Law and Marriage
A brief guide to how marriages are legally created and legally ended. This is not intended to provide legal advice as all family law situations are different. You should consult an experienced attorney regarding your specific situation and available options.
Lets get Married!For a marriage to be valid in Michigan, the parties must:
1) not be married already
2) not be related within the prohibited degree of consanguinity affinity
3) be of marriageable age
4)be capable in law of contracting
5) enter the marriage without fraud or duress.
Where a marriage is valid in one place, it is valid everywhere.
Common law marriage is when the parties represent themselves as married. In Michigan to be common law married, the parties must have met the requirements in 1957 when Michigan eliminated common law marriage. However, Michigan will recognize common law marriages from other states.
Ending the MarriageThe three basic ways to dissolve a marriage are:
2) Separate maintenance
DivorceTo file for divorce a complaint must be filed with the Court. The complaint must contain specific language regarding:
1) statutory grounds for divorce, "[t]here has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved;"
2) that the party filing lived in Michigan for 180 Days and the county filed for 10 days prior to filing;
3) state whether minor children were born during the marriage;
4) state whether property exists and needs to be divided;
5) state if the wife of the marriage is currently pregnant;
6) state the parties' complete names;
7) state the residence of the parties.
Once the complaint is filed, the Court will take jurisdiction of the matter and issues regarding custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, debts, assets, real estate, personal property, and any other issues arising out of the marriage can be addressed in a final judgment of divorce. A final judgment means the parties are no longer legally married and certain legal rights are removed as a result.
Separate MaintenanceIs the exact same process for divorce, except that the marriage is not legally dissolved at the end.
Two of the more common reasons for this to occur is for religious reasons, or economic concerns.
Some religions do not allow for divorced parties to remain a part of the church so this process allows parties in that situation to separate, but remain a part of their religion/church of choice.
Economic reasons are varied by case. Whether it is the ability for a 'legal spouse' to remain on the other party's health insurance, the ability for a separated spouse to remain as a beneficiary, or other reasons or concerns the parties have, separate maintenance can be a reasonable solution.
AnnulmentAnnulment is the process of taking a marriage and making it as if it never happened legally. There are certain grounds that allow for an annulment to occur:
1) bigamy - you cannot marry more than one person at the same time;
2) marriage prohibited by the relationship of the parties - for example a person cannot marry their son, daughter, grandchild, or grandparent;
3) underage marriages - a marriage without the required written consent of one of that party's parents or legal guardians is voidable, but the marriage will not be annulled if the parties freely cohabitate as husband and wife after age of consent;
4) incompetence - is when a person does not have the mental ability to contract, or understand the contract he/she is entering into;
5) fraud or duress - you cannot force or trick someone into marrying (no shotgun weddings, a wife claiming pregnancy when she is not pregnant, threatening a person with incarceration if they do not marry their significant other).
A complaint must be filed and the reason for the annulment request stated.
What about arranged marriages?
Arranged MarriagesIn general, arranged marriages are to be accepted as valid marriages. Many cultures use arranged marriages and they are deeply rooted traditions and the court system respects that tradition.
However, there are some organizations that are making a distinction between proper arranged marriages and 'forced marriages.' This has been recognized as an issue in other parts of the world, but has now been brought to America as an issue that is being explored.
For further information on the growing issue of forced marriage visit The Tahirih Justice Center (www.tahirih.org), and Unchained at Last (www.unchainedatlast.org).