Article: Overview of Michigan's Divorce Process


Michigan is a "no fault" divorce state. No fault means "a divorce in which it doesn't matter who did what to whom that caused the marriage to break down; all that matters is that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation." In Michigan, the grounds for divorce is 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." Fault is not a factor for the "grounds" for divorce, but it may be a minor factor in resolving disputes about child support, spousal support, custody, parenting time, or property.

A divorce proceeding may be properly filed if the parties have lived in the State of Michigan for 180 days and in the county where the Complaint is filed for at least 10 days. The party filing the Complaint is known as the "Plaintiff" and the other spouse is known as the "Defendant." Upon filing the Complaint the Plaintiff through his or her counsel will also notify the Defendant of the lawsuit using a Summons. The Defendant has 21 days to file an Answer to the Complaint if the Complaint and Summons are served by personal service or 28 days if the Complaint and Summons are served by US Mail or if the Defendant lives outside the State of Michigan. If the Defendant files an answer, then it becomes a contested divorce. If the Defendant fails to file an answer, counsel can prepare an order of default which will be entered by the Court due to the Defendant's failure to respond.

Under Michigan law, where there are minor children involved in the divorce proceedings, the statutory waiting period is generally six months, which may be waived under certain circumstances. Even if there are no minor children involved in the divorce, there is a 60-day waiting period before a divorce can be granted under Michigan law. In addition, a divorce will not be granted without a Court hearing where, at minimum, one of the parties appears to put "proofs" on the record. The purpose of the hearing is to determine the truth of the statements made in the Complaint. Before a divorce is granted, the court must find that there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the parties cannot live together as husband and wife. One of the two parties must appear before the Court to acknowledge that such a breakdown has occurred.

Overall, the length of the divorce process is driven by the statutory waiting periods. However, anomosity and inability to reasonably negotiate with each other will extend the length of the proceedings and will drive up the cost of the divorce for both parties.