Getting a Divorce in Michigan

No one goes into marriage thinking it will end, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan. If “always and forever” no longer rings true and that wedding day bliss disappears, leaving your marriage may be necessary. 

Due to the many legal ways marriage joins two people, untying the knot can be complicated. I’ve simplified the requirements and steps to obtaining a divorce in Michigan below to ease your journey towards a single and happier life.

Divorce in Michigan Summary

Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Michigan.

Divorce Petition Requirements

Divorce Filing Eligibility

The only requirement to file for divorce in Michigan is that either spouse must have been a resident in the state for at least 180 days.

You or your spouse must have lived in the county where you choose to file for 10 consecutive days.

How to file for a contested divorce in Michigan

Step 1. File the divorce complaint and summons forms

The first step is to file the divorce complaint and the summons to notify your spouse.

Step 2. Notify your spouse

Since your spouse may be unaware of your plans, you’ll need to notify your spouse. The court sheriff handles this process.

Step 3. Divorce hearing and temporary orders

After notifying your spouse, you may apply to the court to grant temporary orders pending the final determination of your divorce. These may include child custody, spousal support, parenting time, and spousal support.

The court will also invite your spouse to testify and tell their side of the story.

Step 4. Mediation and discovery

In the Michigan legal system, the court recommends mediation in every divorce case.

When mediation is over, a settlement hearing is held to determine whether the session is successful.

If successful, the court may adopt the settlement agreement if it complies with the legal requirements.

Step 5. Judgment of divorce

The judgment of divorce contains the conditions of your new status, including the court’s decisions on property division, child custody, and spousal support.

This completes the contested divorce process in Michigan.

How to file for an uncontested divorce in Michigan

Step 1. File a complaint for divorce

The first step in an uncontested divorce process is to file a joint complaint for divorce.

Step 2. Propose a consent judgment

This proposed judgment contains the terms of the divorce and bears the signatures of both you and your spouse.

Step 3. Court testimony

The court invites you and your spouse to confirm that the forms were filed voluntarily and represent your true wishes.

If the court accepts your consent judgment, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period to enable you or your spouse to change your mind.

Step 4. The divorce decree

The court grants your application for divorce if after the 60-day period you and your spouse haven’t changed your minds.

This declares the end of the uncontested divorce process in Michigan.


Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Michigan

Divorce laws vary state to state, so you need to meet the specific requirements of the state where you’re planning to file your divorce. Only Michigan residents or their spouses can file a petition for divorce in the state.

To qualify as a Michigan resident, either spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days before filing for divorce. Additionally, you or your spouse must have lived in the county where you choose to file for 10 consecutive days before filing your divorce petition.

The Michigan Divorce Process

The divorce process in Michigan is divided into contested and uncontested divorces. A contested divorce case is one in which your spouse opposes the divorce complaint, while an uncontested divorce involves consenting spouses. It is essential to note this difference as it determines the necessary forms to submit when filing for divorce.

Filing a Contested Divorce in Michigan

Knowing what forms to fill out and where to file them is almost as important as your decision to leave your spouse. I’ve come up with step-by-step instructions to hasten the process of getting your divorce order.

Step 1: File the divorce complaint and summons forms

The first step is letting the court know that you want out of your marriage by filing a divorce complaint form. Your complaint should also include a summons bearing your partner’s name. 

A summons is a court document used to notify a person of a pending court case against them. You must file these forms at the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse lives. You’ll also have to pay the required filing fee before the court accepts your forms.

Step 2: Notify your spouse

Since your spouse may be unaware of your plans, you’ll need to give them a copy of the complaint and summons. This notification is called service and gives your partner room to prepare their defense, objections, or counterclaims, where necessary. The court sheriff handles this process by delivering the divorce papers to your spouse in person or via their registered or certified mail address.

