How to File For Divorce in Michigan
Making the decision to file for divorce can be very difficult and emotional. Many people are affected by the decision to file for divorce and there are often financial consequences as well. A good divorce attorney will help navigate you through the divorce process in Michigan and help you understand your rights under Michigan divorce laws.
Divorce in Michigan
Beginning the Michigan Divorce Filing
Filing for divorce in Michigan begins by filing a complaint with the county circuit court. The plaintiff or defendant must satisfy the jurisdictional requirements including the Michigan residency rule and county residency rule. Care should be taken when filing for divorce in Michigan regarding the procedural requirements for the complaint. Michigan divorce law provides for a "no fault" divorce and parties should not provide factual allegations in the complaint to support their need for the divorce. The only requirement for filing divorce in Michigan is that there is a breakdown in the marriage and there is no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation of the spouses. The relevant Michigan divorce law can be found here.
If the parties have minor children, additional filing information is required and each county may have specific forms to use when submitting this information. There will be requirements related to child custody, child support and parenting time when minor children are involved.
Michigan Divorce Filing Fees
A party filing for divorce in Michigan may also be required to be a filing fee. Currently, in Wayne County, Michigan, the filing fee for a divorce without minor children is $175. The filing fee for a case with minor children is $255. A plaintiff may request that the fee be waived if certain conditions are met. The court may waive the fee or deny the request, which is appealable. In other cases, the plaintiff may request the defendant to reimburse the filing fee.
Preparing the Summons and Serving the Michigan Divorce Complaint on Defendant
After the plaintiff files the complaint with the court, the plaintiff or the court clerk will prepare a summons that must be served on the defendant along with the complaint. There are various methods to serving a defendant, but usually a professional process server is hired to serve the defendant.
Anyone can serve the defendant except the plaintiff. If the defendant is aware of the divorce action, he or she can also voluntarily sign the papers via mail or through the plaintiff's attorney.
Completing Service of Process Under Michigan Divorce Law
After the defendant signs the papers, the plaintiff must return them to the court clerk for filing. At that point, the defendant must file an answer to plaintiff's complaint within 21 days or risk a default judgment. A defendant should always file an answer even if the divorce is technically an uncontested divorce. At that point, the parties will either settle all issues required or eligible for settlement under Michigan divorce law or move towards a trial.
After the defendant has filed an answer, the parties proceed to serve discovery requests on each other for information to support their cases. This generally includes information related to property including assets and liabilities, as well as historical spending information. The parties may use their own information to support their case in addition to the information requested. The parties also serve interrogatories, which are requests to answer specific questions.
After information has been gathered, the parties may wish to depose witnesses in preparation of trial if there are any remaining issues. This generally relates only to contested cases with matters that require a further understanding of relevant facts to resolve any factual disputes.
During the pre-trial discovery phase, parties often attempt to negotiate a settlement to avoid increasing costs and an expensive trial for any remaining unsettled issues. The parties may negotiate based on complete information or as they gather information. Any property not disclosed to the other party that is required to be disclosed may result in an adverse outcome, as the court is allowed to divide property on an equitable basis. This means that a court is not required to apply a formula or 50/50.
The parties may be required to go to trial on any disputed issues that cannot be resolved during negotiations or mediation. A judge will determine if there are any factual disputes, and the trial will determine the facts. The judge then makes a ruling and can rule on property division, alimony, child custody, parenting time, and child support. It is generally in the parties' best interest to reach a settlement rather than letting a judge decide their rights.
Hire a Detroit Divorce Attorney to Represent You in Your Michigan Divorce
If you are considering filing for divorce in Michigan, contact Michigan divorce attorney Andrew Steiger for a free consultation at (248) 259-6367 or email me. I can help you file for divorce in Michigan and protect your rights under Michigan divorce law.