What Do I Need to Get a Divorce in Michigan?
You or Your Spouse Must Be a Michigan Resident
Either you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least the last six months before filing for divorce. In general, your divorce must be filed in the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse has lived for at least ten days before filing. Most people file in the county where they live, but you do not have to. You can file in the county where your spouse lives.
You Don’t Have to “Prove” Anything to Get a Divorce
Michigan has “no-fault” divorce. No-fault means that you don’t have to prove cheating, cruelty, or anything else to get a divorce. Your spouse doesn’t have to agree to give you a divorce. You can get a divorce even if you are the person who did something that made your marriage end. You do not need to have a legal separation or even be living apart to file for divorce.
To get a divorce in Michigan, at least one spouse must testify 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.” This means there has been a serious, permanent, marital breakdown. It means that it is very unlikely that you and your spouse can work things out.
Although you don’t have to prove fault to get a divorce, a spouse’s behavior during the marriage can impact the outcomes of your divorce. The judge can consider fault in making decisions about spousal support (alimony) and dividing property.
Video: Rachael Lewandusky gives a quick overview of the Michigan divorce process
What Is the Divorce Process Like?
Starting the Divorce
A divorce case begins when you file a summons, a complaint, and other required papers with the court. After you file your forms in the court clerk’s office, you must have your spouse served with the papers. Service is usually done by having another person give the papers to your spouse in person or send the papers to your spouse by registered or certified mail.
Your spouse may file an answer to your divorce complaint. The answer should respond to each paragraph of your divorce complaint. In the answer, your spouse should tell you and the judge which parts of your complaint they agree with and which parts they disagree with.
If your spouse files an answer and you don’t agree on all the major issues in your divorce, you may want to consider talking to an attorney.
If your spouse doesn’t file an answer, or if you agree on all of the terms of your divorce, you have an uncontested divorce. However, just because a divorce is uncontested doesn’t mean the judge will approve all of your requests or agreements. The terms of your divorce must still be reasonable and must follow the law. For example, the property division must be fair and the custody arrangements must be in the children’s best interests.
If you and your spouse have children together, there is a six-month waiting period before your divorce can be finished. If there are no minor children, then the waiting period is sixty days. The waiting period begins when you file your divorce, even if you and your spouse were separated before that. If you and your spouse don’t agree on everything, your divorce can take longer than than the sixty days or six months, depending on whether the case is with or without minor children.
In a case with minor children, the judge can shorten the waiting period if you show that waiting the full 180 days to finish is not in the best interest of the children, or the settlement you reach is in the best interest of the children. The judge may also shorten the waiting period for other compelling reasons. The judge cannot make the total waiting period less than 60 days.
Finalizing the Divorce
Your divorce might be resolved in one of the following ways:
- By default judgment, if your spouse does not file an answer or participate in the case
- By negotiated judgment, where you and your spouse decide the terms together
- By mediated agreement, where you and your spouse meet with a mediator and decide the terms
- By trial, where the judge makes a decision because you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement
Judgment of Divorce
After there is a default, an agreement, or a trial, you can submit a proposed Judgment of Divorce for the judge to sign. The judgment will end your marriage and state what you and your ex-spouse must do regarding child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support (alimony), and property and debt division.