Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in Michigan

Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in Michigan

Step Description
1 Determine eligibility to file for divorce in Michigan. At least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least 180 days before filing.
2 Fill out the required forms. These include a Summons, Complaint for Divorce, and a VS-4 form for child support.
3 File the forms with the circuit court in the county where either spouse lives.
4 Serve the forms on the other spouse. This can be done by a process server or by certified mail.
5 Wait for the other spouse to respond. They have 21 days to file a response with the court.
6 If the other spouse does not respond, file a Motion for Default with the court.
7 If the other spouse responds, attend a court hearing to discuss the issues of the divorce, such as child custody and division of assets.
8 If an agreement is reached, file a Consent Judgment with the court.
9 If no agreement is reached, attend a trial and let a judge decide the issues of the divorce.
10 Wait for the judge to sign the Final Judgment of Divorce, which officially ends the marriage.

Overview of Divorce Process in Michigan

  • Firstly, either spouse needs to file a complaint with the circuit court in their county or district where they have lived for at least 10 days before filing.
  • The next step involves serving the other party with copies of all the required documents, including summons and complaint. They will then have 21 days to respond.
  • If there are children involved, parents need to attend an educational program about how divorce affects them before entering into any settlement agreement or appearing before a judge.
  • If both parties agree on all issues, they can sign a settlement agreement that outlines terms regarding property division, child custody arrangements, spousal support payments (if applicable), and any other relevant matters related to their marriage dissolution.
  • If no agreement is reached between spouses or one spouse contests it; the case may proceed to trial where a judge decides how assets will be divided and who gets custody of children based on evidence presented by each side’s lawyers

Divorce proceedings can take several months or even years depending on circumstances unique to each couple. Therefore it is important for individuals seeking divorce in Michigan to seek professional help from experienced attorneys who understand local laws surrounding this matter.

What is a divorce?

During the course of a divorce proceeding, spouses will work with attorneys to identify and divide assets and debts accumulated during their marriage. They may also need to establish child custody arrangements if children are involved. A judge will ultimately decide how property is divided if an agreement cannot be reached outside of court.

Grounds for divorce in Michigan

  1. No-Fault Divorce: This means that either spouse can file for divorce without proving any specific cause such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment. They simply need to show that there has been a breakdown of their marriage relationship with no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation.
  2. Fault-Based Divorce: In Michigan, individuals may also file for a fault-based divorce if they have evidence supporting one of the following grounds:
    • Adultery
    • Cruelty
    • Desertion (if one spouse leaves without justifiable cause and remains away for at least 1 year)
    • Incarceration (if one spouse has been sentenced to imprisonment for at least 3 years)

It’s important to note that while some states allow couples to obtain an annulment if certain conditions apply, this is not an option in Michigan. Additionally, even if you are filing on the basis of fault rather than opting for a no-fault divorce in Michigan; it usually does not affect how property will be divided between spouses or any other aspects related to your case unless it directly relates specifically toward those issues raised during trial proceedings before the judge.

Residency requirements

If you don’t meet these residency requirements, you will not be able to file for divorce in Michigan. However, if your spouse meets these requirements and files first, you may still be subject to jurisdiction over your case in Michigan.

In some cases where one party does not meet the residency requirement but wants to proceed with a divorce; they can do so by starting legal proceedings elsewhere such as their home state until meeting Michigan’s criteria or waiting until they’ve lived there long enough to satisfy it. A family law attorney can provide further guidance on this matter based on individual circumstances surrounding each case.

Filing for Divorce in Michigan

If both parties agree on all issues related to their marriage dissolution including division of assets and child custody arrangements (if applicable); they can sign a settlement agreement that outlines terms regarding property division, child custody arrangements, spousal support payments (if applicable), and any other relevant matters related to their marriage dissolution. If no agreement is reached between spouses or one spouse contests it; the case may proceed to trial where a judge decides how assets will be divided and who gets custody of children based on evidence presented by each side’s lawyers

The above information should provide you with an understanding about what is involved when filing for divorce in Michigan. It’s important to note that seeking professional help from experienced attorneys who understand local laws surrounding this matter can go a long way towards ensuring that your rights are protected throughout this process.

