Frequently Asked Questions

What is a no-fault divorce?

This means that neither you nor your spouse is required to prove that the other is “at fault” in order to be granted a divorce. Factors such as infidelity, cruelty or abandonment are not necessary to obtain a divorce in Michigan. Rather, one only must prove that there is a “breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood the marriage can be preserved.”

What information should I take with me to the first meeting with my attorney?

If a court proceeding such as a divorce or a protection order has already been initiated by you or your spouse, it is important to bring copies of any court documents.

If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with your spouse, that is another important document for you to bring at the outset of your case.

If you intend to ask for support, either for yourself or for your children, documents evidencing income for both you and your spouse will also be helpful. These might include:

  • Recent pay stubs
  • Individual and business tax returns, W-2s and 1099s
  • Bank statements showing deposits
  • A statement of your monthly budget.

Is there a waiting period for a divorce in Michigan?

Michigan has a mandatory 60-day waiting period in cases without minor children, and a six-month waiting period inn cases with minor children. The waiting period begins on the day that the complaint for a divorce is filed.  The court may waive the six-month waiting period in a case with minor children upon a showing of extenuating circumstances that require shortening the waiting period; however, the sixty-day waiting period may not be waived.

How long must I have lived in Michigan to get a divorce in the state?

Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Michigan for 180 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint for divorce to meet the residency requirement for a divorce in Michigan.

How will I know if I am eligible to receive alimony?

The opinions of Michigan judges about awarding alimony vary greatly.  The court will consider the following factors when determining whether to award alimony to a party:

  • Parties’ past relations and conduct
  • The length of your marriage
  • Parties’ ability to work
  • Source and amount of property awarded to the parties
  • Parties’ ages
  • Ability to pay spousal support
  • Parties’ present situation
  • Parties’ needs
  • Parties’ health
  • Prior standard of living and whether the parties support others
  • General principles of equity
  • Your contributions to the marriage, including interruption of your career for the care of children or to support your spouse’s career
  • Your education, work history, health, income, and earning capacity
  • Your overall financial situation compared to that of your spouse
  • Your need for support
  • Your spouse’s ability to pay support

Every case for alimony is unique. Providing your lawyer with clear and detailed information about the facts of your marriage and current situation will allow him/her to make an alimony assessment in your case.

What determines whether I will get child support?

Whether you will receive child support depends upon a number of factors, which may include how much time your child is living in your household, which parent has custody, and each parent’s ability to pay support.

If your spouse is not the biological or adoptive parent of your child, it is possible you will not receive child support from your spouse.  If paying child support will cause your spouse to reduce his or her net income below the federal poverty guideline, the support you receive may be as little as $50 per month.

If you have physical custody of your child, it is likely your spouse will be ordered to pay support for any children born or adopted during your marriage.

What system does Michigan use for dividing property?

Michigan law provides for an equitable or fair — but not necessarily equal — division of the property and debts acquired during your marriage. The court will consider a number of factors, including your debts, the economic circumstances of you and your spouse, and the history of contributions to the marriage.

Are there advantages to filing first?

It depends.  Discuss with your attorney whether there are any advantages to your filing first.  Your attorney may advise you to file first or to wait until your spouse files, depending upon the overall strategy for your case and your circumstances.  For example, if there is a concern that your spouse will begin to transfer assets upon learning about your plans for divorce, your attorney might advise you to seek a temporary restraining order to protect you against such an action, without giving prior notice to your spouse.  Under those circumstances, it would be beneficial to file first.  However, if you are separated from your spouse but have a beneficial temporary arrangement, your attorney may counsel you to wait for your spouse to file.  In a trial it may be advantageous to be first to make an opening statement.

Allow your attorney to support you in making the decision about whether and when to initiate the legal process by filing a complaint for divorce.

What factors does the Judge consider in awarding custody?

The judge considers many factors in determining child custody.  Most important is “the best interests of the child.”  To determine best interests, the judge may look at the following factors:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of the state in place of medical care and other material needs
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved
  • The home, school and community record of the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child
  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child-custody dispute

Book: Divorce in Michigan: The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect

by John F. Schaefer Esq.

Providing accurate and objective information to help make the right decisions during a divorce in Michigan, this guide provides answers to 360 queries such as What is the mediation process in Michigan and is it required? How quickly can one get a divorce? Who decides who gets the cars, the pets, and the house? What actions might influence child custody? How are bills divided and paid during the divorce? How much will a divorce cost? and Will a spouse have to pay some or all attorney fees? Structured in a question-and-answer format, this divorce handbook provides clear and concise responses to help build confidence and give the peace of mind needed to meet the challenges of a divorce proceeding.