Any experienced divorce attorney in Michigan will attest to the proposition that no two divorces are identical. Each divorce has its own twists and turns as determined by the personalities of the spouses, their financial situation, whether they have minor children, and their motivation for seeking a divorce.
However, the Michigan legislature has passed a number of laws that govern the divorce process, and every divorce must adhere to these statutes. Understanding this process can help anyone considering a divorce decide whether to proceed.
It is important to note that there are several processes for getting a divorce in Michigan, including the Collaborative Divorce process and an alternative dispute resolution method which begins with negotiations prior to any filing with the Court. In this blog, however, the more “traditional” process of filling for divorce is discussed.
Residency and waiting periods
Anyone wishing to seek a divorce from a Michigan court must have resided in the state for 180 days before filing the Complaint for Divorce. Only one spouse needs to have lived in the state to confer jurisdiction on Michigan courts.
In a traditional divorce process, the next step is to draft and file the Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint must provide basic information about the filing party and any children. The Complaint must then be served upon the other spouse.
The parties are then required to wait for the mandatory waiting period to expire. For couples with no children, the waiting period is sixty days; for couples with children, the waiting period is six months. The waiting period is intended as a “cooling off” period to give couples time to sort out matters such as child custody and support and state-mandated parenting classes.
After the matter is filed and the waiting period is tolling, the parties will likely engage in discovery. This is where they exchange and obtain personal and financial information including employment status, sources of income, property values, debts or court obligations, and motor vehicles owned by that person.
Drafting a settlement agreement
While it may be surprising, many couples are able to settle their divorce on their own terms, usually with the help of their attorneys or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. If this occurs, a Judgment of Divorce containing the agreements between the spouses regarding matters such as child support and custody, division of assets, and spousal support is signed. This document is then submitted to the judge for the purpose of determining whether its terms are fair and equitable. The spouses must comply with the terms of the settlement agreement as it is a binding contract.
The divorce hearing
When it’s time to submit the Judgment of Divorce, the court will schedule a hearing to finalize the matter. If the divorce and terms of the settlement agreement are accepted by both spouses, the court will sign the final judgment which dissolves the marriage and settles all issues, including child custody and support and property division.
If the parties are unable to settle on their own, the court will conduct a divorce trial and the judge will make the ultimate decisions regarding the issues. After the trial concludes, a Judgment of Divorce will be drafted which outlines the court’s decisions which will then be entered, finalizing the matter.
While this gives a very general outline of the traditional divorce process in Michigan, this is not the only way to get a divorce. There are many options available to families based on their needs to desire. If you would like to learn about the options available to you, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss.