Meeting the Residency Requirements
You or your spouse need to live in Michigan for at least six months before filing for divorce. Just one of you needs to meet this requirement
You need to file in the county you or your spouse live in
Grounds For a Michigan divorce
As mentioned earlier, to get a divorce in Michigan, you do not have to prove any grounds.
To get a divorce, the only reason needed is that there has been a serious breakdown of the marriage that is permanent and that there are no chances of you working things out with your spouse.
Where to file for Divorce in Michigan?
If you meet the above requirements for filing a divorce in Michigan, the next questions is, where do you go to file your paperwork?
The petition for your divorce must be filed in the county where your spouse or you live. The divorce proceedings and hearing will be held in the particular county and that’s where you need to submit all your paperwork pertaining to your divorce.
You can find out information about the court for your county here.
Step 2: What Things Will Be Decided in Your Divorce
Discuss Property Distribution
Usually, when a couple gets a divorce, the Michigan courts distribute the property equitably. Equitable distribution of the property essentially means that the court will distribute all the property that you or your spouse or both of you have, irrespective of when the property was bought or in whose name it is in. The court will consider the following when deciding on how to divide the property:
The length of your marriage.
Your spouse’s and your contribution to the marital assets such as income, being the primary parent, etc.
Age of your spouse and you.
Physical, emotional and mental health of you and your spouse.
The standard of living of both you and your spouse during your marriage.
Both your income requirements.
You and your spouse’s earning potential.
Discussing the Arrangements for Your Children (If Applicable)
In case you have a child or children, then the court will decide on the custody of the child and child support, which is in the best interest of your child. This may mean a shared custody with your spouse or the court may give complete custody to one parent.
When deciding on whom to award the custody of the child, the court does not give any preference to the mother. Instead, the custody arrangement is usually made on basis of what is in the best interest of the child and the following aspects are considered by the court:
Your spouse’s and your wishes about where you want your child to live.
The wishes of your child.
The relationship of the child with the parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. that may affect the best interests of the child.
The physical and mental health of both the parents, as well as the child.
The child’s attachment to the home, community and school.
Any evidence of domestic abuse or violence against the child or either of the parents.
Any criminal history of either of the parents or any person living with either of the parents.
Deciding the Alimony
In Michigan, it not common for the judge to grant any spousal support or alimony to either of the spouses. However, you can decide with your spouse if any party should get alimony after the divorce. If you do not agree, then the court will decide on the spousal support for one spouse after considering the following aspects:
Length of your marriage.
If the spouse requesting alimony has the capability to work.
Whether the paying spouse can afford the alimony payment.
How the marital property was divided during the divorce.
The financial requirements of the requesting spouse.
The health of both you and your spouse.
The standard of living of you and your spouse.
If you or your spouse is responsible for the support of the other.
The spouse who at fault and was responsible for ending the marriage.
Step 3: DIY divorce or Hire an Attorney
Determine If You Need an Attorney
While you can handle all the divorce procedures without an attorney, having one can ensure that the process is completed smoothly.
If your spouse and you agree on how your property should be divided and if you do not have any children, then you could file for your divorce on your own without the help of a lawyer and save money. However, without an attorney, your spouse and you must file the paperwork and each of you must speak to the judge without any preparation.
If your spouse and you do not agree on the property division or if there are children involved, where you need to arrive at the custody arrangements, then it is a good idea to hire an attorney who can assist you. In the case of a contested divorce, where the spouses do not agree, things can get complicated and it is best to hire an expert to help you with the best outcome.
Do Your Homework
If you decide that you are going to hire an attorney, it is a good idea to do your research and find the right person to represent you. To find the right attorney, you could consider the following:
You can get a referral of a divorce lawyer from a family member or a friend who has used one before. If you are unable to get a referral, then you could find a good attorney via online sources such as Yahoo Local, Find Law and Avvo.
Once you find an attorney who you think is a good fit for you, meet them face-to-face and ask questions about your situation, case, etc. and figure out if you and the attorney can get along.
Selecting the Right Attorney
Once you meet up with the potential attorneys, you can then decide who will offer best advise in your particular situation. Consider the experience of the attorney, his/her fees and your compatibility with the attorney before making the final decision.
