Divorce is something that you will want to be well informed about before you start. Any time you are ending a marriage you need to know your options before you start. Your particular situation may be peaceful or acrimonious. You may have a sense that you will be able to work it all out, or you may think that you are not going to agree on anything.
Your particular divorce situation might be best described as contested, as in you do not agree on anything, or it might be described as uncontested, meaning that you think you have an agreement on everything. Either way, the divorce case gets filed the same way in Michigan, so you do not have to make a commitment one way or the other at the beginning. You may have no idea whether you and your spouse will work things out, and that is perfectly fine, because at the time that you file a divorce, you do not need to have an agreement on anything.
We’re going to look at contested and uncontested divorces to get a better understanding of what makes them different from each other. But before we do that we will begin by looking at the concept of a no-fault divorce and how it helps to make the overall experience easier.
What Is a No-Fault Divorce State?
One advantage that Michigan offers for those getting divorced is that Michigan is what is known as a no-fault divorce state. This is an advantage because it can make getting divorced easier. To understand why, let’s first explore what is meant by “a fault divorce.”
States that use the fault divorce system only allow divorces where one of the allowed faults is a factor. While each state has its own faults, they typically tend to be due to words that start with the letter “A,” things like adultery, abandonment, and abuse. This concept is similar to the way that getting a marriage annulled works: you must actually prove something to get the divorce under this system. In other words, if you cannot prove any of these things, adultery, abandonment, abuse, or such things, then the request for a divorce is denied and you must stay married to each other.
But a state that allows a no-fault divorce doesn’t require a reason to file for divorce. You can file a complaint for divorce in Michigan, and other no-fault states, and you do not have to state a reason for why you want the divorce. You are able to seek divorce due to what people think of as irreconcilable differences. You basically just have to state that the marriage has broken down and there is no way to save the marriage, in your opinion, and your spouse does not have to agree with this statement. This means that if you want a divorce you get one, and if your spouse says that they do not want the divorce, that will not stop you from getting divorced.
No-fault states make it much easier to get a divorce because you don’t need to prove that your spouse was at fault. You can just say that there are differences that you cannot get over as a couple, and you are not required to explain them. This means that Michigan, and other no-fault states, make it easier to get a divorce because the court will not require you to prove a reason for your divorce, a reason is assumed to be in place automatically. However, that doesn’t mean that the details of the divorce itself is uncontested. You might disagree about custody, or child support, parenting time, or spousal support, or property and debt division, and those issues are in dispute in your divorce case. Let’s turn there next.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
Just because a divorce is uncontested doesn’t mean that it is easy. However, it is certainly easier than a contested divorce. This description isn’t about the social aspect of the divorce but rather the legal aspect.
An uncontested divorce is a divorce wherein the spouse who receives the divorce papers agrees with all the terms stated therein. They would tell the court that they are not disputing any of the terms of the divorce. Most divorces involve at least some things that the husband and wife disagree about, and therefore the divorce is contested. This will not really affect anything, because Michigan does not segregate out divorce cases based on whether you agree or disagree with your spouse with regards to the terms of the divorce.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce occurs when either party disagrees with the terms of the divorce. The disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean that the divorce itself is the problem. Often the disagreements are due to factors such as how the property is to be divided or how custody and parenting time of any children of the marriage are handled.
Both a contested and an uncontested divorce will have a waiting period, so they can end up taking the same amount of time to complete even if they seem so different. When you have no minor children, there is a 60 day waiting period, for your divorce, contested or not. And if you have minor children then the waiting period is 180 days, or six months.
When you do not agree as to the terms of your divorce, then both parties are given a chance to exchange financial and other information and conduct what is known as discovery. That means investigating, gathering evidence, interviewing character witnesses, and pretty much all the pieces you go through when preparing for a trial. During this time it may be that mediation can help to settle the differences and prevent the case from having to go to trial. Most divorce cases, even if they are contested, are settled out of court.
During the trial itself, both parties are given a chance to present evidence and witnesses to the judge to prove their case. Once both parties have submitted evidence, the judge will then decide on the issues at hand. The judge makes the final decision, and both you and your spouse are bound by those results, and so you are stuck with that outcome. Reaching a settlement agreement is much better because then you have a say in the outcome of your divorce case.
When possible, it is recommended that you try your hardest to settle differences through mediation. This will save money and time, plus it allows you to have more control over the final outcome rather than leave it in somebody else’s hands.
When Should I Approach an Attorney?
If you are planning on filing for divorce, then it is recommended that you work with an experienced divorce attorney early in the process. They can help you with the filing itself, as well as any of the myriad of issues that could arise. It’s always easier to have somebody you can trust and rely on at the beginning, rather than trying to catch an attorney up on what’s been happening with the case once you hit an issue.