Family Law is All We Do

Michigan Divorce Information

Michigan Divorce Residency Requirement

 

In order to file for divorce in Michigan, one must first meet the residency requirement.

 

To file for divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state of Michigan for at least 180 days prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce.

  • To file for divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must also be a resident of the county where you intend to file for divorce for at least 10 days prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce.
  • There are exceptions to this rule for members of the military who are on active duty.  Please see our MICHIGAN MILITARY DIVORCE page for more information.

 

Residency does not always mean that you are required to be physcially present in the state for the period of time required.

  • For example, if you have lived in Michigan for 180 days, but went on vacation of state during that time, it will not destroy your claim for residency.  

 

Please contact our office if you wish to discuss your specific case and whether or not you meet the residency requirement to file for divorce in Michigan.

Michigan Is A No Fault Divorce State

In Michigan, a No Fault Divorce basically means two things:

  • You are not required to prove a reason for the divorce, and 
  • If want party wants a divorce, the other party cannot prevent the entry of a Judgment of Divorce.

In Michigan, if a party is properly served with a Summons and a Complaint for Divorce Divorce, a judge can enter a Default Judgment of Divorce without the other party ever participating in the divorce case.

  • It is possible to get a divorce without your spouse ever siging any divorce papers.
  • A divorce in Michigan will be granted even if one of the parties does not want the divorce.  

Although fault is not required to be proven, fault may be a factor in a Michigan divorce in issues relating to custody, parenting time, property division and/or spousal support.

Mandatory Waiting Period for a Divorce in Michigan

 

You cannot get a quick divorce in Michigan because we have mandatory waiting periods. The waiting period is set by the Michigan Legislature in the statutes relating to a divorce.

 

  • In a divorce where the parties have no minor children together,
    • a Judgment of Divorce cannot be entered until at least sixty (60) days has passed from the date that a Complaint was filed with the Court.
  • In a divorce where the parties have minor children together,
    • a Court will require you to wait one hundred and eighty (180) days from the date of the filing of the Complaint before a Judgment of Divorce can be entered. 
  • In cases with minor children, if both parties agree,
    • it may be possible to waive the last four (4) months of the 180 day waiting period. 
    • It is up to the Judge in each case to determine whether or not a portion of the waiting period will be waived. 

A “Consent Judgment of Divorce” that complies with all applicable statutes and court rules can be entered with the Court when the proper waiting period has passed, if both parties agree to all the terms of the divorce, including:

  • custody,
  • child support,
  • spousal support and
  • property division

Unfortunately, most cases are more complicated than that and have some contested issues.   Contesting a divorce in Michigan involves mediation and possibly a trial.

You have to go to court to get a divorce in Michigan

In order to receive a divorce, someone will have to go to court, or at least appear by phone with the Judge.

Even if you and your spouse agree to all of the terms of your divorce including custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support and property settlement, you must appear before a judge in Court to enter your Judgment of Divorce. 

  • Before a divorce judgment is granted in Michigan, a Judge must "take the proofs" in open Court.
  • "Taking the proofs" or "putting the proofs on the record" is where the party who filed the action (or the other party, if they filed a counter-claim) is asked certain questions that are required by statute
    • as to jurisdiction,
    • whether or not the Wife is pregnant and
    • whether or not there has been a breakdown in the marital relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed.
  • Either the Wife or the Husband (the Plaintiff, or the Defendant if he/she filed a counter-claim) must appear before the Judge to tell the Judge that this breakdown exists.
  • Many judges now allow parties to appear by phone for this purpose.  Some Courts charge a fee for that service. 
  • Our office has had clients as far away as Japan, Germany, and Hawaii (among other locations) make their only court appearance by phone to put the "proofs on the record" to finalize their Consent Judgment of Divorce.

How does a divorce case start in Michigan?

A Michigan divorce case begins with the filing of the Complaint for Divorce (“Complaint”) and a Michigan divorce requires a Summons (a form required by the State to start any civil action) also to be filed with the Court.

  • The party who files the Complaint is called the “Plaintiff”, the other party is called the “Defendant”. 
  • The current filing fee for Divorce in Michigan is $150.00, plus an additional fee of $80 if the parties have a minor child or children together.

