Family Law Is All We Do

Frequently Asked Questions

Since our office provides a free initial phone consultation, some days we are asked the same question multiple times.

Below are the most frequently asked questions that our office receives about divorce and family law.

How much does a divorce in Michigan cost?

Divorce attorneys generally charge at an hourly rate.  Most Michigan divorce lawyers will require you to pay a retainer fee up front.

The retainer fee is generally like a "deposit" on your case and the hourly rate works off the retainer.  Some retainers are non-refundable.  Some retainers are refundable up to the point they are unused. Some retainers have a portion that are non-refundable.

How much your divorce will cost, depends on the difficulty of your divorce case, the filing fees, expenses and how much time your attorney spends on your case.

In order to keep your fees down, you should:

  • Provide your attorney with the documents / information when they ask for it.
  • Make all copies of your documents yourself.
  • Do not call your attorney about matters that should be discussed with your mental health professional.
  • Before your attorney takes certain actions, ask what those actions may costs.
  • Don't ask your attorney to subpoena unnecessary witnesses or documents.
  • Communicate with your lawyer by email.
  • Do any public searches on your own.

Be cautious in attempting to cut costs. Make sure it isn't going to cost you more in the long run.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

My spouse is cheating on me, can I get a divorce in Michigan?

In Michigan, we are a “No Fault Divorce” State. Since we are a no fault divorce State, you are not required to allege “grounds” to receive a divorce in Michigan. It also means that if one party requests a divorce, it will be granted, regardless of whether or not the other party wants to get divorced.

Your spouse cannot keep you from getting a divorce in Michigan. Although, he/she can make it very difficult and time consuming.

Keep in mind that even though an allegation of fault is not required in order to obtain a divorce in Michigan, fault still may be an issue in a Michigan divorce with respect to the division of property, an award of spousal support and potentially a factor in custody.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

My spouse won't sign the papers, can I still get a divorce in Michigan?

If you have properly filed a Summons and a Complaint for Divorce in Michigan, your spouse has been properly served (which doesn't necessarily require him/her to sign anything), and your spouse does nothing, you can receive a Default Judgment of Divorce in Michigan.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

Can my spouse and I share a divorce lawyer in Michigan?

No.  If only one Michigan divorce attorney is hired, that attorney can represent only one of you. However, it is possible for the other party to remain unrepresented.

Ethically, a divorce lawyer in Michigan cannot represent both parties, as it would be a conflict of interest. So be aware, if there is only one attorney in your Michigan divorce case, that attorney is only representing one of you.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

Does Michigan have alimony?

Yes, Michigan courts still award alimony.  In Michigan, alimony is referred to as "spousal support." Spousal support is not awarded in every case in Michigan. Spousal support is only awarded in Michigan if it is requested and meets the proper factors.

See our SPOUSAL SUPPORT page for more information.

How Do I Get A Legal Separation in Michigan?

In Michigan we do not have anything called a “legal separation” where you file a paper and you are immediately “legally separated”.

We do have a “Separate Maintenance” action, which is basically what people in Michigan are thinking about when they talk about a legal separation.

See our SEPARATION page for more information.

What is the Difference Between a Michgan Contested Divorce and a Michigan Uncontested Divorce?

A true uncontested divorce in Michigan is where one party files and the other party never files an answer and the party who files obtains a default judgment.

In that sense, most cases are contested in some manner, whether it be over the issues of property settlement, spousal support, custody, parenting time or child support.

Although most divorce cases have some contested issues, in Michigan, most Michigan divorce cases do actually settle before going to trial.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

If I Leave the House Can My Spouse Charge Me with Abandonment in Michigan?

A divorce case in Michigan is not a criminal proceeding, therefore you cannot be “charged” with anything.
If you leave your children alone and disappear, it is possible that the State of Michigan may charge you with criminal neglect or abuse due to abandonment.
Otherwise the term "abandonment" or "spousal abandonment" is really not one used in a divorce proceeding in Michigan.

