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Divorce Attorneys in Grand Haven MI | Ottawa County Divorce Lawyers

Divorce vs. Annulment in Michigan

Divorce is the legal proceeding used to end a marriage where the husband and wife obtained a marriage license and solemnized their union. It does not matter if the marriage lasts one day or fifty (50) years. If a marriage is properly entered into then a divorce action needs to be filed in order to dissolve the union.

Michigan is a no-fault state for divorce. In a no-fault divorce state either the husband or wife may file for divorce with or without indicating marital fault. In the divorce proceeding, the Judge will determine each party’s property rights. If there are children, the Judge will determine each parent’s custodial and visitation rights if the parties cannot agree.

Annulment is the legal procedure used to end a marriage when there was a flaw in the marital proceeding. In the case of annulment, the Judge will make a determination that a legal marriage never occurred. As a result, if either party remarries it is considered to be a first marriage as the annulled marriage is deemed to have never taken place. However, an annulment can only be granted in limited circumstances. Often, annulments are awarded when: one person is already married, the parties are too closely related to be married, one person is underage or not mentally competent to be married, or where there is fraud or duress.

When an annulment is granted, each party is awarded what they brought into the marriage or what they earned through their labor during the marriage.  For a free initial consultation, contact the Law Office of Van Tubergen, Treutler & Hayes, PLLC616-844-3000

Common Law Marriage

Prior to 1957, Common Law marriage was recognized in Michigan. A Common Law marriage occurred when a male and female entered an agreement to be husband and wife and then began live together thereafter. However, on January 1, 1957 Common-Law marriage was outlawed in Michigan. As a result, Michigan no longer recognizes a Common-Law marriage that began after January 1, 1957.

The Divorce Process in Michigan

In order to file a Complaint for Divorce in Michigan, the law requires that an individual must first have been a resident in the state for 180 continuous days and in the county of filing for at least 10 consecutive days preceding the filing of the complaint. However, under very limited circumstances there is exception to the 10 day residency requirement. If you have questions regarding the residency requirements in the state of Michigan you should speak with an attorney.

Once the residency requirements are met, an action for divorce begins with the filing of a summons and complaint for divorce. These documents are filed in the county where you have resided for a minimum of 10 days preceding the filing. The purpose of the summons is to inform the other party that he or she is the defendant in a lawsuit. The complaint for divorce states that “there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no likelihood the marriage can be preserved.” The complaint further provides basic information about the marriage which often includes, but is not limited to, the date of marriage, date of separation (if applicable), a brief summary of parties’ property and information whether minor children are involved.

After filing the summons and complaint for divorce it must be served on your spouse. The Michigan Court Rules provide various methods for serving the documents on your spouse. The most common method involves using a process server to present the documents to your spouse. Once the documents are served on your spouse, a proof of service document must be filed with the court to show that your spouse received the summons and complaint for divorce and any additional documents initially filed.

In a case where there are no minor children Michigan law requires a waiting period of sixty (60) days before a Judgment of Divorce may be entered. In a case involving minor children, the waiting period for entering a Judgment of Divorce is one hundred eighty (180) days or six months.

The final step in the process is to prepare a Judgment of Divorce and have it entered with the court. As soon as the Judgment of Divorce is signed by the Judge the divorce is final. The terms and provisions contained in the Judgment of Divorce can be reached by mutual agreement of the parties, mediation or through a trial before a Judge. The Judgment of Divorce contains numerous provisions which include, but are not limited to custody, visitation, child support, real and personal property division, martial debt division and spousal support, also known as alimony.

Marital Fault

In the early 1970s Michigan became a no-fault state for divorce. In a no-fault state, either party may file for divorce and be awarded divorce with or without a finding of fault so long as it is established that there has been a breakdown in the marriage to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that marriage can be preserved.

However, the issue of fault still remains a critical factor in the dissolution of a marriage in three main areas: property division, spousal support (a.k.a. alimony) and custody. Fault generally arises in cases of infidelity, physical abuse or addiction. If fault is established, the court may award the party at fault less than 50% of the marital estate. The court may also raise the amount spousal support and extend its duration depending on the significance of the fault.

Marital fault may also affect custody of the parties’ minor children. When the court makes a determination as to custody it looks at twelve factors. These factors encompass the Best Interest of the Child Standard. One of the factors is the moral fitness of the parties. This factor could potentially have a very serious impact on the outcome of the custody determination.

While Michigan remains a no fault state for divorce it is important to know and understand how a finding of marital fault can still impact the outcome of the case.


If you have questions regarding marital fault in Michigan it is recommended that you speak with an attorney such as the experienced Ottawa County divorce attorneys at Van Tubergen, Treutler & Hayes, PLLC.

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