Where to file for divorce

The following are some steps involved in the process of filing for divorce:

  • Complete necessary paperwork: This includes filling out a summons and complaint form, which identifies both parties and outlines why you’re seeking a divorce.
  • Serve your spouse: Once all paperwork is completed, it needs to be served on your spouse along with a copy of any other relevant documents like financial disclosures. Service can be done through personal delivery by someone not involved in the case or via mail if certain conditions apply.
  • File with court: After serving your spouse, you will need to file all of your documents with the court clerk’s office; this includes proof that service was made.

If children are involved, parents may also need to attend an educational program about how divorce affects them before entering into any settlement agreement or appearing before a judge. It’s always recommended that individuals seek professional legal counsel when going through this complex process.

Forms to fill out

  • Complaint for Divorce: This is the legal document that initiates the divorce process and provides information about you, your spouse, and any children involved.
  • Summons: This form notifies your spouse that a complaint has been filed against them and they have 21 days to respond before further action can be taken.
  • Affidavit of Service: This form proves that copies of all documents were served to your spouse as required by law.
  • Judgment of Divorce: This finalizes your divorce case by outlining terms regarding property division, child custody arrangements (if applicable), spousal support payments (if applicable), and any other relevant matters related to their marriage dissolution.

You will also need to pay a filing fee when submitting these forms. It’s important to make sure all necessary paperwork is completed accurately as errors or omissions could delay or even derail proceedings entirely. Seeking guidance from an experienced attorney can help ensure everything is done correctly throughout each step in this complex process.

Serving the divorce papers

If your spouse does not respond within 21 days from being served with the divorce papers, you may be able to file for a default judgment. This means that you can move forward without their participation or agreement on issues such as property division or child custody arrangements if applicable. However, it’s always recommended that both parties work together amicably whenever possible rather than proceeding without mutual consent because this will often result in better outcomes for everyone involved in terms of emotional well-being and financial stability.

Responding to divorce papers

It’s important not only to respond but also be proactive during this difficult time by gathering financial records and documentation related specifically towards any contested matters raised during trial proceedings before judges such as child custody arrangements or alimony payments if applicable. This preparation will help ensure that both parties’ interests are protected throughout their divorce process in Michigan.

Divorce Process in Michigan

It’s important that you work closely with an experienced attorney who understands Michigan law surrounding divorce cases if considering filing for divorce in Michigan because these processes can vary depending on individual circumstances unique to each couple’s situation!

Temporary Orders

The most common temporary orders in Michigan include:

  • Temporary Custody: This order outlines who will have primary custody of any minor children during the separation period and may also establish visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.
  • Temporary Child Support: This order ensures that children receive financial support from both parents while the divorce case is pending.
  • Spousal Support: Also known as alimony or maintenance, this order may require one spouse to make payments to their ex-partner while they are separated but still legally married.

If you are considering filing for a divorce in Michigan, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through each step of this process including obtaining necessary temporary orders. By having appropriate legal representation throughout your case; you can ensure that all aspects related specifically toward those issues raised during trial proceedings before the judge are adequately addressed and resolved accordingly.


In addition to these methods, spouses may also use subpoenas or hire professionals like private investigators or forensic accountants if necessary. It’s important that all parties involved comply with discovery requests so that there are no delays in proceedings and everything goes smoothly throughout the entire legal process.

Negotiation and Settlement

One of the primary goals for individuals filing for divorce in Michigan is to reach a mutually agreeable settlement with their spouse. This not only helps save time and money but also reduces the emotional burden that often comes with divorce proceedings. Here are some key points to consider regarding negotiation and settlement:

  • The first step is identifying all assets and liabilities of both parties, including retirement accounts, investments, real estate properties, and debts.
  • Once you have identified all relevant issues related to your case; it’s important to seek professional help from experienced attorneys who can advise you on legal options available.
  • You may want to consider hiring a mediator or other neutral third party if negotiations become difficult. They can help facilitate discussions between spouses without taking sides.
  • If an agreement is reached during mediation or through direct negotiations between lawyers representing each side; both parties will sign a document outlining terms of settlement which becomes binding upon approval by judge assigned to your case.

