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How to File for a No-Fault Divorce in Michigan

Filing for divorce can be a very difficult and traumatic process. Not only are you putting an end to a relationship and life, but there can also be assets to separate and custody arrangements to settle. Nessel & Kessel, premier Michigan divorce attorneys, can help you navigate these complicated and, and often emotionally charged, waters.

Michigan operates as a No Fault Divorce state. This means the spouse filing for divorce does not have to prove fault of their soon-to-be former spouse in order to file. All that is needed to file is to give a reason that the state honors for divorce. The most common reasons given are “irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of the marriage”.

A spouse cannot object to a petition for a no fault divorce. The petition itself will be viewed by the court as an irreconcilable difference. Fault does become an issue in regards to child custody, property rights, and spousal support. In terms of actually filing, however, both spouses do not need to be in agreement for the divorce to proceed.

It is important to note Michigan does have residency requirements in order to file for divorce. At least one spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least six months. The spouse seeking divorce—also known as the plaintiff in the process—must file in the county in which they have lived with their spouse—the defendant—for the last 10 days.

The plaintiff pays a filing fee and files a complaint within the family division of the circuit court, asking to be granted a divorce. This complaint identifies the parties involved, describes the grievances, and how they are seeking remedy.

The court then issues a summons, along with a copy of the complaint, to be served to the defendant. They have 21 days to respond by filing an answer in the same circuit court. If the defendant fails to file an answer or responsive plea, the court may enter a default judgment and rule in favor of the plaintiff.

If both parties reach an agreement for divorce, and do not want to go to trial, they move into the settlement process, where the division of property, assets, debts and liabilities, and settling matters of child support, custody, and visitation.

In the event of a trial, the plaintiff and defendant move into the discovery and pre-trial procedures phase of the divorce. The discovery phase is used to gather as much information about things like debts, assets, and net worth though interrogations, depositions, and subpoenas. Lawyers use the pre-trial procedures to attempt to settle the divorce before going to trial, using various meetings, evaluations, and conferences.

If the pre-trial procedures are unsuccessful at settling the divorce, the final step is a divorce trial. Michigan allows trials before a judge or a jury. Both options function very much the same. Each party explains the nature of their case, calls witnesses, and proves their evidence. After the trial has ended, the judge or jury will arrive at a verdict.

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