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Urban Legends in Family Law

There are a number of common myths, or “urban legends,” regarding divorce and other areas of family law that we hear on a daily basis.  While ADAM has addressed many of these misconceptions in greater detail in other blogs on this site, the following is a brief summary of common beliefs we frequently encounter:

1. Michigan is not an "Alimony State."

Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Alimony in Michigan is alive and well pursuant to statutes and case law.  In fact, absent a clearly stated agreement between the parties, a Judge does not have the authority to completely bar a party from alimony.  Many factors go into an alimony determination, including the length of the marriage, any child support being paid, the parties’ ages, incomes, education and the assets being awarded in the divorce.  It is important to note that alimony works both ways--meaning that men are just as entitled to alimony as women if the facts support such a claim.  At ADAM we have been successful in many cases in obtaining alimony for our clients.

2. My spouse’s misconduct doesn’t matter since Michigan is a No Fault state.

Misconduct, or “fault,” is relevant in the determination of property division, claims for spousal support, and as to the moral fitness of a parent in a custody or parenting time dispute.  The term “No Fault State” simply means that a divorce can be granted in Michigan based only on one party indicating that there is no chance of reconciliation as opposed to some states which require grounds for a divorce including misconduct.

3. My spouse doesn’t share in my retirement or get alimony unless we’ve been married for 10 years.

This is simply not the case.  While 10 years is a relevant term for Social Security eligibility (see our blog on this topic) and some military pensions, all retirement accounts are subject to division in a divorce regardless of the length of the marriage. Even if the employer claims the retirement account is non-divisible, a court can still award the non-employee spouse the benefit of his or her share of such an account with alimony or other property settlement.   There are numerous strategies to reduce or eliminate your spouse’s invasion into your retirement which should be discussed with an experienced family law professional.

4. There is a magic age at which a child can decide where to live.

Michigan family law judges have the authority to decide where a child lives until the age of 18.  There is no age at which the child can make that decision.  However, the older and more mature a child is, the more likely that child’s reasonable preference will be considered by the Court amongst the other 12 factors of the Best Interest of the Child factors that are explored.  Children should never be brought into court for a court hearing unless a judge or Friend of the Court official requests an interview.  The interview with the child is done in private and is confidential.  

5. I can just “go downtown” and file for custody or divorce.

With the advent of internet forms and so called “low cost divorce kits,” we are often asked if a person even needs an attorney.  While many courts have begun to hand out packets of forms to parties in divorce cases, this is no substitute for having an experienced attorney prepare your paperwork.  Further, very few courts are handing out paperwork to file custody cases.  Court personnel and even licensed paralegals cannot provide legal advice—which includes how to fill out the divorce paperwork in these “kits.”  At best, you will spin your wheels and not properly process the paperwork which will cause delay and frustration. At worst, the mistakes made on this paperwork could jeopardize important legal rights for you and your family.    

About ADAM (American Divorce Association for Men)

The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) is a group of highly qualified attorneys who advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child custody and parenting time, paternity, support, property settlement, post judgment modifications, and other family law matters. Since 1988, ADAM has been aggressive, diligent, and uncompromising when representing their clients. A team of compassionate and skilled family law attorneys, ADAM is dedicated to being Michigan’s leading divorce attorneys for men.

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