There are times that the emotional and historical realities of divorce don’t quite square up with the legal ones. For example, even though affairs can shatter marriages, they aren’t among the legal grounds for divorce.
In fact, people aren’t even allowed to raise the issue of infidelity as part of their grounds for divorce. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. Couples need only cite a permanent “breakdown of the marriage relationship.” Courts won’t consider other grounds. But there are still ways infidelity may impact a divorce.
When will the courts take misconduct into account?
Michigan law removes the idea of fault or blame from the decision to award a divorce, but adultery may still come into play as the courts look at property distribution, child custody and alimony.
- Property distribution: Michigan aims not for a 50-50 split, but an equitable distribution. The goal is a fair division of all marital property. The courts will weigh such factors as each party’s health, age and income. Conduct also matters.
- Child custody: The law favors shared parenting time, but that doesn’t mean parents can count on equal parenting time. The courts review many factors as they try to award custody in the child’s best interest. Among these factors are each parent’s “moral fitness” and stability.
- Alimony: Courts often award spousal maintenance during the divorces of couples with large income disparities. Depending how long the couple was married, the court may make the award temporary or permanent. The Michigan Supreme Court has factors, including “the past relations or conduct” of each party.
These are three ways the courts take lives that were factually and legally intertwined and divide them up. The court always strives to follow the law toward a just outcome. However, because it’s practically impossible to split a marriage and all its concerns into two tidy pieces, the courts often need to decide what is truly “just.”
Better pictures can lead to better results
Especially in the case of complicated, high-asset divorces, it can be hard to untangle all the pieces. To cut as cleanly and fairly as possible, the courts need good, clear information. They need to understand the full picture. Sometimes that means they need expert testimony from forensic accountants and business valuators. Sometimes they need to look at how one party’s infidelity may have changed the balance.