If you are considering leaving the martial home during a divorce case, you should be aware of the following:

  • If you leave the house for the short period of time during the pendency of the divorce proceeding, you will not lose your share of the equity in the house.  However, the longer you are gone, the more likely you may lose your share of the equity.
  • You may be placing yourself in a position where your personal or "special" items that you leave at the home somehow “disappear” or are destroyed.
  • If you leave the home, your spouse may file with the court for an “Order for Exclusive Occupancy” allowing that only he/she is entitled to stay in the home during the divorce proceeding, and that you cannot return to the home.
  • If you leave the home during the pendency of the divorce, the court may still require you to pay all or part of the household bills during the divorce. 
  • If you leave the home during the pendency of the divorce, you may lose your claim for the home to be awarded to you in the final resolution of the case. 
  • If you leave the home and you leave the children at the home with your spouse, you may lose the possibility of receiving custody of the children.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

We Have Only Been Married a Month, Can I Get an Annulment in Michigan?

In Michigan, a legal annulment is not based upon the length of time you have been married.

It is based upon either the inability to marry at the time of the marriage or fraud in the contract of marriage.

Specifically,  Michigan statutes provide that an annulment can only be granted in cases of

  • (a) incapacity due to age;
  • (b) prohibitively related;
  • (c) bigamy;
  • (d) incapacity due to a mental condition;
  • (e) physical incapacity;
  • (f) consent obtained by force or fraud; and
  • (g) foreign law violations.

So, very few marriages would actually qualify for an annulment.

However, after you receive a legal divorce, your religion may provide for some form of religious annulment.

See our Michigan ANNULMENT page for more information.

Can I make my husband / wife leave the home during the divorce in Michigan?

Generally, a Judge will not order a party to vacate the marital home during a Michigan divorce unless there is domestic violence or other extreme circumstances involved.

Most people live together during the divorce proceedings in Michigan. Although this may be emotionally difficult, it is generally more financially practical to live together until the judgment is entered or the home is sold or refinanced.

If there is an issue of domestic violence, or if one party has established a residence elsewhere, the Judge may issue an Order of Exclusive Occupancy, which states that only one of the parties may live in the marital home during the divorce in Michigan.

If your spouse leaves the martial home for a few days, and comes back to the home and you refuse him/her entrance to the home, the local police department will most likely enforce his/her ability to return to the home, unless there is an Order for Exclusive Occupancy or a Personal Protection Order which forbids him/her from coming to the home.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

My husband has left the home during my Michigan divorce, do I have to let him back in?

Generally, if there is no court order stating otherwise, and your spouse has only been gone a short time, the police will enforce his/her right to return to the home.

Once you file for divorce in Michigan, it may be possible to receive an order for exclusive occupancy under certain circumstances such as him having left the home or due to domestic violence issues.

If you have been a victim of violence from your spouse or he/she has made violent threats, it may be possible to receive a Personal Protection Order (PPO) from the court without filing for divorce.

This type of order may include a provision that he/she is prohibited from appearing where you live.

See our DIVORCE page for more information.

My spouse has moved out of the house, do I have to let him visit with the kids?

If there is no court order regarding custody or parenting time (visitation) in Michigan (or from another state), then both of you technically have custody of the children and if he/she asks the police to enforce his right to spend time with the children, they will generally back him/her up.

Remember that one of the ‘best interest of the child factors’ is: “The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.”

If you fail to encourage parenting time with the other parent, it may be used against you at a later date.

Obviously, there are some situations where it would be appropriate to go to court to ask for a restriction on parenting time, but without a court order you should speak with an attorney before withholding parenting time from your spouse or ex spouse.

See our CUSTODY page for more information.

In Michigan, how old does my child have to be before he or she can choose who he or she wants to live with?

Contrary to popular belief, in Michigan the child must be an adult, age 18, before he/she can decide with whom they will live.

Although the reasonable preference of the minor child is one of the ‘Best Interest of the Child Factors’, the Court takes that factor in consideration as equally as the other factors.

So, while the preference of the child is taken into consideration, it is not given any more weight than any other factor.

Practically, however, most police departments in Michigan will not enforce the return of a 16 year old to one parent when that 16 year old is with the other parent.

See our CUSTODY page for more information.

After my Judgment, can I move out of state with my children?

My child's mother / father has not paid child support, can I stop his parenting time?

The simple answer is, NO.

As far as the court is concerned, child support and parenting time are two separate issues.

If your children’s mother/father fails to pay child support, she/he can be held in contempt of court, or may even be charged with a felony.

If you fail to provide the scheduled parenting time, you too can be held in contempt of court.

Again, remember that one of the ‘best interest of the child factors’ is: “The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.”

If you fail to encourage parenting time with the other parent, it may be used against you at a later date.

See our CUSTODY page and PARENTING TIME page for more information.

Can I terminate the parental rights of my child's mother or father?


