If your relationship has broken down, it is not simply a question of walking away. There are many hurdles and factors to consider before any divorce is final. And if there are children involved, then that adds further complications to carefully consider as you move forward. So, before you start divorce proceedings, what steps should you initially take?
Is the Relationship Really Over?
Emotions can be complicated and can lead to messy situations and we often say things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. Take some time to be sure your relationship has irrevocably broken down. Have you tried a trial separation? Have you considered counseling or some form of mediation? Stepping back and looking at the situation from a logical perspective, or accepting outside intervention, may make you realize that things are not as bad as they look.
If Divorce is the Answer, What Should You Do Next
The first thing to know is that Michigan is a no-fault state in relation to divorce. This means there is no need to prove fault on the part of either partner. If there are no children involved, a divorce may be granted in a minimum of 60 days, while the minimum period where children are involved in 180 days. Hiring a good Chicago divorce lawyer at an early stage of the process means you have an expert to advise and guide you.
Before filing for divorce, it is worth making lists of what you need to do and consider.
- Finances and assets. Make lists of all property and other assets that have been amassed during the marriage. With property, it does not matter if only one name is on a deed or mortgage, it is viewed as equally held under Michigan law. Ensure you have copies or originals of all relevant records such as bank statements, tax returns, estate plans and credit card statements. Finances will also include any debt accumulated during the marriage.
- Children. Where there are children from the marriage, always try and put their best interests first, even if there is a conflict between the partners. Children can suffer emotional and psychological damage when the divorce process is highly confrontational. Michigan courts will always look at the best interests of the child and factors such as child custody, parenting time and child support. Ideally, try and keep this part of your divorce case as amicable as possible. Using access to the children as a weapon or trying to turn them against your ex-partner may go against you when the case comes to court.
- Home. One of the first things a separating couple has to consider is their living situation. If living together has become untenable, then one of you will have to leave your home. If there are children, then it will usually be the primary caregiver who remains in the family home with the children. If you cannot agree on this, your attorney may ask the court to make a short term interim decision.
- Conflict. Though this is a difficult process to go through, it is best to avoid any conflict and confrontation where possible. This is especially advisable when you have children.
- Difficulties. Although Michigan is a no fault divorce state, the court will consider certain faults when considering custody, child support and alimony. These faults can include domestic violence, child abuse, substance use, etc.
- Safety. If you feel that the safety of you and your children is at risk from your partner, this should be your main focus. If there is a very real risk, talk to your lawyer about restraining orders to give you some sense of safety.