Family Law

What to Expect in the Michigan Divorce Process

The following is a brief overview of the important steps in a divorce.

 1. Complaint

The Divorce Complaint is filed with the Family Division of the Circuit Court of the county where a party resides. This court is commonly called the Family Court.

2. Service of Process

Service of Process is service of a copy of the Complaint and Summons (issued by the court to advise the defendant of his/her rights) and must be made on the opposing party. The Service of Process must be accepted by either the opposing party or his/her attorney.  A process server can also serve these documents.

 3. Answer

The opposing party must file an Answer to the Complaint. If the opposing party fails to answer the Complaint, a Default may be entered by the Court.

4. Discovery

Often it is necessary for discovery and investigation of income, assets and liabilities, and other relevant information. Subpoenas, requests to produce, and/or interrogatories may be used by both parties to obtain information during Discovery. Parties and others may also be required to testify under oath at a deposition.

 5. Negotiation

Many cases can be resolved by the exchange of settlement proposals and negotiations between the parties and their attorneys.  If the parties agree on a settlement, a final Judgment of Divorce is entered by the court on stipulation, avoiding the need for a costly trial.

 6. Settlement

If the parties are not able to resolve all issues in the negotiation process, there are several options available to the parties:

  • Mediation
    Mediation is usually required by the courts prior to trial, is a non binding process used to assist parties to reach their own agreements.
  • Arbitration
    The process which requires the consent of both parties. A local divorce lawyer, not representing either party, presides as the judge in the case.  Arbitration is a binding process.
  • Trial
    If the parties do not settle all issues including custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support; and property settlement, a trial must be scheduled to the Family Court judge assigned to the case.

Divorce Terms to Understand

Grounds for Divorce
Michigan is a "no fault" divorce state. Therefore, it is not necessary to prove that your spouse committed any wrongful acts. You may petition for a divorce if "there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship, regardless of fault."  Michigan law still requires the person requesting the divorce to briefly testify in court. While Michigan will grant a divorce without considering fault, fault may be considered by the court in determining spousal support (alimony) and the division of property.

Child Custody and Parenting Time
Michigan law requires the court to consider a number of important factors in deciding the custody of minor children.  Some of the factors include the relationship between the parent and child, the ability of each party to provide for the needs of the child, and the willingness of each party to allow contact between the child and the other parent.

Support of Children and Spouse
Support of the children is subject to the Michigan Child Support Formula. The Friend of the Court and Family Courts are required to follow the formula in setting child support.  While a variety of factors are considered, it is mainly established by evaluating the income(s) of the parents. There are no mandatory established guidelines for spousal support. The length of marriage, disparity in income, earning ability and health of the parties are factors that may be considered in determining spousal support.

Division of Marital Property
There are no fixed statutory guidelines governing the division of marital property.  While the court may consider the source of property, inheritances, needs of minor children, length of marriage, separate property and other factors, most judges will attempt to divide the marital property equally between the parties.