Ex parte orders may be entered by the Court upon the filing of a Complaint for divorce.

  • Sometimes, the Plaintiff will also have ex parte (pronounced x-par-tay) orders entered by the Court along with the Complaint. 
  • An ex parte order is an order
    • that is signed by the judge
    • without a hearing,
    • based upon the allegations made in a written document, in this case, the Complaint.
  • The types of ex parte orders that may be entered with a new divorce case relate to
    • custody,
    • child support,
    • restraining orders on transferring of assets or
    • interim orders keeping the status quo.
  • Since an ex parte order is entered by the Court without a hearing, the Defendant has an opportunity to object to the ex parte order within fourteen (14) days from receipt of the order. 
  • Keep in mind, if an ex parte order is not entered at the time of filing, or objections to an ex parte order are filed, one can always file a motion with the Court to request entry of an order.

How do you serve your spouse with the divorce papers in Michigan?

After the Complaint is filed with the Court, the Defendant must be served.  The Defendant can be served by:

  • having a process server serve the Defendant, or
  • by certified mail/restricted delivery or
  • having the Defendant acknowledge service by signing the back of the summons so that it can be filed with the Court.

How do you respond to a Complaint for Divorce in Michigan?

Once the Defendant has been served, he/she has 21 days (if the Defendant was personally served) or 28 days (if the Defendant was served by certified mail) to file an Answer to the Complaint (“Answer”).

  • An Answer is a written pleading, filed with the Court and the Plaintiff’s attorney, which responds to each of the allegations made in the Complaint. 
  • If the Defendant fails to timely file an Answer with the Court, the Plaintiff can ask that a “default” be entered. 
  • A default is where the Court allows a Judgment to be entered without the consent of the Defendant because the Defendant has failed to respond.  
  • If a default is entered, a case can proceed without the Defendant and a “Default Judgment of Divorce” that complies with all applicable statutes and court rules can be entered with the Court, which would end the case.

Unfortunately, most cases are not that simple.  In most cases, the Defendant either files an answer or appears at a hearing in the case and the case proceeds with negotiation towards settling the case.

Can we finalize our divorce in Michigan quickly?

You cannot get a "quick divorce" in Michigan because we have mandatory waiting periods.

  • In a divorce where the parties have no minor children together, a Judgment of Divorce cannot be entered until at least sixty (60) days has passed from the date that a Complaint was filed with the Court.
  • In a divorce where the parties have minor children together, a Court will require you to wait one hundred and eighty (180) days from the date of the filing of the Complaint before a Judgment of Divorce can be entered. 
    • In cases with minor children, if both parties agree, it may be possible to waive the last four (4) months of the 180 day waiting period. 
    • It is up to the Judge in each case to determine whether or not a portion of the waiting period will be waived. 
    • To waive a portion of the waiting period, the the Judge must find that it is in the best interests of the minor child(ren) that a portion of the waiting period should be waived.

If both parties agree to all the terms of the divorce, including custody, child support, spousal support and property division, a “Consent Judgment of Divorce” that complies with all applicable statutes and court rules can be entered with the Court when the proper waiting period has passed.

Again, unfortunately, most cases are more complicated than that.  In most Michigan divorce cases, there are at least some contested issues.   Contesting a divorce in Michigan involves mediation and possibly a trial.

Determining what everyone owes and owns during a divorce in Michigan.

If the parties do not agree as to the assets and debts of the marriage, or the values of the assets and debts, discovery will have to be done. 

  • Discovery is a process for obtaining information, by such means as interrogatories, depositions or subpoenas.  
  • The purpose of discovery is for each party to find out information about the other party. 

Once all the information is obtained, the parties may then try to negotiate a settlement.

If you cannot agree on the terms of your divorce settlement, you may be required to go to mediation in Michigan.

If the Plaintiff and Defendant still disagree on how to settle their case, the Court will still encourage settlement and require that the parties attend mediation.

