Michigan Divorce Process
A court order, ultimately, is required. That order, the Judgment of Divorce, divides the property, and establishes responsibilities for the debts, of the two people who are now divorced. If there are minor children involved, it also determines the custody, child support obligations, and parenting time schedules for those children.
Once you have decided that you must file for divorce, the steps involved include:
- Filing a Complaint for Divorce with the Court;*
- Serving a copy of the Summons, and the Complaint (and all documents filed) on your spouse;
- Finalization (by agreement or default) of the terms of the divorce;
- Preparation and execution of the Judgment of Divorce; and
- Entry, by the Court, of that Judgment of Divorce, which occurs when the Court receives testimony, from one of the spouses, sufficient to find that the statutory requirements have been met.
Step 1: Filing for Divorce
You may file a Complaint for divorce in the county where you have lived for 10 days, if you have been a resident of Michigan for 6 months (180 days).
Documents Necessary to Start a Divorce:
- Complaint for Divorce;
- Summons for issuance PDF form
- Record of Divorce;
And, if you have minor children:
- Verified Statement PDF form
- Affidavit (or sworn statement) listing all addresses where the children have lived during the last 5 years.
You should check with the clerk of the Court where you are filing, to confirm that you are filing everything necessary to open the divorce case.
Step 2: Serving Your Spouse
After the divorce complaint has been filed and the Court has issued the Summons, you must serve copies of all of the filed documents, and the issued Summons, on your spouse. One method is to use a process server, who will deliver the documents and Summons to your spouse, and give you, or the Court, a Return, or proof, of service.
Step 3: Reaching Terms
You and your spouse must reach an agreement on the division of your assets, debts and income. If you have minor children, you must also come to an agreement regarding child-related issues of custody, parenting time and child support.
If you cannot come to agreed terms with your spouse, you may have to use other processes to come to terms. Default may be available if your spouse does not file a response to the Complaint. Mediation, with a neutral third party, may get you to terms.
Failing all else, a trial or evidentiary hearing may be required.
Step 4: Preparation of Judgment of Divorce
Once you have the terms of your divorce, those terms must be compiled into a Judgment of Divorce. That Judgment must meet the requirements of Michigan law, and those set by the Court.
Step 5. Final Hearing of Divorce
Testimony & Statutory Basis
- A: Resident of Michigan for 180 days prior to filing the Complaint for Divorce.
- B: Resident of __________ County for 10 days *.
- C: Name & present address
- D: Spouse’s name and present address
- E: Any children of the marriage, who are still minors?
- F: Are you (or your spouse) currently pregnant?
- G: Do you want to be divorced?
- H: Has the marriage broken down “ . . . to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed?”
- I: Is there any reasonable likelihood that your marriage can be preserved?
- J: Have you reached agreement, with your spouse, to all terms of the divorce?
- K: Have you prepared a Judgment of Divorce?
Considerations & Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What if my spouse isn’t in Michigan?
A: Your spouse can be served with the divorce case documents outside the State of Michigan, but that method of service must meet Michigan’s requirements in order to be valid.
Q: How long does it take?
A: The statutory minimum “waiting period” for a Michigan divorce case, without minor children involved, is 60 days. With minor children, the period is 180 days. If you have an agreement with your spouse, to all divorce terms, the court could enter your divorce shortly after that time period passes.
Q: When do I need an attorney? (or, “You should consult with an attorney when:”)
- A: When you do not have agreed terms with your spouse.
- When your spouse hires (or is consulting with) an attorney.
- If you are not certain that you know everything about your spouse’s income, assets, debt, spending, or the like.
- Your case involves (or could involve) spousal support (a/k/a alimony)
DISCLAIMER: This page is not a substitute for legal advice specific to your situation. It is intended only to provide an outline of the procedure for divorce in Michigan. It does not, and cannot, address or resolve any of the terms, or the specifics, of your situation. For guidance applicable to your situation, you should speak with an attorney.
* Other documents will be required also. Once all are properly filed, the Court will issue a Summons to your spouse.