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Michigan Family Law: An Overview

In Michigan, events like marriage, divorce and adoption are all governed by family laws. Michigan’s family laws help provide a fair legal foundation that protects both individual and family rights. Family law attorneys who are familiar with things like child support, alimony and marital property distribution help to keep things civil and focused.

If you have a family law case in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Birmingham or elsewhere in Michigan, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Michigan Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.

Michigan Marriage Requirements

Michigan has rules that restrict who can legally get married. If a couple doesn’t meet these requirements, the state will not recognize the marriage, which could disqualify the couple from receiving benefits like tax breaks and family insurance. To get married legally, couples must:

  • Be age 18 or older. Any party who is 16 or 17 years old must attain written consent from one of their parents or legal guardians.
  • Not be currently married to a third party (i.e. bigamy).
  • Not marry anyone who is related by blood or family bond except for cousins of the second degree or more.

Michigan Marriage License

Before a couple can marry in Michigan, they must get a marriage license. The license officiates the marriage and is valid throughout the state regardless of where it is obtained. Michigan residents must apply for the license in the county where they live. If both parties are applying from out-of-state, they must apply in the county where they will be married.

Once the couple receives their marriage license, it is valid for 33 days. The marriage ceremony must occur within the validity period. However, there is a three-day waiting period once the license is received in which the couple cannot marry, so they instead have 30 days in which to legally marry.

Michigan Divorce Laws

If a marriage has come to an end, a couple only needs to agree that a breakdown in the marriage has occurred and that there’s no reasonable chance to save it. This makes Michigan a “no-fault” divorce state in which one spouse is not required to assign blame to the other.

You and your spouse won’t necessarily split get half of everything you owned together in your marriage. Michigan courts equitably distribute marital property, meaning that while the division of property may or may not be equal, it is fair. To determine what percentage of marital property each divorcee is awarded, the court considers several factors, including:

  • How long the marriage lasted,
  • The needs of each party and/or children,
  • How much each divorcee earns, and
  • Circumstances surrounding the acquisition and ownership of the property.

Only property that was acquired during the marriage from sources other than gifts or inheritance is typically considered for distribution. Sometimes separate property that was attained outside of the marriage or received as gifts or inheritance during the marriage is considered under special circumstances.

When Do I Need a Michigan Family Law Attorney?

Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.

Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Michigan family law attorney if you have additional questions.

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