If you have questions about your case after your meeting, don’t hesitate to clarify with them. Your attorney should be able to answer all the questions you may have.
If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, then you can get legal help “pro bono” here.
Step 4: Filing Michigan Divorce Paperwork
Gathering and Completing the Required Forms
Before filing for your divorce, you will be required to fill many forms such as a divorce petition, a summons, etc.
If you are representing yourself, Michigan offers an interactive interview, wherein you need to answer questions that you will be asked online and on the basis of your answers, a form with all the details will be generated, which you can file. However, before you complete the interview program, you will require to have all your information ready.
You will also need to provide the information regarding your proposed “parenting plan” in case you have children, which essentially outlines the custody arrangement of your children between your spouse and you.
You will require to gather all the information on your spouse’s and your assets and finances, irrespective of whether you have kids or not.
Creating a “Law Help Interactive” Account
Before you start the interactive interview, you need to create an account on the Law Help Interactive website. And, you can create your account here.
Once you complete the interview process, you need to print out the completed forms and then file the forms in the county where you reside.
Filing Your Forms
Once the divorce forms have been printed, you must get them notarized and then file them at the county court where you live during the normal business hours.
You will be required to pay a $150 filing fee and $80 judgment fee at the time of filing your documents.
If you cannot afford the fees, then you can fill out the fee waiver form here.
Serving the Divorce Papers on Your Spouse
To give your spouse “notice” of your divorce, you need to “serve” a copy of the documents on them. In Michigan, the papers can be served by using one of the following methods:
The sheriff’s deputy or a police officer personally serve your spouse.
Use a process server to serve your spouse personally.
Get a relative or a friend to serve your spouse personally.
Send a copy of all the documents to your spouse via certified mail with a return receipt.
Have a prior agreement with your spouse that you can hand over the paper personally. However, for this you must check at your local court if this is possible in your county as in most places, you cannot serve your spouse personally.
Wait for Your Spouse’s Response
Once your spouse receives the documents, he/she must file a response within 21 days. However, if you have served your spouse outside of Michigan by mail, then he/she has 28 days to file a response.
The answer to your petition that your spouse files may either admit or deny any of the statements that you have made in the petition. Your spouse may also counterclaim for the divorce as an answer, which means that your spouse files his/her own divorce petition and ask for a different child custody or property distribution arrangement than what was asked by you.
The “answer” to the petition is filled out making use of the interactive interview program and to begin the process, you can click here.
Waiting for 60 or 180 Days
Once you have received a response from your spouse on your petition, you will be required to wait for around 60 to 180 days before the court enters a judgment for your divorce.
The waiting period is usually 60 days if your spouse and you do not have children and 180 days if you have children.
Step 6: Finalizing your Michigan divorce
Your spouse and you may be required to attend classes during the waiting period to work on issues that you may have with one another. Your children may also be required to attend parenting classes.
Every court has an appointed “friend of the court” who is essentially trained to help spouses arrive at agreements related to domestic relations and the judge assigned to your divorce case may ask you to meet with the “friend of the court” or you can do that on your own too.
Attending the Pre-Trial Proceedings
Once you have completed all the required classes and have met the friend of the court, the judge may schedule a meeting to check how your case is going on.
If your spouse and you have worked out a majority of the issues by the time you meet the judge, then the judge will set a final hearing date.
However, if you have not been able to agree on the divorce terms with your spouse, the judge may send you to meet the friend of the court or for mediation. Also, your case may be set for trial by the judge, so that you can fight about all your issues in court.
Attending the Final Hearing
Once the pre-trial conference and any other procedures are completed, your spouse and you will get a notice of the final hearing to enter the “Judgment of Divorce”. If your spouse and you are unable to settle any issue, this trial is essentially where the judge will decide the “terms” of your divorce. However, if your spouse and you agree, then the judge will most likely accept the decisions that you have made together.
Ensure that you arrive at the courthouse at least 10-15 minutes before your hearing and make sure that you’re dressed appropriately.
Bring all the documents pertaining to the divorce with you.
After the hearing is complete, the judge will sign the judgment of divorce, after which you will be required to file the judgment of divorce with the court clerk to finalize the divorce.