Divorce in Michigan: FAQs About Michigan Divorce Laws
Michigan men’s divorce attorneys provide answers to frequently asked questions about divorce laws and the divorce process in Michigan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Michigan’s divorce laws?
To get divorced in the state of Michigan, either you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least six months prior to filing. You must also have lived in the county where you or your spouse file for at least 10 days prior to filing. You do not have to legally separate or live separately from your partner in order to file for divorce in Michigan.
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. In order to file for divorce, a party only needs to allege that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the bonds of matrimony cannot be preserved. Although Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, a judge can evaluate fault and a spouse’s behavior during the marriage for alimony and property division proceedings.
Is Michigan a no-fault divorce state?
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. A divorce will be granted regardless of the fault of either party. However, fault can come into play when dividing marital property or when one party asks for spousal support or alimony. Fault is just one of 14 factors a judge will look at when determining what is fair in the division of property and whether spousal support should be awarded.
Michigan does not require fault to be proven for a divorce to be finalized. Because fault is relevant for property division and spousal support, it should be proven with objective evidence. Photos, e-mails, and live witnesses are some of the best ways to prove that one party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.
Can I get an annulment instead of a divorce in Michigan?
Yes, but only under limited circumstances. An annulment is a declaration that a marriage never took place. In Michigan, an annulment can be granted for marriages that are void from the beginning, such as in the case of bigamy, a marriage between closely related relatives, or a marriage to a person who is unable to enter a contract of marriage.
An annulment can also be granted for a voidable marriage, which includes a marriage by a person under the age of consent or if the consent to marry was obtained by fraud or force.
No, Michigan does not offer legal separation as an alternative to traditional divorce, but they do allow for couples to choose an option called separate maintenance. This option allows for couples to remain married, but still separate and set up alimony payments and determine division of property.
What typically happens if I go to a Michigan court to obtain my divorce myself?
Every person filing for divorce should have an attorney, or seek the advice of an attorney before entering into any agreements that affect their substantial rights. If you decide to proceed without an attorney, your divorce will progress the same way as if you had an attorney, you will just be representing yourself.
In the state of Michigan, assets are divided based on “equitable distribution”, which attempts to divide property as close to a 50-50 split as possible. However, each case will have different outcomes based on what is deemed “fair” in consideration with the length of the marriage, spouses’ age and health, financial circumstances, and the past relations and conduct of each partner.
Is Michigan an alimony state?
Maintenance, called spousal support or alimony in Michigan, is at the discretion of the judge. There is no precise rule or formula for awarding spousal support. Judges in Michigan look at what are called the Parrish factors to determine if spousal support should be awarded.
The factors include the length of the marriage, the actions of the parties, the property division, the health of the parties, the parties’ ability to work, fault and general principles of equity.
Can I change my name at the time of divorce in Michigan?
Yes. A woman’s maiden surname can be restored by court order. Usually, the restoration of a maiden name is included in your final judgment of divorce. After the judgment is filed with the court, you can proceed with changing your name with the federal government (social security office) and the state (Michigan Secretary of State).
How long do I have to be a resident of Michigan to file for a divorce?
A divorce can be filed after living in Michigan for 180 days and in the county of filing for at least 10 days.
Does it matter who files for divorce first in Michigan?
No, from a legal perspective, it does not matter who files first for divorce in Michigan. However, filing first does present an opportunity for the initiating party to request various orders to the court before your spouse is notified of the divorce proceedings. These orders are called, “Ex Parte”, which require financials, marital estate, and jurisdiction over children to remain status quo prior to the filing.
How and where is a divorce complaint filed in Michigan?
A complaint for divorce is filed in the clerk’s office of the county you have lived in for at least 10 days prior to filing. It must be filed with the appropriate filing fee and a Summons.
What forms do I need to file for a divorce in Michigan?
A Summons and Complaint must be filed to begin a divorce. It also must be filed with the appropriate filing fee.
How do I serve the divorce complaint on my spouse in Michigan?
