There are generally two types of divorce available in Michigan: contested and uncontested. A divorce is "contested" when the spouses don't agree on some or all aspects of the divorce, meaning that a judge will hold a trial, examine the evidence, and call witnesses. The contested divorce process takes quite a while.
In contrast, in an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all of the issues required to end their marriage, so there's no need for the judge to hold a trial. An uncontested divorce is much faster and cheaper than traditional divorce—spouses can often use a DIY solution like an online divorce service. They do, though, also have the option of getting professional help.
An uncontested divorce simply means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:
Spouses who are unable to agree will have to go to trial on their divorce. At trial, a judge will decide all issues in your case based on the evidence presented. But keep in mind, you can still reach an agreement at any time before the judge issues a final order. An uncontested divorce in Michigan allows couples to retain control over their divorce and create the type of agreement best suited to their needs.
Before you can file for divorce in Michigan, you must meet the state's residency requirements. You or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days before you file the divorce papers. Additionally, one spouse must have lived in the county where the papers were filed for at least 10 days.
In limited circumstances, you can waive the 10-day county residence requirement if you're a U.S. citizen, you have children, and you have good reason and supporting evidence to suspect that your spouse might abduct the children and take them to another country. (Mich. Rev. Stat. § 552.9 (2021).)
If you're the "plaintiff," (the spouse requesting the divorce) the first thing you need to do is locate the correct divorce forms and complete them. You can use this interactive, web-based form generator provided by Michigan Legal Help for online legal forms or you can get paper copies from a clerk at the courthouse. Alternatively, you can use a DIY service like DivorceNet's Online Divorce, which fills out the forms for you.
Key documents. The key documents you'll need to prepare are the summons and complaint, which give the court information about you, your spouse, your marriage, and what you hope to obtain in your divorce. You can learn more about the divorce process on the Michigan Courts Self-Help Center site.
Legal grounds for divorce. Within your divorce paperwork, you'll need to identify a legal reason or ("ground") for the divorce. Michigan is a pure no-fault state. The only acceptable ground for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning that your marriage is so badly damaged that it can't be saved and it has to end in divorce.
Settlement agreement. You and your spouse will need to complete and file a written settlement agreement, which resolves all issues related to property, money, children, and alimony in your case.
Although the process to obtain an uncontested divorce is simpler than a contested one, you still need to follow many of the typical divorce procedures. Each step must be completed before a judge can sign off on your divorce.
Once your paperwork is complete, you'll need to file your divorce papers in the correct courthouse including the summons, complaint, and any other required documents that were listed in the instructions that came with your forms.
Michigan's 57 circuit courts oversee divorce cases and trials. You can use the Michigan Judicial Branch map you can use to locate the correct circuit court for your case.
When you file your paperwork, the clerk of court will charge a filing fee. If you can't afford to pay the filing fee, don't worry. You can ask for a fee waiver form, which you'll fill out and use to provide the court with financial information. If you meet the income guidelines, a judge will sign an order eliminating all fees for the duration of the case.
Following the filing, you need to serve the papers on the "defendant" (the other spouse) by having them delivered. You may serve the papers through a process server or sheriff's deputy or your spouse may agree to accept service of the papers by filing a written waiver.
Whatever method you choose, it's critical that you get an affidavit of service signed and filed at the courthouse. Pay attention to the rules and be cautious, because there are very strict rules governing what is and what isn't proper service.
If your spouse won't sign the divorce settlement paperwork, he or she may file an answer to your divorce complaint. An answer just explains what parts of the complaint the defendant does and doesn't agree with. Just because the defendant files an answer doesn't mean your case will go to trial. You can still settle everything later and create a settlement agreement. In fact, you can even give mediation a try if you're having trouble working out an agreement with your spouse.
In situations where the defendant agrees with everything you've put in the complaint, or you have a written settlement agreement, the defendant doesn't have to file an answer at all. In that case, you and your spouse can file the final divorce paperwork together or a judge may enter a default judgment against your spouse, granting you everything asked for in the divorce complaint.
Once the defendant's time to respond to the divorce petition has expired, the plaintiff can schedule a final hearing. In Michigan, there's a waiting period before the divorce can be granted—it's two months for couples without kids and six months for couples with children.
Even if you and your spouse are in complete agreement about the divorce, the plaintiff must attend a final hearing after the waiting period has ended. At the hearing, the judge will have some brief questions about the settlement. If the court finds that the agreement is fair and everything is in order, a judge will sign and issue the final divorce decree.
You don't need to hire a lawyer to get an uncontested divorce in Michigan and you can represent yourself during the process. Spouses can try to handle everything themselves or use an online service that eases the process. Even though there's no court battle in an uncontested divorce, one or both spouses can hire attorneys to help them through the uncontested divorce. You might want to talk to a lawyer, for instance, if your case feels complex or you have unanswered questions.