For that reason, we’re taking a closer look at the Michigan divorce process, including preparations to be made if children are involved in the divorce. By understanding the process and what is expected of you, you can better expect what comes next and ensure you’re ready for it.
What You Need to Get Divorced in Michigan
To go through a divorce in Michigan, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months within filing. You are limited to filing at the circuit court within the county where you or your spouse have lived within ten days before filing. If you and your spouse have separated, you can choose file in your own county, or the county where your spouse lives.
As a no-fault state, Michigan does not require proof of wrongdoing to initiate divorce proceedings. As such, you don’t need evidence of cheating, abuse, financial misconduct, or anything else. Divorces do not have to have the assent of both parties, nor do they require legal separation or that you are living apart.
Although no-one has to prove fault, the behavior of either spouse during a marriage can still impact decisions the court will make. This can include the division of assets, alimony payments, child custody, and more.
The sole requirement for divorce in Michigan, according to the law is that “there 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.”
Start of the Michigan Divorce Process
With the help of a divorce attorney, it is best to consider your aims for divorce, such as asset, custody, alimony, and debt concerns that will factor into the judgment provided. With an attorney, you will learn all the forms you need. After you file, copy, sign and date the forms, you submit them to the court clerk’s office.
Following the necessary paperwork, the next step is to serve your spouse with the divorce papers. You can do this in person or send it to them by registered or certified mail. You may also hire a service to serve the notice and paperwork directly.
Serving the papers personally or through a service, you must ensure the following:
- The spouse is given a copy of court papers
- The server must fill out and sign the Proof Service on the back of the Summons form with a notary to witness it
- The Proof Of Service has to be filed
Answering the Divorce Complaint
After being served with the complaint, your spouse may have to answer to it, with responses to each paragraph within the complaint. Having an attorney on your side is important as, if they disagree with parts of the complaint, the divorce can become hotly contested.
If they don’t answer the complaint or have no disagreements, this means the divorce is uncontested. A judge doesn’t have to agree with all of the requests or agreements made between the two of you, as fairness in aspects like property division and custody arrangements must still be factored into it.
The Waiting Period
If you have children with the spouse, you must wait for six months before the divorce can be further processed. This waiting period starts from as soon as the divorce is filed, not taking into account any separations before then. It can also last longer than six months if your spouse disagrees in their answer to the divorce complaint.
Under some circumstances, the court may shorten the waiting period if it would cause significant hardship to you or your children or if there are other serious factors to be considered. However, the total waiting period cannot be reduced to any less than 60 days.
Your attorney can help you fill out the Motion to Waive the Statutory Waiting Period if necessary, in which you should list the reasons why you cannot wait the full period of time. Otherwise, you may be recommended to attend sessions with mediator while waiting. If you are afraid to negotiate with your spouse or have a personal protection order in the case of domestic violence or abuse in the marriage, you should inform the court to avoid this.
Completing the Divorce Process
With the papers filed appropriately, divorces will be finalized in one of four ways. If you and you spouse decide the terms together, or they agree to your complaint, you will go through a negotiated judgement. If they do not answer the summons or have any involvement in the case, the divorce will go through a default judgment uncontested. If you are unable to agree on some factors, a mediated agreement can help you by involving an impartial mediator to nail down the terms.
Lastly, the most contentious option is a trail, where a judge is forced to make a decision on the terms of the divorce if you and your partner are unable to agree on them. This tends to be the longest, most contentious, and often most expensive option, so it’s widely recommended to avoid it where possible, unless you have significant reason to disagree with your partner.
After the Divorce Process
When the divorce has been finalized, you may submit a Judgment of Divorce for the judge to sign. This judgement is to clarify aspects such as child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, property and asset division, debt division, and more.
Ensure You Have an Attorney Every Step of the Way
Even in the case of uncontested divorces, it is wise to have legal advice to ensure that you’re taking the appropriate steps to give you the best outcome. Fisher, Fowler & Williams can ensure you get the advocate you need when going through the Michigan divorce process.