Divorce Initiation Process
Livonia, Michigan, Lawyer Offers Guidance through Divorce
If you have made the decision to file for divorce in Wayne or Oakland County, or your spouse has filed and you need to know your obligations and what to expect, I encourage you to contact me, attorney John R. Rinn. I will share knowledge gained over decades in practice, and answer your questions as clearly as I can.
Dependable Counsel Is Important — From Filing for Divorce through Entry of the Judgment
The basic legal steps in the Michigan divorce process are similar regardless of who files and what issues are involved. The process — from filing for divorce to entry of a judgment — will take at least sixty days if you do not have children and at least four-to-six months if you do.
In actual practice, a divorce without children takes about three months, even if there is complete agreement early in the process. It will be longer if there are disputes. And a divorce with minor children will usually take 6 months or more, although the judge has the power to shorten this time for good cause. Remember that some cases can take a whole year to resolve. Formal steps include:
- Either spouse files a divorce complaint to be processed by the appropriate court — usually through an attorney.
- The court issues a summons to notify the other spouse of the complaint.
- The summons and complaint are served on the non-filing spouse. He or she is technically the defendant. But that designation does not negatively impact how the case goes. In some cases, the person who files first gets some initial advantage because of being able to submit the ex-parte orders. But often, this is not an issue. I will be happy to explain these points to you if you call for a consultation.
- The spouse who has been filed on (the defendant) either files an answer to the complaint within 21 days, most typically with an accompanying counter-complaint, or the divorce can proceed by default.
- If children are involved, both parties must meet with the Friend of the Court to provide information regarding custody, parenting time and child support. Sometimes, this can be avoided by agreement. Again, I can explain this to you in more detail. It is easier to explain when your specific circumstances are stated.
- If all issues can be resolved by agreement, one or both attorneys will prepare and submit a judgment of divorce for the approval of a judge. The Plaintiff will still have to appear in court, just to satisfy the legal requirement of testifying that the marriage cannot be saved. This is a very basic hearing, and the court does not require any details of why the marriage cannot be saved.
- If issues cannot be resolved, the court may order mediation, and ultimately a trial may be scheduled and held.
- Ultimately, one or both spouses must testify under oath that the marriage has broken down, and the divorce is finalized with an entry of the judgment into the public record.
You must have lived in Michigan for at least six months immediately prior to filing for divorce. An attorney preparing the complaint for you can include requests for temporary "ex parte" orders covering issues such as temporary custody, parenting time, and a prohibition on taking or destroying marital property.
Will your divorce be simple or complex? I have handled many relatively simple divorces and many that required extensive negotiation, mediation, arbitration or trial. Experienced divorce attorneys generally know what judges will probably do in a given set of circumstances. That is why about 98 percent of all divorces get settled by agreement. This figure also holds true in my own practice. Trial has been necessary in a small percentage of my cases, and I have proven courtroom skills.