If you are like many married couples in Michigan, you may be going through some tough times and have decided to end your relationship. When this happens, you want to be able to go through this process in a way to lessen the pain and difficulty as much as possible. Your divorce attorney will help act as a guide, but it is still important for you to know what lies ahead. This is why it is vital to know all of the steps that you will go through to obtain a divorce here in Michigan. Keep in mind that, just like marriage, no two divorces are exactly alike. There may be issues about property distribution, alimony, child custody, and child support that affect the process. Still, here are the steps you will go through to end your marriage.
Step one: preparing and filing a Complaint for Divorce
In Michigan, all divorces require judicial action, even if they are amicable or uncontested. As such, you will need to complete and file a Complaint, just like in any other litigation. The party filing the Complaint will be identified as the Plaintiff, and his or her spouse will be listed as the Defendant. In most situations, there is no real benefit to being the one who files for divorce. However, the one filing does have the advantage of controlling the process to begin with and can request court orders at the outset (see below).
In order to get a divorce in Michigan, you must establish jurisdiction. This means that you must have resided in Michigan for at least 180 days prior to filing, 10 days of which were spent in the county where you are filing for divorce.
Step two: prepare and file a Verified Statement if you have minor children
If you have minor children who were the issue of this marriage, then you must prepare and file a Verified Statement with the local Friend of the Court Office. This is the agency that helps the court administrator with issues of custody, parenting time, and child support. The Verified Statement will contain the health care insurance information for the children, as well as the identity and employment information of the parents.
Step three: prepare and enter Ex Parte Orders
This is one of the advantages of being the Plaintiff in a Michigan divorce case. You have the ability to prepare and file Ex Parte Orders at the outset of the case. Ex Parte means that you are filing them without the knowledge or consent of the other party. These temporary orders can cover issues such as custody and parenting time with minor children, and an injunction against dissipating marital assets during the pendency of the divorce.
Step four: serve the papers to your spouse
Process service is important as it shows that the spouse has received all of the divorce papers, including the Complaint, Verified Statement, and any Ex Parte Orders. If the divorce is amicable or uncontested, then the spouse will sign an Acknowledgment of Service in lieu of having the papers served by a process server.
Step five: preparing and filing an Answer
In general, if you are the Defendant spouse in the case, you will have 21 days to file an Answer to the Complaint. This increases to 28 days if you were served by mail or reside out of state. The Answer will set out your response to each allegation in the Complaint, either admitting or denying them. In addition, you can file objections to any of the Ex Parte Orders. If there are minor children and you and your spouse begin residing in separate residences, it is a good idea to ask the court to issue a Temporary Order addressing the custody, child support, and parenting time issues of the minors for the duration of the case.
If you are the Plaintiff and your spouse fails to file an Answer, you can apply for an Order of Default. Keep in mind that even if you get the default, your spouse has the right to file a motion to set aside the default at any time before the divorce is granted.
Step six: conducting Discovery
Like most states, Michigan has full and open discovery. This means that each side has to give the other complete access to all information. Each party will serve disclosure requests and questions in the form of interrogatories on the other. In addition, each spouse may be required to answer questions in a deposition. The information obtained includes all financial information about the marital assets, as well as appraisals of any real estate and businesses owned during the marriage. This will be used to distribute the marital property in an equitable fashion.
Step seven: Settlement negotiations
The vast majority of divorce cases in Michigan end in a settlement. This will cover all of the marital issues regarding finances and minor children, including custody, parenting time, child support, and equitable division of marital property. If either spouse has amassed retirement benefits during the course of the marriage, such as a 401K, pension, or IRA, those assets will be divided using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The QDRO is a specialized transfer designed to avoid any taxes or penalties related to the premature withdrawal or distribution of such assets.
Step eight: granting of the Divorce
Once a case is settled, you will need to file the settlement agreement and Judgment of Divorce, and set a date for the final court hearing. At this hearing, the parties will testify that the allegations contained in the Complaint are true and that they have agreed to the settlement and Judgment of Divorce. This hearing is mandatory even if the divorce is amicable or uncontested.
If there are no minor children in the marriage, the Judgment can enter once 60 days have passed from the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. However, if there are minor children, you may have to wait at least 180 days to finalize your divorce.
If you are considering a divorce, call our firm today
Going through a divorce can be the most emotionally draining thing you have ever dealt with in your life. Call The Nunley Law Group today so that our experienced divorce lawyers can help guide you through the process.