Sometimes, parties will try to settle a case without formal mediation, by having an informal meeting with just the parties and their attorneys.  If this is not an option, then formal mediation is the next step.  Formal mediation is a process where a neutral attorney is appointed to hear both sides of the story and recommend a resolution.   Generally the Plaintiff’s attorney and the Defendant’s attorney agree upon who will be appointed to mediate the case.  If the attorneys cannot agree upon a mediator, then the judge will appoint one.

  • Formal mediation can be costly. 
  • The Plaintiff and Defendant pay the mediator hourly for his/her time. 
  • In addition, the Plaintiff and the Defendant will be paying their own attorneys for their time to prepare for the mediation and attend the mediation. 
  • Preparing for the mediation includes drafting a “mediation summary”.  
  • Prior to attending mediation, each attorney submits a mediation summary to the mediator. 
  • The mediation summary provides the mediator with an outline of the case and that party’s version on how the case should be settled.
  • The mediator will read each party’s mediation summary and then the mediator will meet with the parties and their attorneys. 
  • The mediator will then attempt to encourage a resolution to the case. 
  • If a resolution cannot be made, the mediator will make a recommendation. 
  • If the parties do not agree to the recommendation then the matter is scheduled for binding arbitration or trial.

What is the difference between divorce mediation and divorce arbitration.

Binding arbitration is somewhat similar to mediation that it doesn’t take place before a judge, but different in that it is binding. 

  • In binding arbitration, the facts are presented by both sides before an independent fact finder, rather than before the judge.  Just like mediation.
  • In binding arbitration however, the independent fact finder makes a final decision (award). 
  • The arbitration award is entered by the Court in the form of a Judgment of Divorce. 

Most arbitration awards are final cannot be appealed.

What happens during a divorce trial in Michigan?

Very few divorce cases in Michigan actually go to trial as most cases are settled at mediation.  If a divorce in Michigan goes to trial, it may be very lengthy and costly.   In a trial, all aspects of the case that are contested must be placed into evidence.  Generally a trial consists of:

  • Opening statements:  The attorneys summarize for the court what the issues are and what they intend to prove.  Sometimes these statements are waived.
  • Plaintiff’s case:  The Plaintiff presents evidence in support of their claims.
  • Defendant’s case:  The Defendant presents evidence in support of their claims.
  • Closing arguments:  The attorneys summarize for the court the evidence presented.
  • The judge’s ruling.  (Generally on a different day).

Once the judge provides his/her ruling it is then reduced to the form of a written Judgment and entered with the Court.

When will my divorce be final in Michigan?

Once the Judgment of Divorce is entered, it is final as to a property settlement unless it is appealed based on a procedural error or an error made by the Court. 

  • After a Judgment of Divorce is entered, child support, parenting time and custody can be revisited by the circuit court if there is a change in circumstance. 
  • Sometimes, after a Judgment of Divorce is entered, a party may have return to Court to enforce issues regarding the property settlement, custody, parenting time or child support payments.

Is it really over with the entry of the Judgment of Divorce in Michigan?

You may be divorce, but once the Judgment is entered, you may not be done.

After the entry of the Judgment, you still may need to:

  • divide your assets and debts as set out in your Judgment
  • have Qualified Domestic Relations Orders entered with the Court and sent to the plan administrator to effectuate the transfer of retirement funds.
  • record a quit claim deed to transfer real property

Although your Judgment may be final and binding as to your property settlement, if your former spouse does not cooperate in the above, the Court will enforce your Judgment.

You can always return to the Court regarding issues with respect to child support, custody and parenting time if there is a change in circumstances.

Family law regulates the legal relationships of people who are connected to each other by marriage, civil unions, family and relations, or where there is a custodianship, trusteeship or legal guardianship in place. 

Are you having legal issues regarding marriage, adoption, divorce or seeking custody of your children? We focus much of our practice on family law, so we can guide you through the challenges you face, no matter what they are. We can help to ensure that in the event of a divorce, your legal rights remain secure.

Do you have questions, or would you like to make an appointment? Call us at 248-851-7555 or use our contact form.

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



Email elpaynter@gmail.com

 

SKYPE available upon request

OFFICE HOURS

Weekdays:  9am to 5pm.

Early Morning: By appointment only.

Evenings: By appointment only.

Weekends: By appointment only.

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