The complaint for divorce can be served on your spouse by any adult not a party to the action (you cannot serve your spouse), by personal service or registered mail. An affidavit of service must also be filed with the court.
After I file for divorce, do I have to continue to live in Michigan?
No. But once filed, your divorce will continue within Michigan. There is no requirement that you reside in the state after filing, but you must attend any court appearances unless you get permission from the judge to not attend.
If attempts to serve my spouse do not work, what is my next step?
After a Summons is issued, you have 91 days to serve it upon your spouse, either personally or by registered mail. If you cannot serve your spouse, you can ask for a continuance of the summons, up to one year. You can also ask the judge for permission to use an alternate form of service by filing a motion before the summons expires.
Because Michigan is a no fault divorce state, only one party has to allege that the marriage is broken. A spouse who does not want a divorce can slow the proceedings, but will not be able to stop a divorce from happening.
Can I file for divorce in Michigan if I am in the military and out of state?
The Service Members Service Relief Act (SMSRA) applies to all members of the military. The SMSRA requires that all service members be asked to submit to any lawsuits, including actions for divorce. If the service member does not consent to the suit, formal proceedings have to be filed with the military to get military permission to proceed. If the service member does consent to the filing of the divorce proceedings, they can submit an Affidavit of Waiver of SMSRA Rights to the court to allow the divorce to proceed.
A person who resides outside the state of Michigan can be summoned to a Michigan court for a divorce. The plaintiff must meet Michigan’s residency requirements (180 days in the state and 10 days in the county), and properly serve the other party under the service requirements in the Michigan Court Rules. An out-of-state party can petition the court to allow the case to be moved to another state if the other state has stronger ties to the parties, the property, or the children of the marriage.
Will I have to go to court for a divorce in Michigan?
You will have to go to court at least once. In order to enter a Judgment of Divorce, a judge must take evidence on the record in the form of the testimony of the parties that satisfies the judge that the objects of matrimony are destroyed.
If the parties consent, the plaintiff (the person who filed) will have to appear in court to testify that the marriage is broken and there has been a settlement of all issues. If the case proceeds to trial, it is likely that both parties will testify before the judge makes a final determination and enters a judgment of divorce.
If your divorce case is highly contested, you can expect to go to court much more frequently. Anytime there is a court date scheduled for your case, you should attend.
At what point during the divorce process can a spouse remarry or start dating in Michigan?
The parties to a divorce remain married until a final Judgment of Divorce is entered, resolving all of the issues in the divorce, and the court case is ordered to be closed. Just filing for divorce does not divorce you. A remarriage that occurs before a final judgment of divorce is entered is void and subject to annulment.
A divorce can be granted on the consent of the parties, or after a hearing in front of the judge.
Does child support, child custody, alimony, and property have to be decided before finalizing a divorce in Michigan?
Every divorce in Michigan must make a final resolution of all marital property, custody and support of any minor children born in the marriage, support of both spouses, and any other issues that involve the marriage.
Is there a Michigan divorce waiting period?
Every divorce in Michigan has a mandatory 60-day waiting period. Divorces that involve minor children have a 6-month waiting period. After the mandatory waiting periods, a final judgment of divorce can be entered when the parties reach agreement or after a trial by a judge.
When is my case going to be over?
The length of your divorce will depend greatly on how contested the issues in your divorce are. Every divorce in Michigan has a 60-day waiting period, and a divorce with minor children has a 6-month waiting period.
At any time can a parent change a minor child’s last name during a divorce in Michigan without the other parent’s permission?
No. In order to change a child’s last name a court must enter an order allowing the change to occur. A parent petitioning for a child’s name change must notify the other parent and any interested parties, and allow them an opportunity to object to the name change at a hearing.
Michigan does not recognize new common law marriages. However, Michigan does recognize common law marriages entered into in Michigan before Jan. 1, 1957. Michigan will also recognize common law marriages legally consummated in a state that does recognize common law marriage.
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