Michigan Divorce Law
Divorce and Legal Separation in Michigan
Divorce and Legal Separation in Michigan
Michigan Divorce Basics
To file for Divorce in Michigan, one of the spouses must have resided in the state for 180 days prior, and in the county where the action will be filed for 10 days immediately before filing, with the following exception. A person may file a Complaint for Divorce in any county in Michigan without fulfilling the 10-day requirement if all of the following criteria apply:
- The Defendant, non-filing spouse, was born in, or is a citizen of, a country other than the U.S.;
- The parties to the divorce action have a minor child(ren);
- There is information that would allow the court to reasonably conclude that the minor child(ren) are at risk of being taken out of the U.S. and retained in another country by the Defendant.
The Plaintiff, filing spouse, may file a Complaint for Divorce in the family division of the circuit court. The Defendant may file an Answer admitting the grounds for divorce or denying them without further explanation.
If the Defendant did not live in Michigan either when the Complaint for Divorce was filed or when the cause for divorce alleged in the Petition arose, in order for the court to issue a divorce decree, one of the following circumstances must occur:
- The Defendant shall have been brought in by publication;
- The Defendant shall have been personally served with process, or with a copy of the order for appearance and publication within Michigan or elsewhere; or
- The Defendant has voluntarily appeared in the action or proceeding.
If there are no minor children, there is a 60-day waiting period before a divorce can be granted. When there are minor children, the waiting period is generally six months. These cases may be referred to the friend of the court office for evaluation and recommendations regarding child support, custody, and parenting time.
When a decree of divorce is granted, at the request of the woman, the circuit court may decree to restore her birth name or the surname she legally bore prior to the marriage, or to allow her to adopt another surname if the change is not sought with any fraudulent or evil intent.
Legal Grounds for Divorce
The court shall enter a judgment dissolving the bonds of matrimony if 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.
- One of the parties was under the age of legal consent when the couple married and they separate while he/she is still under-age and do not cohabitate afterwards;
- The consent of one of the parties of the marriage was obtained by force or fraud, and there have been no subsequent voluntary cohabitation of the parties.
- Marriages between a man and his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, his sister, niece, aunt, a first cousin stepmother, grandfather’s wife, son’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, or wife’s granddaughter;
- Marriages between a woman and her father, grandfather, son, grandson, her brother, nephew, uncle, a first cousin, stepfather, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband, husband’s father, husband’s grandfather, or husband’s son;
- Bigamy; or
- Either party was not capable in law of contracting at the time of the marriage.
A suit to annul a marriage, on the ground of the physical incapacity of one of the parties, shall only be maintained by the injured party against the party whose incapacity is alleged, and must be brought within two years from the date of the marriage.
If a marriage is voidable, or the validity is doubted, either party may file a Petition or bill in the Circuit Court where one of the parties resides, or in the court of chancery, for annulment.
If the validity of any marriage is denied or doubted by either of the parties, the other party may file a bill or petition to affirm the marriage, and upon proof of the validity, the court will issue a decree or sentence of validity.
The circuit court may award to a party all or a portion of the real or personal property owned by his/her spouse, as deemed to be equitable under all circumstances of the case, it if appears from the evidence in the case that the party contributed to the acquisitions, improvement, or accumulation of the property. The decree, upon becoming final, shall have the same force and effect as a quitclaim deed of the real estate, if any, or a bill of sale of the personal property, if any, given by the party’s spouse to the party.
When a Michigan court grants a judgment of divorce or separate maintenance, it shall include a provision in lieu of the dower of the wife in the property of the husband, which shall be in full satisfaction of all claims that the wife may have in any property that the husband owns or may own in the future or in which he may have an interest.
When a married couple own real estate as joint tenants or tenants by entirety, upon a divorce, they shall become tenants in common of the real estate, unless the ownership is determined differently by the divorce decree.
The court considers the following factors when distributing marital property.
- Each party’s past relations and conduct;
- The length of the marriage;
- The source of the property;
- Each party’s contribution towards its acquisition;
- The needs of the parties;
- Each party’s earning ability;
- The cause of the divorce;
- The age and health of each party;
- The life status of each party;
- Necessities and circumstances of each party;
- General principles of equity; and
- Any additional factors as deemed relevant.
The following factors are considered when determining alimony awards:
- Past relations and conduct of parties;
- Length of the marriage;
- Age and health of the parties;
- Present situation of the parties;
- Needs of the parties;
- Ability to pay alimony;
- Source and amount of property awarded to each party;
- Prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of other persons; and
- General principles of fairness.
Child Custody and Support
When parents cannot reach an agreement regarding custody, the judge will decide by analyzing the following best interests of the child factors:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child(ren);
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child(ren) love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child(ren) in his/her religion or creed, if any;
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child(ren) with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of Michigan in place of medical care, and other material needs;
- The length of time the child(ren) has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- The moral fitness of the parties involved;
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved;
- The home, school, and community record of the child(ren);
- The reasonable preference of the child(ren), if the court considers the child(ren) to be of sufficient age to express preference;
- The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent or the child(ren) and the parents;
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child(ren);
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
- Joint legal custody – the parents share decision-making responsibility in relation to important life decisions affecting the child(ren); and
- Joint physical custody – more equal parenting time arrangements and shared responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child(ren).
Michigan uses the Income Share Model to determine child support. The court shall generally order child support as determined by the Michigan Child Support Formula developed by the state friend of the court.
The court may deviate from the child support formula if it determines from the facts of the case that use of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate. Support orders entered by the circuit court shall provide for an order of income withholding.
A child support order may continue past the age of 18 if the child is regularly attending high school on a full-time basis with a reasonable expectation of completing sufficient credits to graduate from high school while residing on a full-time basis with the recipient of the support or at an institution, but only until the child is 19 and ½ years of age.
Legal Separation vs. Separate Maintenance
Originally, there were two types of divorce:
- Absolute divorce from the bonds of matrimony – terminates the marriage, equivalent of today’s divorce or dissolution of marriage; and
- Divorce from bed and board – where the parties do not live together, and establish an agreement regarding division of property and other rights and responsibilities regarding the marriage, equivalent of today’s Separate Maintenance.
If a couple later decide to seek a divorce, they can file an Amended Petition and ask the court for Dissolution.
Links to State Resources
- Child Support Formula Manuals
The child support formula is reviewed and changed periodically and its figures updated for economic changes by the Friend of the Court Bureau. The Bureau provides links to the most current manuals and supplements, as well as links to the Support Abatement Calculation and instructions for its use.
- Divorce Forms
Information and forms for divorce, support orders, parenting time orders, custody orders and more. Provided by the self-help center of the Michigan Court system.
- Michigan Revised Statutes, Chapter 552 - Divorce
Links to Michigan Statutes regarding divorce in Michigan.
- Trial Court Directories
Links to Michigan courts by county.