Divorce without Lawyers Michigan

Introduction to Divorce without Children

A divorce is a court process to end your marriage. In order to file for divorce in Michigan, either you or your spouse must have lived here for at least the last six months. Your divorce must be filed in the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse has lived for at least ten days before you file. Most people file in the county where they live, but you don't have to — you can file where your spouse lives.

You Do Not Have to “Prove” Anything to Get a Divorce

Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state. No fault means you don’t have to prove cheating, abandonment, cruelty, or anything else to get a divorce. Your spouse doesn't have to agree to give you a divorce. You can get a divorce even if you are the person who did something that made your marriage end. You don't need to have a legal separation or even be living apart to file for divorce.

The only ground for divorce in Michigan is “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.” This means there must be a serious, permanent marital breakdown. It means that it is very unlikely that you and your spouse can work things out.

Even though you don’t have to prove fault to get a divorce, a spouse’s behavior during the marriage can be an issue in resolving the divorce. The judge can consider fault if you and your spouse disagree about spousal support (alimony) or about how to divide your property.

Separate Maintenance

Often called a legal separation, separate maintenance is similar to divorce, but you are still married at the end of the case. The judge will divide marital property and debt and will decide whether to award spousal support. If you file a complaint for separate maintenance and your spouse files a counterclaim for divorce, the judge must consider the case a divorce.

You might file a separate maintenance case because you have a religious objection to divorce or want to stay married for other reasons.

Annulment

An annulment is a court decision that a marriage did not occur. You can only get an annulment in certain cases. The legal reasons for annulment include bigamy, mental incompetence, age, or relationship of the parties. You can also get an annulment if your spouse used force or fraud to get your agreement to marry.

End of Marriage

When you get a divorce, the judge will end your marriage and all the legal benefits that come with it. Because of Michigan’s no fault law, divorces are granted for almost any reason. It is not likely that you would have to prove your marriage has broken down.

Division of Property and Debt

You and your spouse acquired marital property and debt during your marriage. The judge will divide your marital property and debt fairly. For example, retirement benefits accrued during the mariage may be marital property. If so, the judge can award the other spouse an interest in the benefits. In most cases, marital property and debts will be divided evenly between the spouses.

Separate property is property one spouse owned before the marriage, or inherited during the marriage and kept separate from the couples’ other assets. Separate property is usually returned to the owner.

If you and your spouse can’t agree on how to divide your property and debts, the judge will decide how to divide them. To decide what is fair, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • The length of your marriage
  • Contributions to the marital estate
  • Your ages
  • Your health and your spouse’s health
  • Your standard of living during the marriage
  • The needs of each of you, and your current living situations
  • Your ability to earn money
  • Your conduct during the marriage (fault)
  • Fairness

For more information about property issues, read the articles Divorce Basics: Dividing Your Property and Debt and Real Estate and Divorce.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

The judge will also decide if you or your spouse will pay spousal support. Spousal support can be temporary or permanent, or it can be paid all at once in a “lump sum.” If one spouse asks for spousal support, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • The length of your marriage (spousal support more likely in long marriage)
  • Whether you or your spouse are at fault
  • The ability of each spouse to work
  • The source and amount of property you are each getting in the divorce
  • Ability to pay spousal support
  • Whether either of you is responsible for the support of others
  • How living with someone else (if you are doing so) affects your finances

Starting the Divorce

A divorce case is started by filing a summons, a complaint, and other required papers with the court. You can start your divorce process by completing our Do-It-Yourself Divorce. After you complete and file your forms, you must have your spouse served with the papers. Service is usually done by having a sheriff’s deputy or another person hand a copy of the papers to your spouse in person, or by sending the documents to your spouse by certified mail.

Answer

Your spouse may file an answer to your divorce complaint in response to each paragraph of your complaint. If your spouse files an answer, the case is considered “contested, ” meaning you and your spouse may not agree on all the major issues in your divorce. Major issues include property and debt division and spousal support. If you have a contested divorce, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer.

If your spouse does not file an answer, an order of default can be entered. If an order of default is entered or if you and your spouse are able to agree on everything in your case, then you have what is considered an “uncontested” divorce. However, just because a divorce is uncontested doesn’t mean the judge will approve everything you want in the divorce. The terms must still be reasonable and must follow the law. For example, the property division must be fair.

Waiting Period

If you and your spouse don't have children together, there is a two month waiting period before you can get a divorce. The waiting period begins when you file your divorce, even if you and your spouse were separated before that. If you and your spouse don't agree on everything, your divorce can take much longer than two months.

Resources
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