Every state has different procedures for divorce that may factor in residency requirements, waiting or separation periods, serving process, or custody considerations. As Michigan couples in Oakland and surrounding counties are deciding how to proceed, knowing what lies ahead is important as they consider their options.
Divorce is never easy. Beyond standard procedures and filings, there are several ways to manage a dissolution that may involve either litigation or a less confrontational out-of-courtroom method. Being prepared for what to expect will help everyone involved to also process difficult emotions and plan for the financial security of the family.
The standard divorce procedure
Even though there are standard procedures that begin a divorce in Michigan, many do not go to trial. A simple divorce proceeding without minor children can finish 61 days from the initial filing, and even with custody and support concerns, may be completed as early as six months from filing.
The process begins with a complaint for divorce that the plaintiff, who can be either spouse, files, which may include a mutual restraining order to prevent the moving or disposal of marital assets, and a temporary custody order. The court serves notice of the complaint to the other spouse, who becomes the defendant and must respond within 21 days to avoid future negative consequences.
The discovery process then begins, during which both sides reveal financial holdings and answer questions or give testimony regarding information the court needs to make determinations on property division and custody or parenting time.
Where children are involved, some counties require an early settlement conference to explore custody and parenting options, or mandatory classes to inform the parties of how divorce impacts families.
Options for divorce
The parties may try mediation to resolve differences, which is an informal process involving a neutral third party, and is a simpler, less expensive and private alternative to a courtroom proceeding. Other options if mediation falls short are a settlement conference before the judge, or arbitration, which would avoid a trial but is a process in which both parties must accept the outcome, which is binding
As Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, either spouse may simply testify that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for things to begin. But they do not have to divorce, either. If they both agree, the spouses can file for separate maintenance instead of divorce or request an annulment.