In the state of Michigan, a no-fault divorce means that you don’t need a reason to file for divorce. So, when filing for divorce you don’t have to have a reason. Prior to 1970, you know it used to be you had to have a reason to get divorced or you couldn’t get a divorce.
So, prior to 1970, you’d have to prove adultery, abandonment, abuse, or one of these other words that start with the letter “A,” or you’d have to stay married. So, fifty years ago, if you couldn’t prove in your petition that your wife was abusive, committed adultery or had abandoned you to cause your divorce, basically you had to stay married. That’s all by statute, so the law was changed, and now in Michigan as in most states, you do not need to prove a reason to get divorced. You no longer have to have a reason to get divorced. Now, if you want a divorce, your right to that is absolute and if you file a complaint for divorce, you will get a divorce. Or if your wife wants a divorce her right to that is absolute. So you’ll find in a divorce case, what’s in dispute is NOT whether the divorce will happen. What instead may be contested are the issues that need to be addressed in the divorce case- such as custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, property or debt division, or attorney fees.
So what can cause confusion is the concept of an uncontested versus a contested divorce. At ADAM, we will often have clients tell us that their divorce is uncontested. That’s not really what no fault is all about. Michigan does not distinguish between a contested divorce case and an uncontested divorce case when you are filing for divorce. They are all filed the same way. No-fault divorce in Michigan just means that you don’t need a reason to claim a divorce. Now the reason for the divorce is just what they call “irreconcilable differences,” so there’s been a breakdown of the marriage to the extent the objects of matrimony have been destroyed. So, the law allows you to use this language in your complaint, and that’s all you have to say in your divorce complaint. You don’t have to claim that your wife was cheating or your wife is abusive or your wife committed whatever other wrongdoings.
Therefore, the reasons why you’re getting divorced are not needed in your divorce complaint. But the reasons for your divorce may still have some relevancy to your divorce case depending on what the issues are. The concept of fault does still exist, and you can argue in your divorce case that your wife caused the breakdown of the marriage through her bad behavior, whatever that might be. And your wife can make the same claim against you. You can still use that in some ways to your advantage in your divorce, and your claims of fault can affect things like property division in your divorce. For example, if you’ve been married a long time and you’re looking to have to split things equally in your divorce case, you can say that’s not really fair because your wife was guilty of fault, or wrongdoing, such as adultery, or abuse, or addiction. If your wife was the “bad actor” in this marriage and she, in your opinion, caused the divorce, you can claim that she should get less than half of the property in your divorce case. Or the spousal support you will pay, if any, should be less. Or, your wife’s negative actions could affect a custody decision being made by the judge in your divorce case.
These are all ways that fault can affect your divorce case. You may be claiming that if your wife had only gotten her life together or had fixed things then you could have stayed married so it’s her fault that you’re getting divorced. However, your wife may feel differently and contest that claim. These factors do not mean as much as they used to, but can still affect the outcome of your divorce case. But, you no longer need a reason to get divorced, and that’s why in Michigan they call it a no-fault divorce.