In Michigan one can only terminate parental rights through either the adoption code (through a step-parent adoption) or through the criminal code, incident to a criminal child abuse or child neglect charge.

So, it is NOT POSSIBLE for one to voluntarily relinquish or terminate a parents parental rights in Michigan.

Also, it is not possible for the other parent to ask the Court in Michigan to terminate the parental rights of the other parent.

See our CUSTODY page for more information.

What should I wear to Court for my Michigan divorce case?

The Court does not require you to dress in a suit or a dress.

  • Casual clothes are fine, just not too casual.
  • Do not wear jeans, shorts, t-shirts or a baseball hat.
  • Your attorney will advise you if you should dress any differently then stated here.

Many Courts now ban cell phones that can take pictures.

  • If you do bring your pager or cell phone to Court, make sure you turn it off or put it on vibrate.

Lastly, you are prohibited from bringing any thing that may be considered a weapon into the courthouse.

  • Among the more obvious items, this also includes Swiss Army knives, scissors and perfume spray bottles.
  • If you bring prohibited items, you will be required to either dispose of them, or return them to your vehicle.
  • A list of prohibited items in Wayne County can be found at the Wayne County Circuit Court website.

Representing Clients in Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County Michigan

Macomb County

  • Armada
  • Armada Township
  • Bruce Township
  • Centerline
  • Chesterfield Township
  • Clinton Township
  • Eastpointe
  • Fraser
  • Harrison Township
  • Lenox Township
  • Macomb Township
  • Memphis
  • Mt. Clemens
  • New Baltimore
  • New Haven
  • Ray Township
  • Richmond
  • Romeo
  • Roseville
  • St. Clair Shores
  • Sterling Heights
  • Shelby Township
  • Utica
  • Warren
  • Washington Township

Oakland County

  • Auburn Hills
  • Addison Township
  • Berkley
  • Beverly Hills
  • Bingham Farms
  • Birmingham
  • Bloomfield
  • Bloomfield Hills
  • Brandon Township
  • Clarkston
  • Commerce Township
  • Farmington
  • Farmington Hills
  • Ferndale
  • Franklin
  • Groveland Township
  • Hazel Park
  • Highland Township
  • Holly
  • Holly Township
  • Huntington Woods
  • Independence Township
  • Keego Harbor
  • Lake Angelus
  • Lake Orion
  • Lathrup Village
  • Lyon Township
  • Madison Heights
  • Milford Township
  • Novi
  • Novi Township
  • Oak Park
  • Oakland Township
  • Orchard Lake
  • Orion Township
  • Ortonville
  • Oxford
  • Pleasant Ridge
  • Pontiac
  • Rochester
  • Rochester Hills
  • Rose Township
  • Royal Oak
  • Royal Oak Township
  • Southfield
  • South Lyon
  • Springfield Township
  • Sylvan Lake
  • Troy
  • Walled Lake
  • Waterford
  • West Bloomfield
  • White Lake Township
  • Wixom
  • Wolverine Lake

Wayne County

  • Allen Park
  • Belleville
  • Brownstown Township
  • Canton Township
  • Dearborn
  • Dearborn Heights
  • Detroit
  • Ecorse
  • Flat Rock
  • Garden City
  • Gibralter
  • Grosse Isle
  • Grosse Pointe
  • Grosse Pointe Farms
  • Grosse Pointe Park
  • Grosse Pointe Woods
  • Hamtramack
  • Highland Park
  • Huron Township
  • Inkster
  • Lincoln Park
  • Livonia
  • Melvindale
  • Northville
  • Northville Township
  • Plymouth
  • Plymouth Township
  • Redford
  • River Rouge
  • Riverview
  • Rockwood
  • Romulus
  • Southgate
  • Sumpter Township
  • Taylor
  • Trenton
  • Van Buren Township
  • Wayne
  • Westland
  • Woodhaven
  • Wyandotte

Paynter & Associates

Main Office

7071 Orchard Lake Road

Suite 245

West Bloomfield, Michigan 48322

Satellite Office

100 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 200

Troy, Michigan 48084


Phone 248-851-7555

Fax 877-877-7955



SKYPE available upon request


Weekdays:  9am to 5pm.

Early Morning: By appointment only.

Evenings: By appointment only.

Weekends: By appointment only.

Your form message has been successfully sent.
You have entered the following data:

Contact Us

Please correct your input in the following fields:
Error while sending the form. Please try again later.

Note: Fields marked with * are required