What Are the Steps to a Divorce in Michigan?
Anytime a person has to work with the court system, it can become an overwhelming and challenging process. Not only is each case different, but when it comes to something like divorce, each party may have a different idea in mind as to what is best.
However the decision to divorce comes about, there are specific steps that everyone must follow to request divorce before the courts. Here are the five basic steps every divorce in Michigan must complete.
Step 1: Information Collection
Going through a divorce is a lot like preparing for a job interview in that you have to have all your paperwork organized and ready in case the interviewers ask for something specific. In the case of a divorce, instead of interviewers, you will have a judge.
For the judge to make certain determinations, they may require evidence in the form of:
- Personal Information: Birth certificate, social security, proof of residency, employment
- Financial Documents: Tax and income, employment contract, bank and credit card statements
- Real Estate Documents: Deeds, appraisals, escrow, lines of credit, vacation properties
- Business Records: Year-end financial statements, partnership agreements, tax returns.
- Personal Property Information: Vehicles, jewelry, furniture, art, collectibles, etc.
- Estate Planning Documents: Wills and trusts, power of attorney, advance healthcare directives
In some cases, evidence such as business records or real estate documents may not apply.
Step 2: Divorce Type
Much like other aspects of life, divorce comes in many shapes and sizes. A divorce could be contested or uncontested, which will be determined once papers are served.
Depending on each couple’s circumstances, a divorce could have a “do-it-yourself” approach in which outside parties do not get involved. Divorce can also be done through mediation, in which a trained divorce mediator helps the couple to make decisions so that a judge does not have to get involved.
Suppose the courts, as well as lawyers, end up being required for a divorce. In that case, it will have to go through litigation and arbitration processes so each person can present their case to a judge, who will make a final decision on any contested matters.
Step 3: Completing Forms
Regardless of what caused the divorce, the plaintiff (or the party who initiates the divorce) must fill out a certain number of forms. These forms can be done by the individuals or by their respective lawyers. At the very least, the following forms are required for the divorce process:
- Complaint for Divorce: Includes a reason for request and whether children and property need to be taken into consideration
- Summons: Must be served to spouse within 91 days of filing
Step 4: Filing with the Court
Once your forms are ready, you will need to file them at your county clerk’s office and pay the filing fee and judgment fee. The filing fee is around $175 and the judgment fee is approximately $80.
Step 5: Serving the Papers
After your papers are officially filed with the country clerk, you have 91 days for them to be served to your spouse. You cannot do this by yourself; however, it can be done by a neutral third party or through registered or certified mail. Your spouse then has 21 days to reply (28 days if they live outside of Michigan).
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