Michigan Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Michigan divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Michigan.

To file for divorce in Michigan, one spouse or the other must have lived in the state for the past 180 days and in the county where the action is filed for at least 10 days. Michigan is a No-Fault divorce state.

In Michigan, the person filing is called the Plaintiff; the person responding is called the Defendant. Divorce actions are filed in the county court.

In Michigan, a couple without children can be divorced in as little as 60 days, but when children are involved, a divorce cannot be granted in less than six months.

In Michigan, the Office of the Friend of the Court assists the court in divorce cases when the parties have minor child(ren), or they have one of more issues in dispute. The Friend of the Court does the following:

> conducts investigations, holds hearings and makes recommendations on matters of property division, alimony, child support and visitation;
> collects, processes and accounts for alimony and child support;
> enforces court orders relating to alimony and child support.

The easiest and simplest route to divorce is a Consent Divorce. In this routine, the couple 1) must meet the Michigan residency requirements, and 2) agree a) to sign any necessary papers and attend any required hearings, b) about the division and distribution of all property, c) spousal support (either no support or support, how much and for how long) and d) child custody and support (which parent and how much).

In this arrangement, the couple follow these steps:

> complete the necessary forms;
> file the forms with the court clerk;
> if there are children, both spouses agree to meet with the Friend of the Court, and provide any additional required papers and information, as requested;
> the Plaintiff appears for a short hearing before the judge. (The Defendant may appear if he or she wants to.)
In a Consent Divorce, the Plaintiff must file the following forms:
> A Complaint for Divorce, which starts the action. It includes statistical information about both parties, identifies the grounds, identifies minor children, establishes whether or not property is to be divided, whether support is sought.
> A Verified Statement and Application for IV-D Services, which is filed if children are involved. The Verified Statement and Application is used by the Friend of the Court in collecting, recording and enforcing child support.
> The Marital Settlement Agreement, which spells out the details of the spousesí agreement. It includes the details of child custody, child support, heath care insurance and expenses, child visitation, the division of assets and liabilities, alimony as well as any provisions that are unique to the couple.
> A Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit, which establishes the legitimate home state of any minor children and is used in conjunction with the prevention of child abuse as well as parental kidnapping. This affidavit must be completed if there are minor children.
> An Answer and Waiver, which establishes that the Defendant has received the Complaint for Divorce and agrees to let the action proceed.
> A Judgment of Divorce, which ends the marriage.
> A Record of Divorce or Annulment, which is an administrative form used to keep track of divorces in the state.

Some couples end marriages by way of a uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce happens when 1) the Defendant simply ignores the action and does not file an Answer or 2) when he or she cannot or will not be located. Both situations then resolve themselves by default.

In an uncontested divorce, the Plaintiff must complete all of the forms filed in a Consent Divorce. In addition, however, he or she must file these forms:

> A Summons, which gives the Defendant 21 days to answer the Complaint if he or she is in Michigan and 28 days if he or she is out of state. The Summons puts the Defendant on record as being informed of his or her rights. The Summons and a copy of the Complaint are served on the Defendant, who accepts them. The person serving -- a sheriff, deputy or process server -- returns the Proof of Service form, which becomes part of the record of the case.

Other than the Summons, all other forms that must be delivered to the Defendant may be send by certified mail.

> A Default Request, Affidavit, Entry and Judgment, which requests that the court enter a judgment when the Defendant fails to respond to the complaint within the allotted time.
> A Request for Certificate of Military Service Status, which certifies that a spouse is or is not in a branch of the armed forces.

If the spouse is in the military, he or she may enjoy protections from divorce under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and may be able to postpone the divorce action. If he or she is not, the Default Request may be filed.

Sometimes a Defendant may file an Answer to the Complaint, then for one reason or another decide to let the case proceed as an uncontested divorce. In that case the Defendant must file a Stipulation to Withdraw Answer Order, which, when signed, permits the case to proceed uncontested.

If the parties reach agreement and file a Martial Settlement Agreement, the action can either move along as a Consent Divorce or a default divorce, which is now uncontested.

Between the filing, service and final decree, couples with children must meet with the Friend of the Court, who will require financial information about the parties.

After all the above steps have been taken, the Plaintiff must file a Notice of Hearing, which informs the Defendant of the time, date and place of the divorce hearing.

A contested divorce happens when the Defendant files an Answer to the Complaint challenging the allegations. Many times divorces that begin contested end uncontested because even as the case works through the court the spouses continue to negotiate and bargain.

In any event, a contested divorce begins with the Summons, the Complaint for Divorce, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit and the Verified Statement and Application for IV-D Services. These are the same forms used as described above in the uncontested divorce.

The course of a contested divorce is impossible to predict because both spouses move strategically, each for his or her own best advantage. However, if the Defendant contests the action, the Plaintiff may undertake discovery, which entails the subpoenaing of financial records as well as filing a Notice of Taking Records Deposition. At any point between the Answer and the a divorce trial, however, the couple who achieves an agreement can redirect the action along the route of the uncontested divorce.

When a spouse cannot or will not be found, the Plaintiff must make what is termed "a diligent search." This search entails contacting or checking:

> the telephone directory and directory assistance in the area where the missing spouse lives;
> directory assistance in the area where the spouse was last known to reside or any area where he or she might be;
> friends and relatives who might know the whereabouts of the missing spouse;
> the post office in the area where the spouse last lived;
> tax records in the county where the spouse was last known to have lived;
> the Michigan Secretary of State to see of the missing spouse has a current driverís license or registration;
> any other sources that might produce a current address, such as landlords, former employers.

If the search produces an address, the missing spouse can be served. If not the Plaintiff must complete a Motion and Verification for Alternative Service, which informs the court of measures taken to locate the missing spouse and requests permission to publish the Summons.

The Plaintiff can then prepare an Order for Alternative Service, which can be used when the Plaintiff knows where his or her spouse is but cannot service him or her because he or she is dodging the process server, or an Order for Service by Publication/Posting and Notice of Action, which is used when location of the missing spouse is not known.

Serving by Order for Alternative Service means that the Complaint is delivered by first class mail, may be tacked to the door or delivered to a responsible member of the household.

Serving by Publication/Posting and Notice of Action means that Plaintiff may now publish the Complaint in a newspaper in the county of residence once a week for three weeks. After this, the court can proceed with the action in the manner of a default.