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No two divorces in Michigan are exactly the same. However, there are certain steps that must be taken in every divorce, and understanding what those are can help you prepare for the process.
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. This means you must only state there has been a breakdown in the marital relationship and there is little chance of reconciliation. Before filing, you must live in the state for at least 180 days, and in the county you are filing for a minimum of 10 days. If you do not have children, you must wait 60 days. If you do have children with your spouse, the waiting period is extended to 180 days.
The divorce process is complex, particularly if either spouse has a high net worth, there are children involved, or there are complex property division issues. A lawyer will explain the law around these issues and help you through the process.
All divorces begin with one spouse filing the complaint with the court. The person who files is considered the plaintiff, while the other spouse is the defendant.
Once a spouse is served with the complaint, he or she has 21 days to answer. If the defendant answers the complaint, he or she can admit or deny the allegations in the complaint. If the spouse answers the complaint, the divorce then becomes contested. If the defendant does not answer, the court may issue an order of default. The plaintiff only then has to appear before the judge for the final court hearing in which the divorce will be finalized.
Divorces can take a long time, and during the process, spouses may wonder what to do about child custody, child support, alimony, and more. A judge will make a temporary decision on these terms and issue a temporary order outlining those decisions.
During the discovery phase, the lawyers for each side will exchange information. The lawyers will usually ask the other party for information on issues they believe will be contested during the divorce.
Before the case goes to trial, the lawyers for each side will meet and enter into negotiations. The majority of divorce cases are settled at this point. If the two sides can reach an agreement and resolve the issues of the divorce on their own, the agreement is drafted and taken to court for final approval.
If negotiations are unsuccessful and the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to trial. Divorce trials are time-consuming and costly. The decisions made during a trial are also made entirely by the judge and the couple has no control. Any decision the judge makes is legally binding.
The Judgment of Divorce is the final legal document that approves the divorce. It will also outline certain terms of the divorce, including child custody, child support, and spousal support. Each party will review and sign the agreement before it is submitted to the court.
If you are going through the divorce process, our Clinton Township divorce lawyers at Iafrate & Salassa are here to help you through it. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and to learn how we can help.