Michigan Divorce Law Mythbusting, Part I

There’s no area of the law that isn’t prone to misunderstandings and myths, and Michigan divorce law definitely has more than its fair share. It’s time to get around to disproving some of the silliness you’ve probably been told about Michigan divorces. Let’s dive right in.

If Your Ex Doesn’t Pay Child Support, You Can Keep Your Child Away
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. There’s a powerful process that you can ask the judge to put into play if you don’t get your child support payments, but at no point do you get to withhold parenting time in order to ‘force’ the issue of child support payments. Under Michigan divorce law, the child support agreement and the parenting time/visitation agreement are two separate entities, and them violating one gives you zero right to violate the other.

If They Cheat, They Get Nothing
The only way this would ever be true is if you have an ironclad prenuptial agreement that says so, and there are no children involved in the scenario. If there are kids, the judge will by necessity toss the prenup (or at least that clause of it) on the grounds that it violates the best interests of the child, which the judge is obligated to protect. If there’s no prenup, the court will take infidelity into account, but only as one factor among money that determine how marital assets and debts are split.

A Petition for Divorce Can Be Denied
OK, technically this one is somewhat true — there are certain rare procedural foul ups like failure to properly serve the divorce papers or failing to meet the residency requirements that can get a Petition for Divorce denied. Barring those rare circumstances, however, everyone who files for divorce in a Michigan family court will get a divorce unless they change their mind or pass away before the process is completed.

Mothers Always Win Custody
Not at all — in fact, the new standard not just under Michigan divorce law, but countrywide is either “joint custody is preferred” or “no preference is given to custodial status.” The so-called Tender Years doctrine, responsible for the bias toward mothers of young children, was officially scrapped nationwide by 1994. While there are still some individual judges who have trouble fighting this long-standing impulse, they’re generally able to accept it when they’re called on the bias and move forward with an open mind.

Kids Get to Pick the Parent They Want
For those of us no longer worried about the above, you may be concerned about a new myth: the idea that kids get to play ‘kingmaker’ and simply choose the parent they want to see ‘win.’ That’s fortunately not true, either: a child’s preference is on the list of factors the court must take into account when establishing custody arrangements, but it is only one factor on a long list. If the child’s decision is clearly not in their own best interest (i.e. the child claims to want to live with a parent that is a junkie rather than the one who is clean), the judge will override the child’s decision without hesitation.

OK, that’s it for today — come back in a few more days for another handful of Michigan divorce law myths we’ll break down and take down!

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