Your spouse has 21 days to issue a response to your divorce complaint if they were served personally. If service was by mail, the timeline to respond is 28 days. If your spouse doesn’t respond, you can apply to the court to move on with your divorce proceedings. However, you must prove to the court that you notified your spouse.

Step 3: Divorce hearing and temporary orders

After notifying your spouse, you may apply to the court to grant temporary orders pending the final determination of your divorce. Such temporary orders may include child custody, spousal support, parenting time, and spousal support. You may also apply to the court to grant an order asking your spouse to cover your legal fees.

The court will also invite your spouse to testify and tell their side of the story. If they refuse to show up in court, the divorce may become uncontested, and the court may grant default orders. Default orders are court decisions resulting from one party failing to do what they are legally bound to do. 

A default order may be granted terminating the marriage if your spouse refuses to honor the court summons after receiving the divorce documents.

Step 4: Mediation and discovery

In the Michigan legal system, the court recommends mediation in every divorce case. This is to attempt an amicable resolution between spouses, rather than slugging it out in court.

While mediation is ongoing, your lawyer will also kickstart the discovery process. The discovery process is for investigating and obtaining valuable information to resolve the divorce’s contested issues. These include tax payments, income and shareholdings, and other required papers to help you settle in or out of court.

A settlement hearing is held when mediation is over to determine whether the session is successful. If successful, the court considers your settlement agreement and may adopt it if it complies with Michigan legal requirements. If mediation fails, the divorce proceedings continue, with both you and your spouse providing evidence to back up your claims.

Step 5: Judgment of divorce

This is the final step of your divorce case, making you single again and free from all marital oaths. The judgment of divorce contains the conditions of your new status, including the court’s decisions on property division, child custody, and spousal support. You and your spouse will be issued copies of the judgment, so everyone knows their duties.

Filing an Uncontested Divorce

The divorce process is faster and less stressful if you and your spouse agree there’s been a breakdown of your marriage. In this case, you won’t need to file a court summons or make many court appearances.

Step 1: File a complaint for divorce

The first step in an uncontested divorce process is to file a joint complaint for divorce. This complaint contains your names, addresses, date of marriage, children, and the ground for the divorce. You won’t need to file a summons since your spouse is already aware of and supports your decision to file for divorce.

Step 2: Propose a consent judgment

Service is waived in an uncontested divorce since you and your spouse file the complaint jointly. The next step in filing for divorce is to submit a proposed consent judgment. This proposed judgment contains the terms of the divorce and bears the signatures of both you and your spouse. The proposed judgment is subject to the court’s discretion and may be modified with the parties’ consent.

Step 3: Court testimony

The court invites you and your spouse to confirm that the forms were filed voluntarily and represent your true wishes. The court will also examine your proposed consent judgment to ensure fairness and compliance with legal requirements. After this court hearing, the law mandates a 60 day waiting period to enable you or your spouse to change your mind before the divorce becomes final.

Step 4: The divorce decree

If you and your partner still want the divorce after the waiting period, the court grants your application for divorce after the 60-day waiting period lapses. This marks the final step in getting your divorce, and you can say one last Bye! to your now ex-spouse.

If you need help with your divorce . . . 

You don’t have to look too far for assistance because the Michigan Legal Help service can assist you. If the process is too overwhelming for you, you may hire an online divorce service in Michigan. I’ve ranked and reviewed the best online divorce services in Michigan according to their quality and service.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Michigan?

The timeline for divorce in Michigan generally depends on the circumstances of your divorce. Michigan divorce laws have a mandatory waiting period for each divorce process. A waiting period is a timeline between filing and your divorce hearing, which allows the judge to consider your divorce papers and also gives you room to reconcile with your spouse, if possible.

The average mandatory waiting period after filing your divorce is 60 days. This means the judge can’t rule on your divorce until this period has passed. If there are minor children, Michigan law stipulates a six-month waiting period, even if you and your spouse have a child custody agreement. 

This waiting period is compulsory, and the court must wait at least 60 days (as long as you have no minor kids together) before granting a divorce hearing, whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not.

