In a divorce, you and your spouse legally separate your lives, including the property you own and other financial assets. If you and your spouse agree on everything, divorce can be a fairly straightforward process. Even so, you must follow Michigan's rules regarding divorce, including residency requirements and filing procedures.
Should I Use an Attorney?
Although you may file for divorce without an attorney, getting legal advice is always a good idea. Even with a simple divorce, an attorney can make sure you understand your rights and can help you preserve them. If you expect your spouse to contest any important issues, having a lawyer represent you is especially important.
How and Where Do I File for Divorce?
You must file for divorce with the circuit court in the Michigan county where you live. If your spouse lives in a different county, you may also file there. One of you must have lived in the county where you file for at least 10 days, and in the state for at least 180 days.
Your initial filing should include a Complaint for Divorce and a summons. Depending on your situation, you may also need other documents.
You must also arrange to have your divorce papers served on your spouse. The law does not permit you to do this yourself, but you can have a friend or a relative do it. Other options include:
- Hire a process server.
- Request that a police officer or sheriff's deputy serve the papers.
- Send your papers by certified mail, return receipt requested.
If you do not know where your spouse is, you can ask the court to let you make notification by an alternate method, such as publication in a newspaper. You will have to show that you made an effort to find your spouse before the court will grant your request for alternate service.
After you have filed, your divorce cannot be finalized for at least 60 days. If you have children or are expecting a child, the waiting period is six months. If your due date is more than six months away, most courts will require that you wait until your baby is born before you can divorce. Complicated or contested cases can take much longer than the state's waiting periods.
Do I Needs Grounds to File?
Michigan's statutes do not allow spouses to cite any grounds beyond stating 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.” If you can show that this is true, the court will grant you a divorce.
How Do We Divide Property and Debt?
Property division in Michigan must be done in an equitable manner, meaning that it must be fair to both sides. This may be a 50/50 split, but it does not have to be.
Although the state does not consider fault in granting a divorce, it can consider it when dividing property. Other factors the court may consider include:
- How each spouse contributed to the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
- Future earnings ability of each
- The length of the marriage
All marital property must be divided. Marital property includes vested pensions, but not necessarily other retirement assets and benefits. Separate, non-marital property includes that owned before the marriage, or gifts and inheritances given to only one spouse. Each spouse retains ownership of separate property, but the court has the authority to award some to the other spouse.
Talk With a Lawyer
Michigan's divorce laws can be confusing, and even uncontested matters can get complicated. It is always a good idea to talk with a lawyer to make sure you understand your rights in the process.