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The State of Michigan is considered a no-fault divorce state, which means that there is no requirement of proof of fault on the part of one party to obtain a divorce from that party. The only “grounds” required to grant a divorce in Michigan is that there has been a breakdown in the marital relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed.
Only one party needs to desire to be divorced to obtain a divorce. A person may want to be divorced because they just don’t want to be married anymore. However, that doesn’t mean that certain behaviors during marriage won’t impact divorce proceedings. The court will weigh a number of factors in determining the equitable (fair) division of the marital estate, some of which include infidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence, dissipation of marital assets, and other bad behaviors that occurred during the marriage that represent fault on the part of one or both parties. Conversely, not all divorcing couples need to have the court decide the division of their marital estate or how they will share time with their children. Many divorcing couples come to an agreement as to how their property and debt will be divided, or how they will share time with their children and support them, prior to even filing for divorce.
What is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce is one that must be settled in court. This type of divorce occurs when one of the parties wants to challenge, or contest, one or more of the issues that need to be resolved in the divorce.
The most common issues that could be contested are child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, property division, valuation of a business for purposes of division, debt, and division of household property. Even if you agree on a majority of the issues, but disagree on one, it becomes a contested divorce.
Contested divorces can be very time-consuming and expensive, causing both parties a great deal of aggravation because neither divorcing party ends up feeling that they are getting what they want or feel they deserve. A contested divorce will attempt to be resolved through mediation and negotiations but if those don’t work to resolve the issues, then the case will be taken to arbitration or trial, and all the decisions that personally affect the lives of the divorcing couple will be made by a third person.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties are in agreement as to how to resolve all of the marital issues. An uncontested divorce is settled outside of court with a written settlement agreement or consent judgment of divorce outlining the agreement of the parties. A divorce complaint commencing a divorce action must still be filed in court, but because there is an agreement, preferably prior to even filing for the divorce, it saves the divorcing couple a lot of time and money. While a contested divorce may require multiple court hearings before a judge or referee, hours spent reviewing documents to support a position, hours discussing strategy with the attorney and preparing for mediation or trial, an uncontested divorce is very straightforward, simple, and relatively inexpensive. Although this type of divorce is not idea for many couples because they are just not on the same page regarding all of the marital issues, for those who can agree, it certainly provides for a better and less stressful divorce experience.
If you are thinking of filing for divorce, whether or not you believe it will be contested or uncontested, it is imperative that you hire an experienced family law attorney to help you through the entire process.
Even if both parties start the divorce process with every intention of being agreeable on all issues, it is common for problems and disagreements to arise that quickly can turn the matter into a contested divorce. A family law attorney can help address the issues and assist in resolving them as they arise. Additionally, even if the parties have their agreement reduced to writing and just want to memorialize it into a divorce judgment, the divorce judgment is a legally binding and enforceable contract that should not only contain detailed language regarding the agreement of the parties, but also contain all of the legally required and recommended clauses so it can be properly and effectively implemented and enforced. An experienced family attorney will know how to draft the judgment to best protect the agreement that the divorcing couple have reached.
Written by Monica Rossi Baylis