The heart wrenching decision to become divorced is never easy. There are so many things to consider – property division, parenting decisions, custody arrangements, child support and much more. And while all of these things are part of the overall process, the first question to get the ball rolling is the most basic:
How do I file for Divorce in Michigan?
If you’ve made the decision to divorce and you’re ready to file, here are a few guidelines to help you along the way:
First, you or the other party (husband/wife) must be a resident of the State of Michigan for at least 180 days (six months) and a resident of the County that you will file in for at least 10 days.
Second, file in the County where you live or where your spouse lives. This may be a decision where it is important to consult with an attorney to get advice about where to file for divorce.
Third, You must complete and file a Complaint for Divorce to include all of the proper statutory language. You must be certain to include a Summons and Complaint (SCAO MC01) which is properly completed and signed. Also, each County in the State may have specific “Case Initiation” forms or other local procedures that they require when you file for Divorce. Each document must be in proper form, true and accurate, signed and dated. If you decide to file for divorce without any attorney, you are still required to follow the Michigan Court Rules which dictate proper procedure. You may be required to fill out a Verified Statement (FOC 23) if you have minor children or are seeking spousal support. It is important that you supply the court with copies of the documents and with the proper filing fee. As of April of 2014, the filing fee for Divorce in Michigan is $150.00. The court does not accept checks from non-attorneys so you will need cash or a certified check. You may call the clerk of your County’s Circuit to get specific details about exactly which forms are required for the facts related to your case. At times, you may wish to also file a Motion for Temporary relief at the beginning of your case. Again, this may be a decision where it is important to consult with an attorney to get advice about what is best when it comes to your unique set of facts and circumstances. If you have minor children your Divorce will be designated with the case code DM. If you do not have minor children “born of the marriage” then your Divorce will be designated with the case code DO.
Fourth, Once the forms have been properly filed with the court, the court will assign a Judge to preside over your case and will give your case a docket number. Then, the documents must be properly served upon your spouse within 91 days. You may have the documents served by:
- Hiring a person called a “process server” who will charge a fee to complete service. The process serve will follow the court rules and provide the court with a “proof of service.”
- Service by Certified mail, restricted delivery. In this situation, the documents are mailed to your spouse, they sign the “green” certified mail return receipt and then you file the “proof of service” after being signed in front of a notary public, with the court.
- You can have a friend or relative serve the documents if they are over 18 years of age a resident of the State of Michigan and if you are certain that there will not be a violent outburst by your spouse. Then that person must sign an “affidavit of service” before a notary and that document is then filed with the court clerk as you “proof of service.”
Fifth, your next step will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. If you have minor children you must wait 6 months before the Judgment of Divorce may be entered, barring a very unusual circumstance where the statutory waiting period is waived after a hearing before the Judge. If you do not have minor children, you must wait 60 days before the Judgment of Divorce may be entered.
This is a very simplified explanation of how to file for divorce. In cases where there are complex issues related to support, visitation, property settlement, custody or other important issues it is wise to consult with an attorney. The law is complex you deserve answers to your questions before you make a mistake that may last a lifetime.
Have a legal question? The professional staff of family law attorneys at the Lakeshore Law and Mediation Center would be happy to assist you. Contact us today by phone at 616.844.4091 or by email using the contact form below.
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