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Michigan Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Michigan, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
A judgment of divorce shall not be granted by a court in this state in an action for divorce unless the complainant or defendant has resided in this state for 180 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint, the complainant or defendant has resided in the county in which the complaint is filed for 10 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.9)
Grounds for Filing:The Complaint for Divorce must declare the appropriate Michigan grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:
A complaint for divorce may be filed in the circuit court upon the allegation 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. In the complaint the plaintiff shall make no other explanation of the grounds for divorce than by the use of the statutory language. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.6)
Filing Spouse Title:Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Defendant. The Defendant is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:State of Michigan, __________ Judicial Circuit, __________ County. This is the Michigan court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Complaint for Divorce and Judgment of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Michigan law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Summons, Verified Statement, Marital Settlement Agreement, Notice of Hearing, and Record of Divorce or Annulment.
Court Clerk's Title:Office of the Clerk of the County Circuit Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Michigan is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
The circuit court of this state may include in any decree of divorce or of separate maintenance entered in the circuit court appropriate provisions awarding to a party all or a portion of the property, either real or personal, owned by his or her spouse, as appears to the court to be equitable under all the circumstances of the case, if it appears from the evidence in the case that the party contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property. The decree, upon becoming final, shall have the same force and effect as a Quitclaim Deed of the real estate, if any, or a Bill of Sale of the personal property, if any, given by the party's spouse to the party. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.19, 552.101 and 552.401)
Restoration or Name Change:The circuit courts of this state, whenever a decree of divorce is granted, may, at the instance of the woman, whether complainant or defendant, decree to restore to her her birth name, or the surname she legally bore prior to her marriage to the husband in the divorce action, or allow her to adopt another surname if the change is not sought with any fraudulent or evil intent. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.391)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
Upon entry of a judgment of divorce or separate maintenance, if the estate and effects awarded to either party are insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance of either party and any children of the marriage as are committed to the care and custody of either party, the court may further award to either party the part of the real and personal estate of either party and spousal support out of the real and personal estate, to be paid to either party in gross or otherwise as the court considers just and reasonable, after considering the ability of either party to pay and the character and situation of the parties, and all the other circumstances of the case. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.13, 552.23 and 552.452)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:The court shall provide, either directly or by contract, domestic relations mediation to assist the parties in settling voluntarily a dispute concerning child custody or parenting time that arises in a friend of the court case. Parties shall not be required to meet with a domestic relations mediator.
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Michigan courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
The following factors to be considered, evaluated, and used by the court to determine what is in the "best interests" of the children when establishing a child custody order: (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child. (b) 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. (c) 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 this state in place of medical care, and other material needs. (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity. (e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes. (f) The moral fitness of the parties involved. (g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved. (h) The home, school, and community record of the child. (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference. (j) 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. (k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child. (l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.16 and 722.23)
Child Support:Michigan child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent's income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
A formula is used in establishing and modifying a child support amount and health care obligation. The formula is based upon the needs of the child and the actual resources of each parent. The formula establishes a minimum threshold for modification of a child support amount. The formula considers the child care and dependent health care coverage costs of each parent. The formula includes guidelines for setting and administratively adjusting the amount of periodic payments for overdue support, including guidelines for adjustment of arrearage payment schedules when the current support obligation for a child terminates and the payer owes overdue support.
A child support order shall provide that payment shall be made to the friend of the court or the state disbursement unit. If the parent complained of opposes the entry of the order upon the ground that he or she is without sufficient financial ability to provide necessary shelter, food, care, clothing, and other support for his or her child or children, the burden of proving this lack of ability is on the parent against whom the complaint is made. (Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.15. 552.16, 552.452)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Michigan divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
Michigan divorce courts always encourage the separating spouses to agree to joint custody unless it is not in the best interest of the child. Michigan state law requires child custody based on the best interests of the child principle. The best interests of a child include the emotional bond between the child and each of the parents, the parent's capacity to give the child both financial and emotional support, the moral aptitude of each parent, and the mental and physical well-being of each parent.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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