Divorce – State FAQ – Michigan
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Michigan prior to filing for divorce in a Michigan court?
A: At least one of the parties to an action for divorce must have resided in Michigan for at least 180 days immediately prior to the filing of the complaint and must have resided in the county of filing for at least 10 days immediately prior to the filing of the complaint. This requirement may be waived, however, if the defendant was born in or is a citizen of a foreign country and the parties have minor children that are at risk of being taken out of the U.S.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is called the Plaintiff, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Defendant.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Michigan, proper venue for the divorce action is the Circuit Court. The divorce action must be filed in the county where either party resides.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Complaint for Divorce, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Judgment of Divorce.
Grounds for divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Michigan. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Michigan?
A: The only grounds upon which a divorce may be granted in the State of Michigan is 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.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
Either party may be ordered to pay alimony to the other party in an amount and for a term that the court deems reasonable. The court has broad discretion.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Michigan is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. The court will divide the property of the parties as it deems equitable under the particular circumstances of the case. All of a party’s property is subject to division if the court determines that the other party contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property is probably not subject to division. Under Michigan law, because the husband did not contribute to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the silverware, it should not be subject to division even if used on a relatively frequent basis. However if used every day, and if the husband helped clean or wash the silver, the issue would be more uncertain.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: Can grandparents be granted visitation rights?
A: Yes. Grandparents can obtain visitation rights if it would be in the best interest of the child to do so. Determination of the best interest of the child may or may not require a hearing.
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: The court may award custody to either parent, regardless of sex, subject to the best interests of the child. In determining the child’s best interests, the court shall consider the factors listed in the Divorce Information section of the Michigan Divorce Main Page.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: The State of Michigan has enacted child support guidelines which establish the amount of support which is presumed to be correct. The court may deviate from the guidelines however, upon a written finding that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.