Different States, Different Worlds
After the meeting we were having a cup of coffee and chatting. One of the guys said to me: “My daughter just got married and she and her new husband now live in Indiana. Is there much of a difference in the laws of the two States?”
“Yes indeed!”, I replied.
“Give me some examples”. At that point, the rest of the group stopped talking and began listening.
“Well”, I said, “let’s start with divorce, since your daughter just got married”.
“You lawyers; who else would think of divorce when some says ‘marriage’? But go ahead. Tell me about some differences in divorce.”
“Sorry about that”, I said. “Going to law school is like having brain surgery. We’re taught to ‘think like a lawyer’. By the time we ‘pop out’, most folks think that we’ve become aliens. But I’ll tell you some differences between Michigan and Indiana.
“In Michigan and Indiana, getting a divorce is based on a ‘no fault’ statute. But, in addition to a divorce from the bonds of matrimony, there are a host of other issues, such as custody, property settlement, alimony, and so forth. That’s where the differences come in.
“In Michigan, division of property can take ‘fault’ into consideration; in Indiana the only ‘fault’ is ‘dissipation of marital assets’. The other spouse could be an adulterous meth manufacturer, but if he or she made money, then division of property does not consider his fault.
“In Michigan the first question in division of property is whether it’s ‘separate property’, namely, obtained prior to marriage, or obtained through gift or inheritance. In Indiana, it’s all in the ‘marital pot’, though a judge may consider whether it was inherited or obtained before marriage.
“In Michigan there’s alimony, now called ‘spousal support’. In Indiana, with very few exceptions, there’s no alimony.
“Do you want more examples?”
“That’s enough on divorce”, he said. “What are some other differences?”
“Well, let’s look at automobile accidents. In Michigan, we have “no fault”, and, unless there’s very serious bodily injury, disfigurement or death, there’s no law suit against the other driver. Our own insurance pays the bills. In Indiana, there is “fault”, and law suits based on auto accidents are therefore much more common.
“If you look at Probate, there’s a completely different procedure of starting the process. In Michigan, there are three ways in which an Estate can be initiated; in Indiana there’s one.
“If you look at criminal law, Michigan gives a Preliminary Examination within fourteen days in felony cases where the State must provide probable cause that a crime was committed, and the Defendant committed it. Only if that’s done, or waived by the Defendant, can the Defendant be ‘bound over’ to stand trial. Practically, this means that a person can’t be held for months without a hearing.
“In Indiana, there’s no Preliminary Examination.
“In Michigan, if you file a law suit, the case can be dismissed unless the Complaint gives facts which contain all of the elements need to prevail. That’s called “fact pleading”.
“In Indiana, if you file a law suit, you only have to state the general nature of the case, not specific facts to support your claim. That’s called ‘notice pleading’.
“Do you want more examples?”
“No”, he said, shaking his head. “I’m already dizzy from hearing about all these differences. Now, all I can ask is whether the States have anything in common?”
“Yes”, I replied, “they do. The judges wear black robes in both States.”