Going through a divorce is a stressful time. It can relieve some of your anxiety if you know what the Michigan divorce process is like.* Sometimes, fear of the unknown is worse than the thing itself. A Michigan divorce attorney can help you navigate through the steps of getting a divorce.
The Divorce Process without Minor Children
One spouse files paper with the court, asking for a dissolution of the marriage (divorce). The initial documents (pleadings) include a complaint, summons, and any other forms the court requires in your situation. An authorized person must serve the initial pleadings on the other spouse.
The non-filing spouse has to file a response before the deadline or reach an agreement with you on the terms of the divorce settlement. At that point, the divorce is uncontested, but that status can change at almost any time.
If you do not have children and you and your spouse agree on all the divorce terms, you can get a divorce in about two months. If the judge approves your settlement, your marriage is over when the judge signs the proposed Judgment of Divorce. If there are any issues you cannot resolve yourselves or with the assistance of a mediator, your case will likely be much longer than two months.
Getting a Divorce When You Have Minor Children
You will go through the same general steps for divorce if you have minor children, but you will have to deal with these additional issues:
- Child custody
- Parenting schedule
- Child support
- Additional expenses in situations involving a child with special needs or other atypical circumstances
Courts usually encourage people to resolve as many child-related issues as possible among themselves. The judge will have to rule on whatever items you cannot settle yourselves. Also, the judge will have to find that the child-related terms in your divorce judgment are in the best interests of the children.
In the past, one spouse had to prove fault; in other words, that one spouse committed adultery, abuse, or some other marital misconduct. People often hired private investigators to follow their spouse around, trying to catch and photograph them in a compromising position. Michigan no longer requires any proof of marital misconduct. Instead of fault, Michigan's no-fault divorce process requires at least one spouse to tell the court that the marital relationship is irretrievably broken with no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation.
Your spouse cannot prevent the divorce by refusing to agree to the dissolution. Also, some states require spouses to live separate and apart from each other for six months before they can file for a divorce. In Michigan, you can still be living together when you file your case.
Financial Issues of Divorce in Michigan
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will reach an agreement about how to divide your debts and assets. Still, the judge will have to approve the settlement. Michigan law requires that these items get divided fairly, but that does not necessarily mean splitting all the debt and property equally.
If you cannot reach an agreement about how to distribute your property and debts, the judge will have to make those decisions for you. The judge will evaluate your situation using many factors, including:
- How long the marriage lasted
- The age and health of each spouse
- The ability of each spouse to self-support and contribute to the support of the other spouse
- The current needs and circumstances of each spouse
- Marital misconduct. Although Michigan is a no-fault state, fault can affect the financial aspects of the divorce.
The judge might decide to award temporary or permanent spouse to one spouse, or you can negotiate an agreement with your spouse as to this issue.
Contact our Michigan divorce lawyers today. We can help whether you have an amicable or a contested divorce.
*The COVID-19 pandemic altered some procedures temporarily. This article discusses the Michigan divorce process in ordinary times.
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