Consequently, a divorce may last between 60 days to several years, especially if the divorce is hotly contested. 

What are the different types of divorce in Michigan?

The two types of divorce available in Michigan are contested and uncontested divorces. A contested divorce is one in which you and your spouse disagree on one or more areas of the divorce. This may include the division of marital property, child custody arrangement, spousal support, or even the divorce itself.

A divorce is uncontested if you and your spouse agree on all divorce areas. Spouses in an uncontested divorce must draw up a marital settlement agreement showing they agree to the divorce and post-marital issues, such as custody and alimony.

Uncontested divorces are a speedy way to leave your marriage, since you and your spouse agree on virtually everything. All the court does is review your settlement agreement to ensure its contents are fair and comply with the law.

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Michigan?

Well, that depends on how bad the situation is. Contested divorces feature many court appearances, making it advisable to seek legal advice before filing. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can apply to the Michigan Legal Help service here and they will link you with a divorce attorney.

If you’re filing for an uncontested divorce, then you may not need a lawyer. You and your spouse can fill out the necessary forms and file them at the circuit court in the county where either of you lives. Alternatively, you may use an online legal service if you expect all the legal jargon will be too much for you.

How long do you have to be separated in Michigan to get a divorce?

You don’t have to be separated to get a divorce in Michigan. Michigan law allows you to file for divorce even if you and your spouse live under the same roof. While living separately from a spouse is common during a divorce, it is not a requirement for divorce under Michigan law.

However, separation may be proof that your “marriage relationship has broken down, and there is no reasonable likelihood that it can be preserved,” which is the statutory ground for divorce in Michigan. This simply means that your marriage is beyond saving.

You can file a divorce on this ground even if you and your spouse still live together. Once either spouse meets the residency requirement, you may file for divorce in Michigan. 

Can I get a divorce in Michigan if I was married in another state?

Yes, you can get a divorce in Michigan even if you got married in another state. The primary requirement to get a divorce in Michigan is residency. You or your spouse must have lived here for a minimum of 180 days before filing your divorce and at least 10 days in the county where you’re filing the complaint for divorce. 

So long as either you or your spouse lives here, you can approach the court to end your marriage. If neither of you meets the residency requirement, you will not be able to file for divorce in Michigan until you do.

Is spousal fault necessary for a divorce in Michigan?

No, proving spousal fault isn’t necessary to file a complaint in Michigan because Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. In a no-fault divorce state you don’t have to prove your spouse’s fault when filing your divorce papers. You can file for divorce in Michigan by stating that your marital relationship has broken down and cannot be preserved. 

According to Michigan law, stating 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” is sufficient to file a divorce.

While you don’t need to prove spousal fault to obtain a divorce in Michigan, proof of spousal fault may be instrumental in securing alimony, child custody, and marital property division orders. If you can prove that your spouse is abusive or has a history of domestic violence, the court may award child custody in your favor.

Can I get alimony and child support in Michigan?

Yes, you can include a claim for alimony in your complaint for divorce. Alimony is called spousal support in Michigan, and unlike child support, which is regarded as a joint responsibility, spousal support awards are granted at the court’s discretion. The court may grant a spousal award claim during the divorce proceedings to enable you to cover the divorce cost. It may also be given after the divorce for some years, until the receiving spouse remarries, or permanently (until they die).

