Divorce FAQ

How long will it take?
As an average, you should plan on 9-12 months to complete the process, if you do not have agreement on all issues, and you have minor children. If you have minor children, Michigan law imposes a mandatory waiting period of 180 days, after the Complaint for Divorce is filed. If you do not have minor children, the statutory waiting period is only 60 days.

What happens to the house?
You and your spouse should decide whether one of you will remain in the house, and take over the payments, or if the house should be sold. Ultimately, if you are unable to agree, the Court will decide what should be done with the house. But, if your case reaches that point, the most likely outcome is that the house will have to be sold.

What happens to vehicles?
Usually, each spouse takes one vehicle, along with the responsibility for any debt connected to that vehicle.

What happens to other assets?
All assets acquired or accumulated during the marriage, and all debts incurred during the marriage, are marital property, subject to division and allocation by the Court, regardless of whose name those assets (or debts) are in. There are a few, limited exceptions, including inherited property, which is, in some circumstances, not included in the marital estate.

Who decides what happens to the kids?
If you and your spouse are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, ultimately the Court will decide what is in their best interests, and set custody and a parenting time schedule.

Who pays the debts?
Just like the assets, all debt incurred during the marriage (with some very limited exceptions), is marital debt, subject to division by the Court. The Court will decide, if you are unable to agree with your spouse, who will be responsible for what debts. Most often, the debt associated with any asset (a vehicle, or a house, for instance) follows that asset. Other, unsecured debt, must be divided between the spouses.

What happens to retirement accounts?
Retirement accounts, if they were accumulated during the marriage, are a marital asset subject to division by the Court. It does not matter whose name the account is in, if it accumulated during the marriage. Even if the entire account did not accumulate during the marriage, the portion that did, along with any increase in value during the marriage, may be part of the marital estate.

How does the case get started?
A divorce case starts by filing a Complaint for Divorce, along with all of the other required documents, with the Court. The Complaint, along with a Summons, must be served on the other spouse, by a process server (Court officer), by certified mail (if he or she will sign for it), or by him or her picking it up and signing for it (such as at your attorney’s office).

If you and your spouse agree to use a Collaborative Divorce model, you may go through all of your divorce negotiations before either of you files a Complaint for Divorce.

How is child support calculated?
In Michigan, a formula is employed, by using the Michigan Child Support Guidelines, to arrive at that amount of child support that should be paid. The four primary factors that go into the calculation are:

1. The number of children (minors or up to age 19 1/2, in some circumstances);
2. The father’s income;
3. The mother’s income; and
4. The custody and parenting time arrangement.

Although the formula does not, by any stretch, equalize the spouses’ incomes, its goal is to ensure that the children receive the “standard of living” economic benefits from the incomes of both of their parents.

What about alimony (spousal support)?
The general “rule of thumb” in Michigan is that if you have been married for less than 10 years, spousal support is probably not warranted. There are exceptions, such as medical need or a dramatic difference in income and needs. But generally, spousal support is not awarded or negotiated in short-term marriages (less than 10 years).