The divorce process can be an emotional and stressful time. It can also be complicated, especially if you and your spouse don’t agree on all of your divorce-related issues.
An attorney can protect your rights and options throughout the divorce process. If you decide to represent yourself in the divorce process, you can always consult an attorney if you begin to feel like you’re in over your head.
Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that you don’t have to prove your spouse did something wrong to get a divorce. The only ground, or reason, for divorce in Michigan is that there has been a breakdown of the marriage and there’s no reasonable likelihood that you and your spouse will get back together. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.6 (2019).
However, if you or your spouse engaged in bad behavior, like adultery, that lead to the breakdown of the marriage, it may impact the judge’s decisions about alimony (spousal support) or the division of property.
To obtain a divorce in Michigan, either you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least the last six months. You will file for divorce in the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse lives.
A divorce ends your marriage, but there are other issues that usually have to be determined at the same time. For example, if you have kids, child custody and child support orders are going to be at issue. If you have marital property, which is property or debt obtained during your marriage, division of that property is also an issue that must be resolved in your case. And either you or your spouse may seek alimony, which is also called spousal support.
All of your divorce issues can be decided by a judge. However, the process is usually much quicker and will usually cost less in legal fees if you and your spouse can work these issues out on your own and come to an agreement.
Mediation can be an ideal way for you and your spouse to resolve your divorce issues. A mediator will try to help you find solutions and reach an agreement that is fair and mutually acceptable. Even if you don’t want to try mediation, the judge can order it.
You being a divorce case by filing a summons, complaint, and other required papers with the court. The Michigan Courts website has a Self-Help Section that allows you to generate the divorce forms necessary to start your case.
Once you file your forms, an adult other than you must “serve” (deliver) your divorce papers to your spouse. You can hire a sheriff’s deputy, process server, or use a non-party over the age of 18 to personally hand the papers to your spouse.
If the sheriff or process server is unable to serve your spouse, you can ask the court for permission to mail the papers to your spouse by registered or certified mail, with return receipt requested. Whoever serves your spouse must fill out and sign a Proof of Service form and give it back to you for filing with the court.
If you and your spouse have no children together, there is a two-month waiting period before you can actually be divorced. The waiting period starts when you file your paperwork with the court.
If you and your spouse have children together, there is a six-month waiting period before you can actually be divorced. Again, the waiting period starts when you file your paperwork with the court.
In either case, if you and your spouse don’t agree on everything (division of property, alimony, child custody, and support), your divorce can take much longer.
If you and your spouse have children together, your case might be referred to the Friend of the Court (FOC) to meet with an child custody evaluator or case worker. The evaluator will interview you, your spouse, your children, and other people important to your case, like relatives, teachers, or doctors. If both you and your spouse agree, you may opt out of the FOC services.
The FOC assists the court with custody, parenting time (visitation), and child support issues by:
The judge considers the FOC’s reports and recommendations and may give them great weight in making determinations. However, the court does not have to agree with the FOC and may reach a different decision on some or all of the issues regarding your children.
See our topic area on Michigan Divorce and Family Laws for more on the divorce process and related legal issues.
Michigan Legal Help provides many services to people seeking divorce, including checklists to help you prepare your case with or without children, Automated Online Divorce Forms, and self-help articles.
The Michigan Courts website also provides information, including links to the laws governing divorce in Michigan, filing fees, and mediation resources.