Divorce in Michigan: What You Need to Know in 2024

This article by Michigan divorce attorneys Steslicki & Ghannam, PLC is not intended to be, and should not be construed as legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. For legal advice specific to your situation, contact us today!

Is Your Marriage Relationship Over? The Divorce Process in Michigan

If you are faced with a divorce, one of the first things I think helps clients is to understand the divorce process.  What can you expect? What steps need to be taken? What are your rights and responsibilities?

To start, let’s clear up some common concerns most clients have about Michigan divorce laws, even before they file.

Do you have to be separated to get a divorce in Michigan?

Michigan law does not require that couples separate or split before they are able to divorce.

How long do you have to be separated to get a divorce in Michigan?

Again, because there is no separation requirement at all in Michigan, there is no length of time needed for separation before a divorce can be entered.

What does it mean to be a “no-fault divorce state?”

Basically, Michigan has only one ground for divorce“There has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”

In court, judges will ask the parties if this is true or ask them to state this as part of the divorce proceedings. No details need to be provided.

Michigan is known as a “no-fault” divorce state; however, the words “no fault” can be confusing.

If the parties agree and settle on all the issues, “fault” is not considered further. Basically, it means that both parties consent and the court does not need to find fault to enter a judgment of divorce and make the divorce final.

However, if there is a dispute about property, child or spousal support, parenting time, or joint custody, fault may become an active ingredient in how the case is decided.

In a nutshell, no fault has to be found for there to be a divorce in Michigan, but fault is a factor in contested cases. How fault is used, and how you prove fault, is a factor that may be different in every case.

For that reason, if you believe fault is a factor in your divorce and you expect it to be contested, it is best to consult with a qualified attorney or law firm.

What about a legal separation? Should I do that instead?

We have a form of legal separation in Michigan that is known as separate maintenance.

The legal process is similar to a divorce, except that neither party may remarry after a judgment is entered.

Even though people often ask about this, it is usually not what is chosen. In part, this is because even if one party files a separate maintenance suit, if the other party wants to change it to divorce they may do so at any time.

In fact, a Michigan family court judge may only consider it at that point as a divorce matter and may not enter a judgment for separate maintenance.

However, even if originally you file for a divorce, you may later agree to this form of legal separation.

Although any couple can choose this as an option to divorce, most of the time those who do are people who need to continue health insurance for both parties and those who oppose divorce on religious grounds.

I heard I might have a common-law marriage. Is that possible?

While it is possible that you have one, it is unlikely.

Common-law marriages are generally not valid in Michigan.

How quickly can a divorce be finalized in Michigan?

There is a mandatory waiting period in Michigan, and it depends on whether there are minor children involved.

The final divorce document, also known as the Judgment of Divorce, or Divorce Judgment, requires a hearing in open court at which “proofs” are taken. Proofs are testimony, by one spouse or both spouses, that, at minimum, establish the statutory grounds for the divorce and jurisdiction.

The waiting period simply is that no proofs or testimony can be taken until 60 days after the complaint is filed, or 6 months if there are minor children. The court has no power to shorten the 60-day period. However, it may reduce the 6-month period to as few as 60 days if there is “unusual hardship or compelling necessity.”

Proving unusual hardship or compelling necessity is not an easy task.

Bottom line: if you don’t have children, or if they are legal adults, the fastest you can get a divorce in Michigan is 60 days. If you have minor children, the most likely timeframe is six months.

What is a spouse entitled to in a divorce in Michigan?

Generally, property “of the marriage” is divided 50-50. However, there are certain situations in which one party can be awarded more than the other spouse.

To decide who gets what, property is classified into two categories: “marital property” and “separate property.”

Separate property is usually considered premarital, gifted, and inherited property. This is an area, however, that does not always have clarity, and where there are numerous exceptions. If there are questions about what Michigan law requires relating to property, having an experienced family law attorney can make a big difference.

Marital property is the property that is “of the marriage” and is subject to division. In most cases, it is the property that was either acquired because of the marital relationship or during the marriage.

That being said, another really important time to have a lawyer is when there is a question of whether there has been an “invasion” of one spouse’ property that makes it subject to division as part of the marital estate. The two main reasons this happens is when separate assets have been “commingled” into the marital relationship and when there is appreciation of the asset that occurred during the marriage. However, these are not the only two ways in which invasion can occur; it is important to make sure you have the proper legal advice on this subject.

