There are generally two types of divorce available in Michigan: contested and uncontested. Divorces are contested when couples don't agree on some or all of the issues involved in ending their marriage. Unless they manage to settle their disputes at some point during the legal divorce process, the spouses will eventually need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the issues for them.
In contrast, there's no need for a trial when you have an uncontested divorce, because you and your spouse have resolved the issues for yourselves. And if you can reach that agreement before you before you file your divorce papers—or at least early in the process—an uncontested divorce will be much cheaper and quicker than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because you can avoid lengthy and expensive court battles over every disagreement. Many couples find that they can navigate the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers, and they can often use a DIY solution like using a service to file for divorce online.
There are two basic qualifications for getting an uncontested divorce in Michigan: a comprehensive agreement on the issues and state residence for a certain period of time.
To qualify for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree about all of the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble reaching agreement on these and any other matters you want to address in your divorce, mediation might help you work through the obstacles. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document as the basis for your written marital settlement agreement.
Even if you can't agree about everything by the time you file for divorce, you and your spouse could still settle your disputes at any point before going to trial—usually with the help of your lawyers, a mediator, or both. In fact, the judge may order you to participate in mediation to resolve any contested issues. (Mich. Rules of Court, rule 3.216 (2022).)
You also need to meet the state's residency requirement to get divorced in Michigan. Just before you file the divorce papers, either you or your spouse must have resided for at least 180 days in the state and at least 10 days in the county where you file the divorce papers. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9 (2022).)
If your spouse lives out of state, however, you have to meet an additional requirement: either you and your spouse lived together in Michigan as a married couple, or you've resided in the state for at least a year before the filing date. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9f (2022).)
When you and your spouse have a settlement agreement and are working together, the easiest way to get an uncontested divorce is to use Michigan's streamlined procedure known as a "summary proceeding for entry of consent judgment." This procedure allows you to file the divorce papers together with your spouse and skip some of the steps in the regular process of starting a divorce case.
The first thing you need to do is locate the correct divorce forms and complete them. There are different ways of getting the forms:
When you're filing for an uncontested divorce, the main forms you'll need are:
You'll need to submit the Domestic Relations Judgment Information and Verified Statement to a Michigan state agency known as the "Friend of the Court." The court clerk should give you information on how to do this.
Once your paperwork is complete, you'll generally file your divorce papers with the circuit court clerk in the county where you or your spouse has lived for the past 10 days. However, you may file in any Michigan county if you meet the state residency requirement (discussed above), your spouse is from another country, and there's a risk that your spouse will take your child out of the U.S. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9 (2022).)
You can find location and other information for all circuit courts on the Michigan trial court directory.
The court clerk will charge a fee for filing the divorce papers. The divorce filing fees in Michigan (as of 2022) are:
If you can't afford to pay the filing fee, you may file a Fee Waiver Request (form MC 20), with information about your income, assets, and expenses. If you qualify for the waiver, a judge will sign an order eliminating all fees for the duration of the case.
Because both you and your spouse will sign the petition and request for a consent order, you don't have to go through the formal process of serving your spouse with the divorce papers. Also, there's no need for your spouse to file an answer to the petition. Just make sure that you each have copies of all the documents you filed with the court.
After you've filed a joint petition and request for a consent order, you and your spouse will both have to attend a court hearing to get your final uncontested divorce judgment in Michigan. But first, you'll have to wait for the mandatory "cooling off" period in Michigan law. The court won't schedule a hearing until at least 60 days have passed since you filed the divorce papers. If you have minor children, the waiting period is generally six months. But if waiting six months would create an "unusual hardship," or you have another compelling need to get your final divorce sooner than that, you may ask the court (in your petition) to waive any longer waiting period beyond the 60-day mandatory minimum. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9f; Mich. Court Rules, rule 3.223(D) (2022).)
At the hearing, the judge will have some brief questions about your settlement agreement. If agreement is fair and you meet all the other legal requirements, the judge will sign your final divorce judgment.
You probably don't need a lawyer to get an uncontested divorce in Michigan. You can handle all the paperwork and filing yourself, or you can use an online service to ease the process. But you might consider at least speaking with a qualified family law attorney if you have complex assets to divide (like retirement accounts or a family business), if you have questions about aspects of your divorce, or you want an independent legal review of your settlement agreement to make sure that you haven't missed anything or given up any of your legal rights.