Divorce in Michigan
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Going through a divorce will undoubtedly be one of the most stressful periods in your life. To prepare for it, it is best that you do your homework to learn what it all entails. HermizLaw has prepared the following information to answer some of your questions regarding the divorce process. It is not intended to answer specific questions about your particular case, as every case is different. If you have specific questions, please contact HermizLaw to discuss the details.
Michigan is a No-Fault Divorce State
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means neither party has to prove fault to obtain a divorce. The only requirement is that a party establishes “that there has been a breakdown in the marital 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 is like saying the parties have “irreconcilable differences.”
Even though Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, it does not necessarily mean that fault will not be considered. In fact, it may be considered in determining child custody, parenting time, spousal support and/or property settlement.
How do I File For Divorce in Michigan? What are the Divorce Procedures?
Filing for divorce should be handled by a divorce attorney to ensure the filing is proper and that you are seeking the appropriate relief.
In Michigan, a party must file their divorce complaint in the Circuit Court in county in which they reside. There are residency requirements that the party must be mindful of, and failure to adhere to those residency requirements can result in the case being dismissed.
The party filing for divorce is called the Plaintiff. To begin the process, the Plaintiff files a “complaint for divorce” as well as a summons. The Plaintiff must also pay filing fees, which vary depending on the court and whether children are involved. That Plaintiff must then serve his/her spouse (the Defendant) with the summons and complaint. Service of process must be done pursuant to the Michigan Court Rules. There are different rules of service, depending on the circumstances of the case (i.e., if the spouse lives in a different state, is part of the armed forces, etc.).
Once the Defendant is served with the documents, he/she must file an answer to the complaint within a certain amount of days (depending on the method of service). An answer consists of responses to the allegations contained in the complaint. Should the Defendant fail to answer the complaint, the Plaintiff can seek a default.
Depending on whether the Defendant answers the complaint determines how the case progresses.
Once a proper complaint is filed and served, and the Defendant answers the complaint, the parties can begin to resolve the case. During this period, the parties will try to agree on issues, such as child custody, child support, parenting time, spousal support, property settlement, etc. The parties may share information through “discovery,” as well as meet with officials from the court (Friend of the Court) to assist them in resolving the case. The parties may also seek out mediation and arbitration to come to an agreement. If the parties cannot resolve their issues, they will then participate in a trial, where the Judge will decide the issues.
Divorce Issues in Michigan – Child Support, Alimony and Child Custody
Child support, custody and alimony are typically the biggest issues to resolve in a divorce proceeding. There are different factors to consider in each category to determine the outcome of the case. These are very complicated issues that require a unique approach to each and every case. There are no black and white answers to this.
Child custody is determined by evaluating the “best interest of the child” factors. The court evaluates these factors to assist in deciding what custody scheme is in the best interests of the child. Courts favor joint custody, absent a showing that a parent is unfit.
Usually, once custody is established, the courts then determine child support. Michigan uses a formula to determine how much child support a parent should pay. The courts will typically not deviate from the child support formula absent a compelling reason. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, parties cannot “waive” the child’s right to child support.
Spousal support is a wild card. There are principles that courts use to determine whether a party is entitled to spousal support, but there is no established formula to determine how much a party should receive. This is largely dependant on the particulars of your case. Spousal support can be permanent or temporary.
What is the Friend of the Court?
The Friend of the Court is part of the family court that investigates issues surrounding child support, child custody and parenting time. They make recommendations to Judge based on their investigation. The parties can use these recommendations as a tool to get a good idea of where they stand in terms of custody and support. Oftentimes, these recommendations are not far off from what the Judge would do in the case.
Oftentimes the Friend of the Court recommendations are not far off from what the Judge would do if the Judge decide. The Friend of the Court also assists with collecting, distributing and enforcing support payments.
Michigan Divorce Judgment
You are not divorced until a Judge signs a Judgment of Divorce. This is the document that provides for the resolution of all the issues, including child custody, child support, parenting time, spousal support, property division, etc. This document is legally binding on both parties.
Call (248) 825-8042 Today for your Free Consultation
Every divorce is different and you should speak with an experienced attorney to learn what options are available to you. We are available to answer any questions you may have and to assist you through the process. Call us at 248-825-8042 to schedule your free consultation.
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