Every state has its own rules and procedures for filing a divorce. Here's what you need to know to get started with your Michigan divorce.
To get a divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for 180 days immediately before filing the complaint, and one of you must have lived in the county where the complaint is filed for at least 10 days before the filing date. There is a narrow exception to the 10-day requirement when your spouse was born in (or is a citizen of) another country, and you have reason to believe that your spouse might take your minor child out of the U.S. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9 (2022).)
Also, if you want a Michigan divorce but your spouse lives out of state, you must meet one of the following additional residency requirements:
(Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9f (2022).)
Michigan is a "no-fault" divorce state—meaning that the courts don't require one spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. No-fault divorces reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. Also, with a no-fault divorce, you don't have to have your spouse's consent to end the marriage.
A Michigan court will find that there is good reason ("grounds") to grant a divorce when a spouse states in the complaint 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 can be preserved." (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.6(1) (2022).)
In other words, the court requires a statement by one of the spouses that the marriage is over and there's no chance of reconciliation.
Generally, there are two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and alimony (spousal support). A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses disagree on at least one topic and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.
Uncontested divorces usually reach resolution faster and are less expensive than contested divorces because there's no fighting in court. Instead, the judge needs only to review and approve the spouses' marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.
To get a divorce in Michigan, you'll need to file your paperwork in the family division of the circuit court (also called a "trial court") in the county where either spouse lives. Some courts in Michigan require that you file the papers electronically. Check with your local court clerk to find out the requirements in the county where you're filing.
In Michigan, when the spouses agree on all the issues in their divorce, they can file a joint petition for divorce (also called a petition for a "consent judgment"). Check with the clerk of the court to confirm what's required, but in most courts you'll need to file a:
These are the basic forms to get started with a Michigan uncontested divorce. If you have children, you will need to file additional paperwork—check the Petition (Consent Judgment) for more information.
When you and your spouse have filed a joint petition for an uncontested divorce, you don't need to formally serve your spouse with the divorce papers (as discussed below). Just make sure that both of you have copies of all the documents you filed with the court. Also, there's no need for your spouse to file an answer to the petition.
A contested divorce begins when one spouse files a Complaint for Divorce and a Summons with the court.
Once you file the paperwork, you'll need to provide notice to your spouse of the divorce by "serving" (delivering) copies of what was filed with the court. In Michigan, you must serve the documents within 90 days of filing the complaint.
The easiest way to serve the divorce papers is to have your spouse agree to accept the documents from you and sign the Acknowledgement of Service (on the second page of the Summons). File the document with the original signature with the clerk's office.
If your spouse won't agree to accept service, you'll have to arrange to have someone else (an adult who's not involved in the divorce case) deliver the divorce papers to your spouse. The server can hand deliver the documents or mail them by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. The server will need to fill out and sign a Proof of Service form (which is also on the second page of the Summons). File the signed and notarized Proof of Service with the court.
The court will charge a fee for filing your divorce papers. The filing fee as of 2022 for a divorce in Michigan is $175 (including a $25 fee for the state's electronic filing system ). If you have a minor child or children, you'll have to pay additional fees totaling up to $295: $80 for a case involving child custody or parenting time, and $40 for a case involving child support.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you may ask the judge to waive the fees by filing a Fee Waiver Request. You can fill out the form yourself or use Michigan Legal Help's interactive tool to help you complete it. If the court grants your request, you won't have to pay any court costs during your divorce.
You and your spouse will have to attend a hearing before you can get your final divorce, even if your case is uncontested. (Mich.Court Rules, rules 3.210, 3.223(D) (2022).) If you filed a joint petition and request for consent order, the court clerk should schedule the hearing date for you.
After you've filed your divorce papers, you'll have to wait a minimum of 60 days before the hearing date. If you have minor children, that mandatory waiting period for divorce is usually six months. However, you may request a waiver of the extended waiting period by arguing that it would cause an "unusual hardship," or you have another compelling need to finalize your divorce sooner. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9f (2022).)
Even if you only need to wait a minimum of 60 days, the actual amount of time it will take to get your final hearing in an uncontested divorce will depend on the court's schedule. Hearings in uncontested cases are usually brief. If all of your paperwork is in order and all the required information is included, the judge will usually sign the divorce judgment the same day.<
Contested divorces typically take longer than six months—as long as a year or more. In these cases, the amount of time it takes to get your final divorce judgment will depend on how long it takes for the spouses to work out their differences, how many court hearings will be required, and whether they ultimately have to go to trial to have a judge resolve their disputes.
If you'd like to DIY your divorce, many of the forms you'll need are available on the Michigan courts' website (see links above). Michigan Legal Help also offers helpful worksheets outlining the information you should gather in preparation for filing a divorce without minor children and a divorce with minor children, as well as a Do-It-Yourself Divorce Tool that walks you through filing out the forms you'll need to file. You can also find all of the court-approved divorce and domestic relations forms online.
If you're working with an attorney, your attorney will assess your situation and fill out, file, and serve all the necessary forms. Many divorcing couples can't afford to hire an attorney to handle their entire case, but would like some assistance with completing and filing their forms. If this describes your situation, consider using an online divorce service or finding an attorney who will consult with you on an as-needed basis. Low-income individuals might qualify for reduced-fee or free legal aid.