It’s important that any agreement reached reflects interests of both parties involved so that neither person feels disadvantaged by outcome once finalized in court proceedings. If no compromise can be made between spouses about how property should be divided or child custody arrangements determined then it may proceed forward into trial where a judge decides based on evidence presented before them during hearings held over several days at courthouse building nearby your location


It is important to note that not all divorce cases go to trial. In fact, most are resolved through negotiation or mediation outside of court. However, if you do end up going to trial in Michigan for your divorce proceedings; here’s what you can expect:

  1. Opening statements: The plaintiff (person filing for divorce) and defendant (other spouse) or their attorneys each give an opening statement outlining their position in the case.
  2. Presentation of Evidence: Both sides present evidence such as documents and witnesses to support their case. This may include financial records, emails, text messages, phone call recordings etc.
  3. Closing arguments: Both parties have an opportunity to summarize their case based on the presented evidence in front of the judge who will then render a verdict based on what he believes is fair under law – taking into account factors like income levels for alimony payments or child support obligations among other things

Trial proceedings can take anywhere from several hours to several days depending on complexity of issues raised during hearing so it’s advisable that individuals seeking divorce consult experienced attorneys familiar with Michigan laws surrounding these matters.

Division of Property and Assets

Michigan is an equitable distribution state which means that the court strives to divide marital assets fairly but not necessarily equally. Therefore, each party may receive a different percentage of total property based on their individual circumstances.

In some cases, couples can agree to divide their assets outside of court through mediation or collaborative law processes. This can save time and money compared to going through trial proceedings before a judge.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

Marital Property:

  • Marital property refers to all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during their marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title or account.
  • This can include everything from real estate and vehicles to retirement accounts and credit card balances.
  • In Michigan, marital property is divided equitably between spouses – meaning that it’s split fairly but not necessarily equally.

Separate Property:

  • Separate property includes any assets or debts acquired before the marriage or after a legal separation has occurred.
  • This can also include gifts or inheritances received by one spouse individually during the course of their marriage that was intended for them only as well as pain and suffering award payments from personal injury lawsuits (although this does depend on specific circumstances regarding each case).
  • If separate assets have been commingled with marital funds over time; they may lose their individual identity unless kept track in a separate account or other records proving its existence prior to being commingled.

An experienced family law attorney will be able to help clients understand which items fall into which category as well as how best approach negotiations related thereto ensure optimal results for both parties involved during what might otherwise become an emotional process if handled poorly without proper professional guidance throughout proceedings leading up until final judgement day.

Equitable Distribution

This does not mean that all property will be split 50/50 between spouses; rather, it is up to the judge’s discretion when deciding how much each party should receive. In addition to dividing property, judges may also order one spouse to pay spousal support if they believe it is necessary for maintaining financial stability post-divorce.

Retirement Accounts and Pensions

It is recommended that individuals seeking a divorce involving retirement accounts or pensions consult with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance throughout this process. An attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected while also minimizing any potential negative consequences related to taxes or other financial matters surrounding your case.

Child Custody and Support

When making decisions about child custody, Michigan courts consider a number of factors, including:

  • The love, affection and emotional ties between each parent and their children
  • The ability of each parent to provide for their children’s basic needs (such as food, shelter, clothing)
  • The mental health and physical condition of each parent
  • The moral fitness of each parent (including evidence or allegations regarding substance abuse or domestic violence)

In addition to determining child custody arrangements, Michigan courts also require parents to pay child support based on state guidelines. Factors such as income level and number of children involved are taken into account when calculating how much one spouse will be required to pay in support payments.

Types of Custody

In addition to these two primary types of custody; Michigan also recognizes other forms such as Joint Legal Custody (where both parents have equal decision-making power) or Joint Physical Custody (when children spend roughly equal time with each parent).

The court will consider various factors when determining what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. These can include:

  • The emotional ties between each parent and the child
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the physical needs of their children
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close relationship between their children and another party if applicable (such as grandparents)

If you are going through a divorce with minor children involved in Michigan; it’s important to work with experienced family law attorneys who understand how these issues will affect your case.

Best Interests of the Child

To determine what is in a child’s best interest during divorce proceedings, courts will consider several factors including:

  • The love and affection between the parent and child
  • The capacity of each parent to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs
  • The stability of each household environment
  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved
  • The moral fitness of each parent
  • The willingness and ability of parents to cooperate with one another when it comes to making decisions regarding their children

In some cases, a court may also appoint an independent evaluator such as a psychologist or social worker who can conduct interviews with family members and provide recommendations based on what they believe would be best for everyone involved.

