Michigan has a fairly unique divorce process; its complexities and subtleties vary with every familyâ€™s circumstances, make-up, and priorities. Given that, however, there are some basic steps in the process of getting a divorce in Michigan.
To file for divorce in Michigan, you must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days and in your county for at least ten days before you file for your divorce there. There is also a waiting period in Michigan for granting a divorce. With no children, you will wait at least 60 days; with children under 18, the requirement is 180 days.
If you are the one who files the request for a divorce (called a â€śComplaint), you are the Plaintiff. Your spouse is the Defendant. You or your attorney will file the Complaint in the Family Division of the Circuit Court in the county where you live.Â
After being served, the Defendant has 21 or 28 days to file an answer admitting or denying every claim in the Complaint. If the Defendant does not answer the Complaint, the court may grant a default judgment of divorce. However, the Defendant can ask to have that judgment set aside at any time before the case is final. A final court hearing is required, and usually, only the Plaintiff attends.Â
If the case involves minor children or other complications, the court will issue a Temporary Order that sets out what will happen with the children and finances during the pendency of the divorce. It usually covers custody, debt issues, time with the children, child or spousal support, and possession of the marital home. It often also forbids the parties from hiding or selling assets.
At this point in a contested Michigan divorce, the parties and their attorneys will start evaluating the issues to see where the disagreements are and obtain all the important facts. Each side will ask the other questions that must be answered under oath (interrogatories) and to produce documents. Sometimes the lawyers will also involve accountants and appraisers. After all the information is gathered, the parties and their attorneys will set their goals and begin to negotiate. If they reach a settlement, the attorneys will document it for later presentation to the court.
Most Michigan divorces must include mediation â€“ unless domestic violence was involved. Mediation is a non-binding process to facilitate settlement, and the parties share the costs.
Usually, the attorneys attend the hearings and conferences. Both the Plaintiff and Defendant, however, must attend the formal settlement conference. This conference will narrow the outstanding issues and put the terms on the record if an agreement is reached. At that point, the parties can no longer change their minds about the issues on the record. This record is not, however, a final divorce decree.Â
The document called the Judgment of Divorce is the finding binding decree granting the divorce. It will include custody, visitation, support, property issues, and any other issues considered in the settlement conference. The child and, if available, spousal support payment sections will be in a separate order.Â
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