... with you every step of the way.

FAQs

Does it matter who files first?

Answer: Normally no, but it could be an issue if the husband and wife reside in different counties because you only need to reside in your new county for 10 days in order to file there. That could be important, not only for convenience (you could be traveling to a distant county for your divorce if he filed first in a different county), but also because different counties have different tendencies on issues such as custody, parenting time and spousal support. We also prefer to file first because it typically allows us to have certain orders entered with the court to maintain the financial status quo and a mutual restraining order to preserve the assets.

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Does fault matter?

Answer: Sometimes. Although Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, you do not need to prove one party is at fault in order to be granted a divorce. However, fault can be considered when dividing property, awarding spousal support, awarding attorney fees, and sometimes in custody and parenting time issues. If one party is found by the court to be at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, the other party could receive a larger share of the assets, a larger spousal support award for a longer period of time and/or be awarded attorney fees.

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Am I responsible for his debt?

Answer: Maybe. The critical question is, what was the debt for? If his credit card debt includes large charges for items that did not benefit you or the family (i.e., his trip to Vegas with his pals, his down payment on the Harley Davidson that he's keeping), then you probably will not be responsible. For most other charges (i.e., food, gasoline, home or auto repairs, etc.), they are considered marital debts and will be apportioned equitably, though not necessarily equally. Generally speaking, the debt follows the asset, so if you are awarded the car, you assume the debt on that car. It is also a good idea to obtain your credit report to make sure you are aware of all outstanding debt in your own name.

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Can I move out of the home with kids before divorce is final or can he be ordered to leave?

Answer: Unless there is domestic violence and/or property damage,or the immediate threat of violence, it is not a good idea to move out of the home with the minor children without having a court Order in place giving you the right to take the children from the home. The father could seek relief from the court by obtaining an Order for their immediate return. The courts look poorly on a parent who does not encourage and foster a good relationship with the other parent. This type of conduct may hurt your ability to obtain custody if a custody battle ensues. Generally speaking, it is best to talk to an attorney before removing the children from the marital home.

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What is a legal separation?

Answer: Legal separation, which is referred to as a Judgment of Separate Maintenance, is a proceeding filed within the Family Division of the Circuit Court. The separate maintenance process is very similar to a divorce proceeding. The initial pleadings, discovery and settlement process are all conducted in the same fashion as a divorce proceeding. The negotiations will lead to a settlement which will be memorialized into a Judgment of Separate Maintenance. The Judgment will divide all of the assets and liabilities of the parties. This process is most common in situations where there is a health insurance issue and one of the spouses has a condition, which would preclude them from obtaining health insurance. A Judgment of Separate Maintenance may allow that spouse to stay on the other's health insurance indefinitely or until one party decides to file for divorce. It is also a remedy for people with a moral or religious objection to a divorce.

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How do I make sure I know of all assets so he can't hide anything?

Answer: You can increase the probability that all of the assets are disclosed by engaging in the discovery process. Parties in a divorce action have the right to engage in the process of discovery to determine all relevant facts regarding assets and liabilities, including possible hidden assets or liabilities. The most common types of discovery are interrogatories, requests to produce, requests to admit, subpoenas and depositions. Should a party fail to disclose assets to the other during the discovery process and such assets are discovered subsequent to the divorce, under Michigan law, the family court has the discretion to order the party who failed to disclose assets to forfeit all or part of those assets to the other party and pay the other party's attorney fees and investigative fees in locating the undisclosed assets. Lastly, you may hire a private investigator to assist with the identification of assets if you feel that your husband is not fully disclosing the assets and liabilities.

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Should my husband and I go to a mediator to settle our case without attorneys?

Answer: No. It is important for you to have representation during the divorce process. A mediator cannot advise you as to whether you are entering into a fair and equitable settlement. Further, the mediator cannot act as your advocate. Therefore, you run the risk of entering into a settlement without any advice as to whether the settlement is in your best interest.

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How can I pay for attorney fees if he has control of all the money?

Answer: It is important to begin establishing your own credit, and we would suggest you open your own charge card to aid in paying for your divorce. Other possibilities are acquiring a personal loan and/or borrowing money from friends or family. Whatever direction, we could then request that your husband reimburse you for some or all of the debt that you acquired in paying for your legal fees. In the alternative and depending on the facts of your case, a motion can be filed for him to pay for your attorney fees. The court would then hear our argument and rule as to whether your husband should pay for your fees. Remember, there is no guarantee that a Judge would award fees.

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What is the average cost of a divorce?

Answer: It is very difficult to calculate the average cost of a divorce. At Victoria, we generally bill on an hourly basis. A retainer fee is required up front and varies depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case issues. This does not mean that a divorce will cost exactly the amount of the retainer fee requested it may be more or it may be less. There are many factors that influence the cost of a divorce, including, but not limited to the actions by your husband, the actions by your husband's attorney and the actions of the assigned judge. If your case requires us to appear in court often (to file motions, objections, etc.) then obviously, your case would be more expensive.

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I have been the primary caregiver to children. Is it possible he could get custody?

Answer: There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Joint legal custody simply means that both parents have input in major life decisions for the child (i.e., medical surgery, school selection, religion, etc.). It is very rare for a parent to get sole legal custody absent extraordinary circumstances. Physical custody is what most people think of when considering "custody" i.e., who will the children reside with. It is the court's general opinion that it is in the child's best interest to have a good relationship with both parents. Without meeting with a client one-on-one, it is impossible to know the likelihood that a parent may be granted sole or joint physical custody. It is best to meet with one of our family law and divorce attorneys for an initial consultation. Most custody and parenting time issues can be resolved without the need for the Court to make a ruling. That being said, the Court, if called upon to do so, looks at many factors when deciding custody and parenting time, also known as "the best interest factors".

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