and attorneys, and hammer out a mutually agreeable divorce settlement.
You Can Get Divorced Without Ever Going to Court
This of course is the opposite urban legend. The truth is somewhere in between never going to court, and having to do everything in court. The Circuit Court for the county where you live is where your divorce case is filed, and in Michigan, it is the only place where the divorce will be granted when the case is completed.
There is no way to completely avoid court, but it is true that you can avoid having the court make decisions in your divorce case. How things proceed in your divorce case depends on what county your case is in, what type of divorce case you have, and how complex or contentious the process is with the other party. If there are minor children, a typical divorce case will be in court two or three times from start to finish. If there are no minor children, the divorce case only needs to appear in court once to be completed.
Michigan Is Not an Alimony State
It is a fallacy that Michigan does not have alimony, also known as spousal support.
Michigan law does recognize spousal support claims, and there is no minimum duration of a marriage to qualify. Twelve different factors go into determining either if you would have to pay spousal support, or if you can claim spousal support. An ADAM attorney can help you determine if this is appropriate in your case. And, yes, we have successfully obtained spousal support for our men clients.
These are just a few of the more common misconceptions about ending a marriage. A quick Google search is sure to unearth countless others. At ADAM we’ve seen and heard it all. Browse our blogs and give us a call to decipher fact from legend. As our client, you would benefit from the knowledge that comes from representing men in divorce and family law cases for 30 years.