It’s natural to have questions about the divorce process when considering filing for it. The Divorce Attorneys of Michigan have prepared this short explanation of divorces in Michigan. This explanation will try to cover the main points and provide a general overview of what is involved in a divorce process in Michigan. As always, you are encouraged to call us at (248) 785-3634 if you have any questions and would like to schedule a consultation where your questions will be answered.
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In Michigan, divorces are granted without the need of stating a causal ground in the complaint (document submitted to the court initiating the divorce). In other words, there is one ground for divorce, which is by stating that "there has been a breakdown in the marriage to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."
However, when it comes to other aspects of the divorce, such as figuring out child support, spousal support, property division, or child custody, fault may be a factor in ruling on those issues. Bottom line is that when seeking a divorce, neither party may state the cause of why either party has filed for the divorce.
Filing for divorce is a complicated matter and should be handled by a divorce attorneys. We do not under any circumstances recommend that one should file for divorce themselves without a trained attorney. With that being said, the following is a nutshell of the procedure in filing for divorce in Michigan.
First thing that should be figured out is where to file for a divorce. In Michigan, divorces are filed through the county circuit courts (Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, etc.) depending on a number of factors, such as the county of residence, time of residence, etc.
Second, you would draft and compile a set of documents for submission to the court, which will be the divorce filing itself. You would submit the complaint, summons, a record of divorce, and a statement submitted to the Friend of the Court. Along with the submissions, you also would need to pay the court filings fees, which depend on whether children are or aren’t involved. Mind you, there is much more detail involved, please use this not as a practice guide or legal advice on filing for divorce, but as general material designed to give a very basic and vague idea of how a divorce is filed in Michigan.
After the filings have been submitted to the court, you would need to serve them on the other party (other spouse). Service of process has to be done per the court rules, which can be found online. Please note that there are different rules of service in situations where for example a spouse resides in a different state or is in the armed forces. After the proper documents are filed with the court, those documents are forwarded to the plaintiff, for proper service to the defendant.
Once the defendant is served with the documents, he/she should file an answer to the complaint, which must be filed with the court. An answer consists of responses to the allegations/statements in the complaint. If the defendant fails to respond, then the divorce would be considered an uncontested divorce. If the plaintiff answers the complaint and submits it to the court, the divorce then becomes contested. The difference between the two is simply whether or not a response is filed contesting the contents of the complaint. The plaintiff, after filing, may make a request for temporary relief from the court, regarding child support, child custody, restraining orders, and the like.
After the filings have been submitted to the court and each side has submitted their answers, the proceedings begin. During this period leading up to trial, both sides exchange information and go through a series of formal and informal proceedings and conferences. During this period, information is gathered to make a determination as to issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. The courts, along with the attorneys (most of the time) encourage both parties to seek a resolution on these issues without having to go to trial, or rely on the judge to make these determinations.
The exchange, or search, of information is called discovery. This can either be formal or informal. The information, if applicable, is considered evidence. Evidence collected is used to determine how issues such as child custody, spousal support, etc. are to be figured out. There are a few ways this information is exchanged or sought. One device is through interrogatories, which are a series of questions, relevant to the proceedings, which must be answered truthfully and under oath. These answers are legally binding and will be used by the court to make determinations on child support, property division, spousal support, and child custody.
In Michigan, if the two parties cannot come together and agree on issues such as child custody, property division and the such, the court will then order mediation. Mediation is usually an informal arrangement where the two parties will hire and split the costs of a mediator to try and bring the two parties to agreement. Mediators are attorneys that help bring the two sides together and are specially trained to accomplish this task. Both sides would submit a brief on each sides positions, backgrounds, etc. to the mediator, along with a request on how the outstanding issues should be resolved. The mediator would then formulate a plan that he/she believes would be mutually beneficial to all parties in involved. The parties may accept or reject the recommendations, but the recommendation will forwarded to the presiding judge on the outstanding issues. If mediation is fruitless, the parties will likely proceed to trial.
The Friend of the Court is a division of the court system in Michigan, the State Court Administrative Office. Their function is to work with the parties to resolve issues pending the finality of the divorce proceedings. The Friend of the Court also administers child support payments. The Friend of the Court is utilized if there are children under the age of 18 in the divorce proceedings. The parties may decide to opt out if they wish.
After all the issues have been agreed upon and resolved, the court will also a divorce judgment. This judgment finalizes the divorce and reduces the agreements between two parties to a legally binding documents. The judgment includes the agreements on property rights, child support, child custody, alimony and other items of issue. The divorce is not finalized until the judge presiding over the divorce signs it, which then will become an order.
If you are considering filing for divorce in Michigan, you should first speak with an attorney and learn about the options available to you. We are here to answer any questions you may have and help guide you throughout the process. Give us a call today at (248) 785-3634 to speak with a Michigan divorce attorney.
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