Divorce Overview in Michigan

Michigan is a “No-Fault” State, which means that one spouse need not prove fault in order to first obtain a divorce. However. the court must be able to conclude that 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 relationship can be preserved.  Fault, however, might play a role in divorce proceedings when there are assets to be divided, child support or alimony is necessary, and/or child custody is in question, depending largely on how the at-fault party contributed to the marital demise and the resulting damage of such fault.

A number of Procedural Requirements must be met in order to obtain a divorce in Michigan, beginning with a Residence requirement that the claimant or Plaintiff (one who first files) has lived in the State of Michigan for at least 180 days, and has been a resident of the county in which he/she files the complaint for divorce for at least 10 days. There is a Filing Fee to be paid to the clerk of the circuit court in which the case is filed at the time of filing, and ranges from $150-$235, depending on whether Friend of the Court services are necessary – which usually are needed for cases involving minor children or alimony/maintenance/spousal support. From the date the complaint is filed, the Plaintiff has 60 days in which to serve the complaint on the Defendant spouse, and must do so properly via process server or certified mail restricted delivery, so a proof of service can be filed in the court once the complaint is served. The Defendant then has 21 or 28 days (depending on whether it was personally served or sent by mail) to respond to the complaint, and may file a Counter-Claim for Divorce together with an Answer to the Complaint. If the Defendant fails to answer within the limited time frame set by Michigan Court Rules, a Default may be entered against the Defendant for failure to Answer within the proper time.

Once an answer is received by the court, a period called Discovery begins, which is essentially an information gathering stage. During Discovery, production of documents and testimony may be requested and exchanged by the parties, and may take the form of Interrogatories (questions to be answered by paper under oath), Depositions (informal meeting with court reporter present and questions asked of witness under oath), tax, employment, income, financial and real estate interests, and any other relevant document needed in order to make an equitable assessment of the marital estate must be disclosed. Motions may be made, such as Restraining Order on Assets or Temporary Orders Issued, and Friend of the Court may become involved where children or support are disputed. Mediation is commonly ordered by the court in situations where the parties would benefit from having a third party intervene, and if during the process, the parties are still unable to reach an amicable resolution, the case proceeds to trial and the judge will determine the respective rights and obligations of the parties based on what testimony is presented and what is ultimately entered into evidence by the court.

The higher the stakes, the more crucial the necessity to have an experienced advocate on your side, to thoroughly understand the parties’ history and circumstances, and to apply the facts of the case most favorable to the client to the appropriate legal factors which will invariably influence the outcome of the proceeding, and ensure a complete and just Judgment. Just as important is having a compassionate counselor at law with a delicate approach to one of, if not the most, emotionally high-charged areas of legal practice. Even after a divorce is final, often parties need legal representation in Post-Judgment issues, such as Enforcing or Modifying the Judgment.

This is what sets The Lex Firm apart from the rest: Our Firm’s dedication to meeting our client’s combined legal and emotional needs during such confusing, difficult and challenging moments of personal and family transition. Contact our Firm for a private consultation.


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