Here are some of the factors the court considers in granting a spousal support order against your soon-to-be ex-spouse:

  • The length of the marriage—the longer you were together, the higher the chances of alimony
  • The employment status of each spouse
  • Either spouse’s behavior and conduct during the marriage (abuse, violence, or abandonment)
  • The ability of your spouse to pay
  • The age and health of both spouses
  • The contributions of one spouse toward the other’s career or educational advancement and housekeeping
  • The needs of the party applying for spousal support
  • The standard of living of both parties during the marriage

Generally, both parents have the legal duty to raise their children. However, the court may order one parent to make payments to the other parent as contributions towards the upkeep of any minor children of the divorce. The judge relies on the Michigan Child Support Formula to determine which parent makes payments to the other, including the following factors:

  • The income of both parents
  • Base costs of childcare
  • The number of children
  • The number of nights the child spends with each parent annually
  • Health care and other factors the court deems necessary

After considering your application, the court may grant a Uniform Child Support Order, stating how much is to be paid monthly and for how long (usually until the child turns 18). You and your spouse are also free to negotiate a child support agreement, although such agreement is subject to the court’s discretion. In most divorce cases, child support payments are granted in favor of the parent who has physical custody of the children. 

If your spouse refuses to pay child support, you may apply to the court to complain. If the court finds them liable, the Michigan State Disbursement Unit may deduct default and future payments from your spouse’s wages, or the court may hold them liable for contempt of court.

Who gets child custody in a Michigan divorce?

Child custody is another crucial area of your divorce. Before dissolving your marriage, the court must determine custody issues if you have minor children. Child custody in Michigan is divided into legal and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the right to decide your child’s education, religion, health, and essential aspects of their lives until they come of age. On the other hand, physical custody means who the child lives with. Sometimes, one spouse may have sole custody of both rights. Sole custody means one spouse has both physical and legal custody of any minor children of the marriage.

The court may also grant both spouses joint custody over the child. Joint custody means one parent has sole legal custody, while the other has sole physical custody. When one parent has physical custody, they are obliged to give their ex-spouse reasonable parenting time with the child.

The primary factor in deciding who gets child custody is the child’s best interests. The court determines the best interests of the child by considering the following elements:

  • Who the child is closer to emotionally
  • The financial ability of either spouse to meet the needs of the child
  • The physical and mental health conditions of the parents
  • The special needs of the child (due to a psychological or physical condition)
  • Any history of domestic violence of either spouse
  • The willingness of one spouse to allow the other spouse reasonable parenting time 
  • Whether the parents are fit to care for a minor—this involves looking at both parties’ criminal history, drunkenness, or spousal fault
  • The child’s preference (if they are considered old enough by the judge)
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment, and the desirability of continuing it
  • Any other factor the court considers relevant

How is marital property shared in Michigan?

Michigan is a 50/50 state, otherwise called community property state. This means the court tries as much as possible to achieve an equitable distribution of assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage.

The court achieves this by categorizing these assets and liabilities into marital and separate property. Separate property are assets that a spouse owns before the marriage and includes assets acquired during marriage via gifts or inheritance. An asset must have been treated as separate property during the marriage to remain as such. So rest easy, your spouse can’t lay claim to the estate your parents left you.

Marital property comprises assets acquired during the marriage and jointly owned by you and your spouse. It may also include assets acquired by pooling resources together. For instance, if your spouse contributed funds to buy a house or property, the court will consider such property a marital one.

After identifying what properties are marital or jointly owned, the court considers the following before granting a property division order:

  • Length of your marriage
  • The needs and income of each spouse
  • Spousal faults, such as domestic violence and abuse
  • The respective ages and health conditions of each spouse
  • The standard of living maintained during the marriage
  • The contribution of either spouse towards the acquisition of such assets
  • The needs of any children
  • Other factors the court considers relevant

If you and your spouse have a property sharing agreement, you may submit it to the court for review. The court will consider the agreement to ensure that the agreement is fair and invite you and your spouse to testify that you reached the agreement voluntarily. 

If you can’t reach an agreement independently, the court may recommend seeing a mediator as part of your divorce process. This is because the court must resolve all child support, custody, alimony, and property division issues before granting a decree of divorce.

In Summary

If saying yes to your partner is no longer the best decision you’ve made, you can undo the damage. I’ve broken the Michigan divorce process into step-by-step instructions, so you know the what, where, and how to kick your spouse out of your life.

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