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The role of fault in Michigan divorce cases, P.1

Most of the time nowadays, when people file for divorce, they do so on a no-fault basis. This is true in every state, including Michigan. This does not mean, however, that fault has no part to play in divorce. Here in Michigan, fault can come into play in property division and child custody matters.

As some readers may be aware, the approach to property division laid out in Michigan law is known as equitable distribution. This refers to an approach in which the court aims to achieve a division that basically fair. Exactly what constitutes an equitable division of property in any case depends on the circumstances, and courts look at a number of factors in resolving division disputes. 

Among the factors courts will look at in property division are: the financial needs of the parties and their children; the length of the marriage; the ability of each party to earn money; and the source of any given asset. Judges have also taken into account the causes of the failure of the marriage when dividing assets, including fault. This could include, for instance, situations where divorce is filed because an addiction was leaving the family without any financial resources, situations where a spouse refused to secure employment to help support the family, or situations or a spouse spent from the family savings in order to fuel an affair.

Though fault can be taken into consideration by judges in dividing property in divorce, there is a limit on how much weight it may be given. In our next post, we’ll continue with this discussion and begin looking at how fault may come into child custody disputes.

Source: Institute of Continuing Legal Education, “Michigan Family Law: Property Division,” February 22, 2016.

Justia, Sparks v. Sparks, 440 Mich. 141 (1992)

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The role of fault in Michigan divorce cases, P.1 | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC