Michigan Divorce: Basics and Overview
- Michigan’s residency requirement for divorce: If you want a Michigan divorce, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 180 days just before you file your initial divorce papers. Generally, one of you also must have lived in the county where you file the papers for 10 days. There’s a narrow exception to the 10-day county residency requirement if your spouse is from another country and might take your children out of the U.S. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9 (2022).)
- No-fault grounds for divorce in Michigan: Michigan has only one legally recognized reason (or “ground”) for divorce—that there “has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.6(1) (2022).) Basically, that simply means that your marriage is over and there’s no reasonable chance of getting back together.
- Requirements for uncontested divorce: In order to get an uncontested divorce in Michigan, you and your spouse must have a marital settlement agreement that deals with all the issues involved in ending your marriage, including the division of your property, child custody and child support (if you have minor children), and alimony (known as “spousal support” in Michigan). If you want to take advantage of Michigan’s streamlined divorce procedure (known as a “summary proceeding for entry of a consent judgment”), you and your spouse will file a joint petition, along with accompanying forms and your marital settlement agreement. (Mich. Court Rules, rule 3.223 (2022).)
- Timeline for uncontested divorce in Michigan: It will take at least two months to get your final uncontested divorce. That’s because Michigan law requires a minimum 60-day waiting period before you can get the court hearing needed to finalize your divorce. If you have minor children, the waiting period is generally extended to six months. But you can ask the judge to waive that six-month minimum if you can show that it would cause an “unusual hardship,” or you have another compelling reason that you need your final divorce sooner than that. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9f (2022).)
- Separation requirements for divorce in Michigan? No, there’s no requirement in Michigan law that you and your spouse be separated for any period of time before you can get a divorce in the state.
- Legal terms used in Michigan divorce cases: In Michigan the spouses in a divorce might be called the “plaintiff” (the spouse who files the divorce petition) and the “defendant.” But when they file a joint petition for an uncontested divorce, they’re usually called simply “Party A” and “Party B.”
- Where to file for divorce in Michigan: You’ll file your divorce papers with the Circuit Court Clerk in the county where you or your spouse have lived for at least 10 days. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9 (2022).)
- Main divorce papers to file: When and your spouse are filing together for an uncontested divorce, you’ll file a Petition (Consent Judgment), along with a Proposed Consent Judgment (which will reflect the provisions in your settlement agreement) and domestic violence screening forms (for both spouses). You’ll need to submit additional forms when you have minor children. Michigan 3StepDivorce™ will provide the necessary forms and will complete them for you, based on your answers to an online questionnaire.
- Requirements for serving a spouse with divorce papers: When you and your spouse file a joint petition for a consent judgment in MIchigan, there’s no need to go through the formal, legal process of serving your spouse with the divorce papers. Instead, simply make sure that both of you have copies of all the paperwork.
- Michigan Child Support Guidelines: Like all U.S. states, Michigan has a formula for calculating the amount of child support that parents should pay. Whether the parents have agreed on the amount of child support or a judge makes a decision on the issue, the level of support may not differ from what it would be under the formula unless the judge has found (and explains why) applying the guidelines would be “unjust or inappropriate” under the circumstances. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.605 (2022).)
- Michigan rules on child custody: The overriding rule in Michigan child custody laws is that parenting arrangements after divorce must be in the children’s best interests. The law starts out with the assumption that it’s best for kids to have a strong relationship with both parents. Even when you and your spouse have agreed on a parenting plan, the judge will review your agreement to determine whether it will serve your children’s best interests. (Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 722.26a, 722.27, 722.27a (2022).)
- Michigan rules on property division: Michigan uses the “equitable distribution” rule for dividing your property and debts when you get divorced. That means the judge will decide what’s fair under the circumstances of each case. This won’t necessarily result in an even 50-50 split between the spouses (as in “community property” states like Wisconsin). You and your spouse may agree on a fair way to divide your property and decide who will pay your outstanding debts.
- Parenting class requirements: Unlike some other states, Michigan doesn’t have a requirement that all divorcing parents take a class on co-parenting after divorce. However, judges in several Michigan counties may order at least some divorcing couples to take a parent education course. If a judge orders you to complete one of these classes, the court clerk will give you information about approved providers. Many of these classes are offered online.
- Financial disclosure requirements in Michigan: If you and your spouse file for an uncontested divorce with a signed settlement agreement or consent judgment, you won’t need to file and exchange the Verified Financial Information Forms required in other divorces. However, if you have minor children or one of you has requested spousal support, both spouses will need to submit a much simpler form (“Verified Statement”) with basic information on income and health care coverage. (Mich. Court Rules, rule 3.206(C) (2022).)
- Hearing requirements to finalize an uncontested divorce in Michigan: Even when you have an uncontested divorce, both you and your spouse will have to attend a hearing to get your final divorce. The hearing will usually be brief. The judge will review your paperwork and ask you some questions. If everything is in order, the judge will then sign your consent judgment. (Mich. Court Rules, rule 3.223(D) (2022).)
- Default divorce in Michigan: In some cases, Michigan allows a spouse to request a default divorce, meaning that the judge would grant the divorce without the other spouse’s participation, based only on what was claimed and requested in the divorce complaint. (Mich. Court Rules, rule 3.210(B) (2022).) However, the default procedure wouldn’t apply when you and your spouse have filed a joint petition for an uncontested divorce by consent. That’s because you would request a default only if your spouse didn’t respond to the divorce complaint or “appear” in the case. But by filing the joint petition, your spouse has already appeared in the divorce case.
- Michigan laws and rules on divorce: Michigan Compiled Laws §§ 552.1–552.104 (divorce), 552.401 (property award), 552.451–552.459, 552.601–552.650 (child support), 722.21–722.31 (child custody). Michigan Court Rules, rules 3.201–3.230. Other Michigan laws and court rules on general civil procedure may also apply in divorce cases.
- Divorce records: You may order a copy of divorce records from the Michigan Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, by mail, online, by phone, or in person (by appointment only).
There are additional residency requirements if your spouse doesn’t live in Michigan when you file for divorce. In that case, you’ll have to prove that either you and your spouse lived together in Michigan as a married couple (at some point) or that you have resided in the state for a full year before the filing date. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9f (2022).)
Even when the shorter waiting period applies, it could take longer than two months to get your hearing scheduled, depending on how busy the court is in the county where you filed for divorce.
Michigan 3StepDivorce™ provides the worksheets for calculating the level of support with the state’s formula.