Child Support Guidelines

  • The number of children involved
  • The income of both parents
  • Whether either parent is supporting other dependents
  • Health care expenses for the children

Additionally, in some cases, child care expenses and educational costs may be factored into the child support calculation. It is important to note that while these guidelines provide a general framework for determining child support amounts; they do not necessarily represent a final determination on this matter.

If you or your spouse believe that extenuating circumstances exist which would warrant deviating from these guidelines (such as if one party has significant medical bills or unusual expenses related to caring for their children), it may be possible to make adjustments based on those factors through negotiation between attorneys representing each party or during trial proceedings before a judge.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

In Michigan, spousal support may be awarded based on several factors that include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each party
  • The ability of each party to work and earn income
  • The contribution each party made during the marriage (such as homemaking or child-rearing)
  • The standard of living established during the marriage

There are different types of spousal support available in Michigan:

  • Temporary Spousal Support: This is awarded while divorce proceedings are ongoing until a final settlement agreement has been reached.
  • Pendente Lite Alimony: This type of spousal support can be requested by either spouse before filing for divorce but only lasts until finalization proceedings begin; it’s typically used when one party needs immediate help with household expenses like rent or utility bills.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: This type provides financial assistance for a limited period while the receiving spouse gets education or training necessary to enter into employment where they can become financially independent again.
  • Permanent Alimony: This type continues indefinitely (or until remarriage) if there is no limit specified in settlement agreement between parties at time which it was ordered by judge; typically reserved for situations where one partner may not have realistic prospect obtaining gainful employment due physical disability, chronic illness or advanced age.

Types of Spousal Support

The amount and duration of spousal support payments will depend on factors such as each party’s income, length of marriage, standard of living during marriage and other relevant circumstances surrounding their relationship. It’s important to work with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your rights under Michigan law regarding spousal support payments before entering into any settlement agreements with your former partner.

Factors Considered in Determining Spousal Support

In general, courts aim to ensure that both parties can maintain a reasonable standard of living following their separation. Spousal support may be ordered for a set period, until one party remarries, or indefinitely depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.

Duration of Spousal Support

The duration of spousal support in Michigan varies depending on several factors such as:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each party’s earning potential and income
  • Contributions made by each spouse towards their marital estate, including property acquired during marriage that has not yet been divided or distributed between them
  • Mental and physical health of both parties involved at the time of divorce proceedings if it may affect their future earnings or ability to work due to illness or disability.

If you are seeking spousal support in your divorce case, it’s essential that you speak with an experienced attorney who can advise you on how best to proceed based on your specific situation. They will be able to review all relevant evidence before presenting arguments before a judge who will then make decisions regarding duration and amount payable based upon legal statutes governing this matter within Michigan state law.

Finalizing the Divorce

  1. Signing the Divorce Judgment: Once all issues are resolved, both spouses will need to sign the final judgment of divorce. This document is then filed with the court.
  2. Wait for Notice of Entry of Judgment: The court will then send both parties a notice that their judgment of divorce has been entered officially on record.
  3. Distribution and Transfer of Assets: If there were any assets or debts involved in your marriage that needed to be divided between you and your ex-spouse per previous agreements; these items must now be distributed accordingly as agreed upon by both parties before they can legally move forward separately as single individuals again.

This entire process usually takes about 60 days after filing initial paperwork unless contested issues arise or more complicated matters such as child custody disputes require additional legal proceedings or mediation sessions with professionals trained specifically in family law cases involving divorces.

Divorce Decree

It’s important to carefully review this document before signing it as it becomes legally binding once both parties have agreed to its terms. Some common details that may be included in a divorce decree are:

  • Division of marital assets
  • Custody arrangements for children
  • The amount and duration of spousal support payments (if any)
  • Child support payment amounts and schedules
  • Tax implications resulting from property division or other financial arrangements.

If either party violates any terms outlined in the divorce decree after it has been finalized, there can be legal consequences such as fines or even imprisonment depending on what specifically was broken; therefore compliance with this order is crucial for all involved individuals.

Appealing the Divorce Decree

Note that filing an appeal does not automatically guarantee success. Before beginning this process or pursuing any legal remedies related to your divorce case; it is highly recommended seeking advice from experienced Michigan family law attorneys who can help guide you through all available options and ensure your rights remain protected throughout these proceedings.