In contested cases, the court will usually consider the following:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the contributions of the parties to the marital estate
  • the ages of the parties
  • the health of the parties
  • the life status of the parties
  • the necessities and circumstances of the parties
  • the earning abilities of the parties
  • the past relations and conduct of the parties
  • general principles of equity

Bottom line: just because you think something is “separate” in your divorce, does not mean it will be! Get good advice so you don’t get blindsided.

What is the difference between a contested divorce vs. an uncontested divorce case in Michigan?

When there is a possibility for a high-conflict divorce, it is, almost inevitably, a contested divorce. However, if you and your spouse agree about all of the issues raised in the divorce complaint, it is a reasonable likelihood it can be uncontested.

Good family law attorneys evaluate each case and give a potential client a reasonable expectation about what will happen.

What is the first step in filing for divorce in Michigan?

The first step in the legal process is the initial filing, which includes the legal documents called the Summons, the Complaint, and the Financial Information Form (FIF).

Under Michigan divorce law, these documents are filed in the Circuit Court of the county in which one party (or both) resides.

This sounds much scarier than it really is – when we say “file for a divorce” what it really means is getting the required paperwork filed with the Court.

This paperwork tells Michigan courts that the person filing (this person is then known legally as the plaintiff) that the marriage with the other party (in this legal process, the Defendant) is broken, the plaintiff wants a divorce, what they want to have out of the marriage, including issues related to marital property division, child custody, and whether or not there is separate property, domestic violence, etc.

Step 2: serving your spouse with divorce papers

The next step is to serve the other party.  This can be done in several ways- talk to an experienced attorney to get help with serving the other party.  If it isn’t done right, it can affect and delay your case or even cause a dismissal!

The other party has either 21 or 28 days to answer, depending on how they were served.  If they don’t answer, the party who filed for divorce can default them and proceed without their participation.  If they do answer, then the next step is to start negotiating.

The remaining steps depend on whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce, and whether there are minor children

As you can see in our graphic, if you have an uncontested divorce, your divorce proceedings can go straight from status, to settlement, to entry of judgment of divorce.

If you can’t come to an agreement and it looks like there are contested property division, child or spousal support issues, a good idea is to try mediation.  That is where a neutral third party gets involved to try to help the parties agree on how to divide their assets and what to do regarding custody, parenting time, and child support- if a minor child or children are involved.

Another option to reduce friction and cost is to get the Friend of the Court involved in any child custody, parenting time, or child support issues.  The Friend of the Court can do an investigation and recommendation if the parties cannot come to an agreement on their own.

If the parties still cannot agree, the Judge will schedule a trial date.  He or she will hear evidence on any disputed issues and make a decision regarding your assets and children based on what she hears.

You definitely don’t want to try this alone either!  Give our office a call for help getting a Divorce in Michigan today!

Michigan Child Custody Overview

Issues related to child custody are almost always the most emotional and potentially conflict-oriented areas of a divorce.

For that reason, it is really important to get good legal advice. Don’t listen to people who say things like “the woman always gets custody” or someone who tells you they will be able to take your children away from you if you file for divorce. Every case is different, and there are many factors that determine child custody and child support in a Michigan divorce.

 

 

Spousal Support (Alimony) in Michigan Divorces

Alimony in Michigan is also called spousal support. To read more about spousal support and alimony in Michigan, click herehttps://www.mifamilyattorneys.com/about/additional-information/Spousal-Support-and-Alimony-in-Michigan-What-You-Need-to-Know_AE22

Can I file for divorce in Michigan without a lawyer?

https://www.mifamilyattorneys.com/about/additional-information/Do-I-Need-an-Attorney-for-my-Divorce-Case_AE3

You can. Should you? The answer to that lies in several factors: whether you can afford an attorney; what you have to lose if you don’t have proper legal representation; if you feel you can handle a court hearing on your own;

How much does a typical divorce cost in Michigan?

This is an almost impossible question to answer. Every case has its own issues which can affect the cost.

That being said, there is no question that uncontested divorces cost less than contested divorces, at least in the immediate sense. Don’t let that fact cause you to give up important rights to save money in the short term, though. Even a minimally-contested divorce in Michigan can be a much better financial decision in the long run.

How long after divorce can you remarry in Michigan?

Michigan has no restrictions on remarrying. In fact, a court can sign your final judgment and immediately conduct a marriage ceremony!