How will domestic violence affect divorce and custody rights?

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

There has been domestic violence in our marriage on both sides, some which occurred in front of the children. How will this affect my divorce and my child custody rights?

What if I refuse to sign the divorce papers? Will a divorce still be granted?



Your managed divorce question is about how domestic violence may affect your divorce and child custody rights.

All states are no-fault divorce states. This means that as long as one party alleges there has been a break down of the marital relationship to the extent that objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood the marriage could be preserved, a divorce can be granted. Because Michigan does not require fault for a managed divorce to be finalized, your domestic violence does not play an actual role in getting the divorce.

Your refusal to sign the Judgment, will only delay, but not stop the managed divorce proceedings. The judge can sign the final Judgment of Divorce and enter it as an order, even if one of the parties does not sign it. Your spouse may be required to file a motion or otherwise ask the judge to enter the Judgment, which may delay your final Judgment from being entered, but will not stop your divorce from taking place.

Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed at or witness by the child, is one factor a managed divorce court considers when awarding custody. Michigan courts look at 12 factors (best interest factors), when considering an award of custody. One factor is usually not dispositive in deciding who will be awarded custody of a child.

If you wish to have custody or parenting time with your child you should motion the court for this. The court will analyze all of the factors and make a decision it deems is in the best interests of your child. It is important that you let the judge know you want to see your child, and that despite having domestic violence in your past you are a loving, caring, and involved parent.

Although I practice law in Michigan, I cannot give you legal advice without thoroughly reviewing your case. Do not rely on this information as establishing an attorney-client relationship. Contact a managed divorce attorney immediately for assistance. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients in Michigan.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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