No two divorces are alike, and there are many roadblocks and issues that may arise during even the most civil of legal separations. In general, most divorces fit into two broad categories (with many caveats): contested and uncontested. So, what do these categories mean, and what can you expect if you are involved in one?
Divorce in Michigan
Every state has different laws and guidelines regarding divorce and separation. In Michigan, fault isn’t necessary to file, and custody is based on the children’s best interests. Instead of proving infidelity or another reason for dissolving the marriage, a spouse only needs to show that there are irreconcilable differences between the partners and the marriage is broken to the extent that there is no chance for reconciliation.
Not only does this allow spouses to file for divorce even if their spouse is opposed to it, but it also means that neither party has the burden of proof to provide evidence about the other’s spending, infidelity, abuse, or other accusations that can become a powder keg in the courtroom.
Thanks to these restrictions, Michigan divorces are, for the most part, relatively straightforward. As mentioned previously, no matter how well spouses get along during divorce, issues may arise, and the more complex the case, the higher the likelihood of trouble down the road.
The issues that must be addressed in every divorce matter are property and debt division and spousal support. When there are minor children, custody, parenting time and child support must also be addressed. A contested divorce is one where neither party can reach an agreement on one or more issues of their divorce. There are key processes that occur during a divorce proceeding and the ability to cooperate plays a significant role in the success of these procedures. Property division and child custody are two of the most contentious parts of the divorce process and also the most important.
Property division involves the documentation, assessment, categorization, and division of all assets marital and otherwise. In general, property is either separate or marital. Marital property is assessed and calculated into the marital estate which is then divided equitably through a process called equitable distribution. This does not mean that property is divided 50/50 – it’s divided equitably and fairly.
How this property is redistributed depends on the unique circumstances of each spouse. For example, if one spouse is not financially independent, the court may issue a larger share of the marital assets to them in order to compensate. On the other hand, if the spouse was not financially independent and is unwilling to pursue independence after the divorce, they may not receive a large handout. Marital debt may also be divided inequitably based on who incurred it and why.
Child custody is also contentious because of the emotional toll it takes on all parties involved. The court acts in the child’s best interests, which involves a series of statutory factors that the court uses to determine legal custody and parenting time with the goal of providing the must stable and healthy environment for the children, while still maintaining parental bonds with the children.
Contested divorces often take longer and cost more due to the need for problem-solving and possible court intervention that delays final determinations.
An uncontested divorce, on the other hand, is often straightforward, relatively reasonable in price, and takes less time. This is because both parties agree on every step of the process and are willing to communicate and collaborate on the agreement.
What sets a divorce up for an uncontested process is communication and preplanning. Spouses who create a parenting plan, draft an asset and debt division agreement, have an agreement on spousal support and/or make decisions regarding custody ahead of time are in a position to proceed with the divorce quickly and without any issues.
As mentioned previously, all divorces have bumps in the road, but an uncontested divorce does not require legal intervention at the same level as a contentious case.
Set Yourself Up for Success
The best way to ensure that your divorce is handled smoothly, regardless of whether you and your spouse agree is by working with an attorney. A lawyer can help you build a case that is flexible and pivot your perspective when necessary.