Oakland Divorce Attorney

A Guide to Getting a Divorce in Michigan

Deciding to end a marriage is a difficult decision at the best of times, and almost impossible at other times. The divorce process is often emotional and psychologically draining. The process can also become complicated, especially when you and your spouse do not agree on all the divorce-related issues. 

An experienced divorce attorney can help protect your rights during the process and stand up for your interests. However, also knowing the basics about Michigan divorce law can help you understand what to expect during the process. 

In this guide, our Metro-Detroit family law attorney explains the commonly asked Michigan divorce FAQs and everything you need to know. 

Michigan Divorce FAQ’s

What are the grounds for divorce in Michigan? Is Michigan a no-fault state? 

Before you start the process of filing a divorce, you should have a reason for wanting a divorce. Legally, these reasons are called “grounds” and they are specifically provided under the law. Usually, the grounds available to base a divorce will depend on whether the state is a fault or no-fault state. 

Michigan is a no-fault state. This means that you do not need to show that your spouse was responsible for the breakup in some way. The only ground you need to show is that there has been a breakdown of your marital relationship and you do not see any likelihood that the marriage can continue. 

What is a contested divorce? When is divorce uncontested? 

Usually, spouses in a divorce will need to settle several issues including division of property and spousal support. If the marriage produced children, the issues would also include child custody, child support, and parenting time. 

If the spouses do not agree on these issues, the divorce is regarded as a contested divorce. This means that the final decision on these issues will be made by the court, instead of the parties. However, if both spouses agree on all issues, the divorce is regarded as an uncontested divorce. 

Since there will be no disagreement, uncontested divorces proceed much faster and can be concluded far cheaper than contested divorces. Consulting with an attorney early on in the process and taking advantage of processes such as mediation and collaborative divorce can help facilitate an uncontested divorce. 

What happens during the Michigan divorce process? 

The divorce process typically starts with filing. Before you file though, you must meet the state’s residency requirement. Either you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least 6 months in a year. The person filing the divorce must also file the divorce papers in a court within the county where they live. 

What does filing involve? You will be required to complete paperwork that includes divorce complaint forms. Some of the information you will need to provide includes information about the overview of your situation, the reason for the divorce, any property to be divided, whether there are children in the marriage, and your proposal for the welfare of the children. You will also be required to produce paperwork that shows complete information about your assets, debts, and overall financial status. 

After you file the divorce papers, a copy of the papers will be served on your spouse in the form of a “summons”. Your spouse will usually have 21 days to respond if they live in Michigan, or 28 days, if they live out of state. They will need to fill out and sign the Proof of Service form attached to the papers and return it to you for filing with the court. 

The process from here depends on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. If the divorce is uncontested, the judge will only check the papers you have filed and be satisfied that you are both agreeing to the terms of the divorce. Then a divorce decree will be issued. If the divorce is contested, a trial may be necessary to legally resolve the contested issues before a divorce decree is finally issued. 

What is the Friend of the Court and what do they do? 

Friend of the Court (FOC) is a specialized service created to help the court decide contentious issues relating to the welfare of children involved in the divorce. If you and your spouse have children together, your divorce case may be referred to the FOC. 

While there, you will meet with a Referee or Custody and Parenting Time Specialist who will interview you, the children, and people who may have knowledge about the case. This helps them determine the best interests of the child and make a recommendation to the judge on how issues relating to custody, support, and parenting time should be decided. 

You and your spouse may opt-out of FOC services though, if you both agree. 

How long does the divorce process take? 

Your divorce can be finalized in a matter of a few months, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. As a result, there is no guarantee of how long the process will take. 

However, there are time requirements relating to the minimum amount of time you and your spouse must wait before your divorce is finalized. If there are no children involved in the case, Michigan law requires the spouses to wait a minimum of 2 months before a final divorce decree can be issued. 

But if there are children involved, the minimum waiting period is 6 months from the date of filing.  However, in cases of unusual hardship or such a compelling necessity, the Court can waive the 6 month waiting period after the expiration of 60 days.

How is marital property divided in a Michigan divorce?

If you and your spouse do not agree on how you want to divide your property, the court will make this decision on your behalf. There are rules that guide how this decision will be made. 

In Michigan, the court will divide marital property in an equitable manner. This is compared to many other states that prefer an equal distribution formula. Equitable distribution in Michigan means that the court will divide marital assets based on considerations of fairness, instead of just splitting everything down the middle. 

You should also know that the court will not simply divide all of your assets. Usually, marital property, for the purpose of division, is only property, assets, or debts that were accumulated during the course of the marriage. There are several exceptions to this though. Our experienced Metro-Detroit family law attorney will be glad to help you understand these exceptions and how they apply to your case. 

What are my options apart from a court divorce? 

Although the court-supervised divorce process is one of the more popular options for a Michigan divorce, there are other options you can try. 

Divorce mediation is a great option for spouses who wish to enjoy more control over how important divorce-related issues are resolved. The process involves working with a neutral third party, called a mediator, to iron out differences and reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion. 

Arbitration is also an option for couples. Just like mediation, a third party will help you and your spouse reach a conclusion. However, the arbitrator, unlike a mediator, will look into the substance of the dispute and may make a decision on who is right or wrong. The decision of the arbitrator will also be binding, much like a court decision. 

A third option you may be able to pursue is collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is flexible and designed to give you and your spouse, along with your attorneys, every facility you need to reach a decision that sits well with both of you. 

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce in Michigan? 

As a rule, you do not need a Michigan divorce lawyer to finalize your divorce. It is possible to start and finish the entire process, either working by yourself or with the aid of the numerous online resources available. 

However, it is not in all cases that it is advisable, or prudent, to proceed without the help of an experienced divorce attorney. Many cases involve the application of complicated legal rules or may need a creative approach that can only be satisfied with the extensive experience and skill of a divorce attorney. 

Apart from this, having a skilled attorney work on your behalf makes it more likely that you will be able to achieve your goals and protect your interests during the divorce process. 

Divorce is complicated on its own, even without significant issues to resolve. There will be numerous aspects of the process to keep your eye on while ensuring you remain compliant with the necessary court rules and procedures. Overall, the most sensible thing to do is to save yourself the stress and difficulty of the process and entrust things to an attorney who will fight for you. 

How much will my divorce cost? 

The cost of the divorce process will vary, depending on how long the process takes and the issues involved. In terms of court fees alone, you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars, but these will increase the longer your case takes. 

There will also be costs involved in drafting, collating, serving, and filing the necessary court papers that will be required during the process. This also typically costs a few hundred dollars, depending on how complex your case is. 

You may also be wondering – how much will hiring a Michigan divorce attorney cost? There is also no fixed amount that an attorney will charge for assisting with the successful conduct of your divorce case. However, the cost will range from $1,500 to tens of thousands of dollars. This again depends on multiple factors, including the complexity of the issues involved in your case. 

However, you can always trust the best attorneys to work with you and provide tailored legal advice on the options open to you, based on your budget.

If you would like to speak to an experienced attorney about a pending or potential divorce, call Meeker Law (586) 838-8704 for help. Our services include a free initial phone consultation to help you understand your options and how to proceed. 

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