Changing Divorce Decree

If you wish to modify your divorce decree in Michigan, the following steps must typically be followed:

  1. Filing a Motion: You will need to file a motion with the court requesting that changes be made to the original divorce decree.
  2. Evidence: You will need to provide evidence showing why modifications are necessary based on significant changes in life circumstances such as job loss or illness.
  3. Agreement: If both parties agree on proposed changes, they can sign an updated settlement agreement without having to go through trial proceedings before a judge.
  4. Court Hearing: If no agreement is reached between spouses or one spouse contests it; then there may be court hearings where a judge decides how assets will be divided and who gets custody of children based on evidence presented by each side’s lawyers

It’s important to note that modifying aspects of your divorce decree may not always result in desired outcomes. Therefore consulting with legal counsel before proceeding further is advisable for individuals seeking modification of their current orders related specifically towards spousal support payments (if applicable), child custody arrangements, property division matters etc. so as not inadvertently forfeit any rights already awarded during previous settlements reached outside court proceedings earlier or at trial.


If you are considering filing for divorce or have already started the process, it is important to work with experienced attorneys who understand local laws surrounding marriage dissolution in Michigan. A skilled lawyer can guide you through each step of your case, from filing paperwork to negotiating settlements and representing your interests before a judge if necessary.

Remember that every couple’s situation is unique, which means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting divorced in Michigan or anywhere else. By educating yourself about grounds for divorce, property division laws and other key factors involved in these proceedings; you will be better equipped to make informed decisions about your future and move forward confidently after your marriage has ended.

The Importance of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

  • Legal expertise: A divorce attorney has knowledge of state laws and procedures related to property division, spousal support payments, child custody arrangements, and other relevant matters.
  • Negotiation skills: A good divorce lawyer knows how to negotiate with the other party’s attorney to reach a settlement agreement that benefits their client’s interests.
  • Emotional support: Divorce can be emotionally taxing on individuals going through the process. An experienced divorce attorney can provide emotional support during this difficult time by listening attentively to their clients’ concerns while also offering practical advice about how best they should proceed in order for them get what they want out of their marriage dissolution proceedings.

Hiring a qualified Michigan divorce lawyer ensures that you have someone representing your interests throughout this challenging process. By working with someone who understands local laws surrounding family law matters like divorces; couples stand better chances at achieving fair outcomes in regards towards everything from property division negotiations down into determining whether or not one parent will have primary custody over children after separation or if both parents will share joint custody equally amongst themselves as outlined within child custody agreements etcetera…

The Emotional Toll of Divorce

  • Anxiety and Depression: The stress of divorce proceedings, uncertainty about the future, financial strain, and changes in living arrangements can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Grief: Even if you initiated the divorce, it’s normal to feel sadness over the loss of your marriage relationship.
  • Social Isolation: Divorce may cause rifts in social circles or relationships with mutual friends or family members. You may also need to find new support networks as you navigate this transition.

If you are struggling with any negative emotions related to your separation from your spouse; consider seeking counseling services from licensed mental health professionals who specialize in working with individuals experiencing marital difficulties. Additionally, joining a support group made up of people going through similar experiences can provide valuable resources during this time.

Moving Forward After Divorce

In addition to these personal adjustments; there are many legal matters that require attention after a divorce as well. These may include updating wills and estate plans accordingly, changing beneficiaries on insurance policies or retirement accounts etc. It’s also advisable not share any post-divorce details about ex-spouses on social media platforms as this could potentially damage relations especially if children are involved.

FAQ on ‘Divorce Process: How to File for Divorce in Michigan’

What are the grounds for divorce in Michigan?

In Michigan, you can file for a no-fault divorce, which means you don’t have to prove that your spouse did something wrong. You just need to say that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship and there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.

How do I file for divorce in Michigan?

To file for divorce in Michigan, you need to fill out a complaint form and file it with the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where you or your spouse lives. You will also need to pay a fee.

Do I need a lawyer to file for divorce in Michigan?

No, you don’t need a lawyer to file for divorce in Michigan, but it is recommended. If you decide not to hire a lawyer, make sure you understand all of the legal procedures and requirements involved.

How long does it take to get divorced in Michigan?

The length of time it takes to get divorced in Michigan varies depending on several factors, including whether or not there are children involved and how complex the issues are. In general, an uncontested divorce (where both parties agree on all terms) can take as little as two months from start to finish. A contested divorce (where there are disagreements on one or more issues) can take much longer, sometimes up to a year or more.