The Need-To-Know Basics Of Divorcing In Michigan

If you are considering a divorce in Michigan, chances are you are entering uncharted territory. Therefore, it is important that you understand the basics of the Michigan divorce process – how it generally works, the legal expenses involved, and why it is important to choose a good divorce attorney.

Here is an overview of the divorce process in Michigan.

Filing For Divorce In Michigan

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. This means that no proof of wrongdoing or infidelity is needed to start divorce proceedings.

The divorce filing statute, MCL 552.6, requires only that a complaint for divorce be filed by the plaintiff. The complaint must allege “there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship” and there is “no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”

Three legal requirements must also be met to file for divorce in Michigan:

• The divorce complaint must be filed in the county circuit court where both parties reside.

• Both parties must have lived and been together in Michigan for at least six months.

• At least one party must testify, pursuant to MCL 552.6, that the marital relationship has broken down and the marriage cannot be preserved.

Once a divorce complaint is filed by the plaintiff, the other party (the defendant) will be served with a summons and complaint, notifying them that legal proceedings have been brought against them. The legal process then begins.

Michigan Divorce: The Basics

An understanding of the general divorce process will help prepare you for what will happen along the way. Keep in mind that every divorce is different, so the length of this process can take anywhere from several months to a year or more.

After the divorce complaint is filed and the summons and complaint have been served, the defendant has 21 days to respond. The court may enter a default judgment if the defendant does not respond within that time period. If children are involved, the court will also enter a temporary order, setting forth parameters for custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal support.

At this point, the divorce process is in full swing. The attorneys for both parties assess which issues will most likely be contested. The discovery process also begins, where the parties obtain information that is relevant to the divorce. This information includes such things as incomes, work history, education, business valuation, value of real and personal property, retirement and investment accounts, and so forth.

The attorneys for both parties should be communicating and negotiating throughout the divorce process. Divorce mediation, where a neutral third party facilitates communication to help the parties reach a settlement, may also be used. Eventually, both parties will submit their negotiated settlement to the judge, who will assess whether it is fair or needs modified.

In situations where the parties cannot agree on a settlement (known as a contested divorce), the case will go to trial. The judge will determine the most equitable arrangement based on the evidence that has been presented.

When children are involved in a divorce, the parties can negotiate their own parenting-time arrangement. Any arrangement, however, must be approved by the court. If the parents cannot agree on parenting time, the court will issue a parenting-time order based on the best interests of the child(ren). The best-interest statute, MCL 722.23, sets forth the factors the court must consider when awarding parenting time.

Also, keep in mind that a parenting-time order can be modified by consent of the parties. It can also be changed by filing a motion with the court.

Legal Costs Of Divorce In Michigan

There is no established cost for getting a divorce in Michigan. Most Michigan divorce lawyers charge hourly fees. The number of hours required will depend on the complexity of the case, the negotiations that take place, whether the matter can be settled or goes to trial, and so forth.

It is important to recognize that hiring a divorce attorney will often save you money in the long run. How so? An experienced Michigan divorce lawyer will make sure the outcome is fair, helping to prevent unforeseen legal problems (and additional expenses) down the road, after the divorce is final.

Selecting A Michigan Divorce Attorney

It is crucial that you choose a divorce attorney with experience and with whom you are comfortable.

When considering divorce attorneys, be sure to ask these key questions:

• How long has the lawyer been handling family law cases – and divorces in particular?

• What is the attorney’s hourly rate?

• Is the lawyer familiar with the court system and judges in the county where the complaint is filed?

Overall, numerous things must be considered when getting a divorce in Michigan. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, and whether it involves children or not, it is crucial that you hire a Michigan family law attorney who is experienced in handling divorce cases and knows the ins-and-outs of the Michigan divorce process.

The experienced Michigan divorce attorneys at Thacker Sleight can help with your divorce. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the services we offer.

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