By now, most people who have been through a divorce understand the divorce laws in our country. However, what you might now know is how the most prevalent type of divorce laws here – the “No Fault Divorce” – may not adequately address issues of domestic violence in marriage.
Because Michigan has only no fault divorce laws, it’s important to see the distinction and then talk about how else one might address domestic abuse within marriage.
Fault Grounds for Divorce
Most other states have both fault-based grounds for divorce and no-fault divorce options. Some states even have, as an option, grounds based solely on separation. Fault grounds for divorce hail from a time when divorce was much less common and much less socially acceptable.
Usually one or other of the spouses had to prove a reason for a divorce, and even then it was harder to obtain. Here are the most common grounds for granting a fault divorce:
- Abandonment for a certain length of time
- Prison confinement
- A spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse
- Inflicting emotional or physical pain (cruelty)
States which still have fault divorce laws don’t require the spouses seeking a divorce to live apart for any period of time. This is not like a no-fault divorce, which has to be preceded by a trial separation. If a spouse can prove fault, he or she usually receives a larger portion of shared property.
If both spouses seek a fault divorce and both can prove the other spouse has done something for which to grant a divorce, the court must decide who is least at fault to whom to grant the divorce. This is called comparative rectitude.
No Fault Divorce in Michigan
In comparison, the no fault divorce says no one has to prove anything. One spouse must give any reason the state honors for the divorce. Commonly, these are called “irreconcilable differences.” It just means “we don’t want to be married anymore.”
However, how about when someone here in Michigan wants to file for divorce after fleeing the relationship in fear for his or her safety?
Unfortunately, the state doesn’t recognize domestic abuse as a reason to grant a divorce.
Put another way. If you left because you were being threatened or were experiencing physical violence, you must report those separately. Leave the house if you are in danger and contact one of these shelters for domestic violence assistance. Even if you have family to stay with, you can benefit from free help to get out of the situation.
Legally, as I wrote about with regards to male victims of domestic violence, anyone can file a restraining order against anyone else. Even if you think it won’t help you, having an official record of your abuse will make it much easier for you. This is especially relevant if you have children who could be negatively affected by a joint custody agreement following a divorce.
Of course, if you do experience domestic abuse, please report it to police. Again, even though it may not be a factor in divorce proceedings, it only benefits your abuser if you stay silent.
Even though Michigan does have no fault divorce laws, there are ways you can address domestic violence in marriage.
If you are facing criminal charges related to domestic violence, please call us to get the help you need in your case.