Do-it-Yourself Divorce Documents for Michigan
By Heather Frances J.D.
Like other states, Michigan allows divorcing couples to file their own paperwork with the court without the assistance of an attorney. This is a particularly helpful option if you and your spouse still get along enough to agree on the major terms of your divorce such as property division and child custody arrangements. While you can draft your own documents, an online legal document provider can help make this process easier for you and your spouse.
Grounds and Residency
You or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days immediately before you file for divorce, and one of you must have lived in the county where you file for at least 10 days immediately before you file. The only exception to this is for foreign citizens who can show that their minor children are at risk of being removed from the U.S. if they cannot immediately file.
You must also have grounds, or a reason, on which the court can base your divorce. In Michigan, the only grounds available is no-fault. You must state to the court that there has been a breakdown of your marriage to the extent that your marriage has been destroyed and there is no reasonable likelihood your marriage can be preserved.
To initiate your divorce, you must file a complaint, or petition, asking the court to give you a divorce. Your complaint form must state the grounds for your divorce as listed in Michigan statutes, but cannot expand on the reasons for your divorce. For example, you cannot address your spouse’s infidelity in the complaint even if it was the reason for the breakdown of your marriage. Your complaint must also list the basic information about your marriage, such as where and when you were married, whether you have minor children and where you and your spouse currently live. Your complaint is also the place to tell the court what relief you are seeking, including a specific plan to divide your property and a custody arrangement. Drafting a complaint can be complex, so it may be wise to rely on the aid of an attorney or online legal document provider.
Filing and Service
After you complete your complaint, you must take the original and two copies to the courthouse, filing the original with the court and keeping one copy for you and one for your spouse. You must pay a filing fee when you file your forms, or you can ask the court to waive your fees by completing a separate application. Depending on your local court’s procedures, the court may provide you with a summons at the time you file or may require you to provide your own. This document tells your spouse when he is required to come to court or file a response to your complaint.
You must serve your spouse with the complaint, summons and any other paperwork you filed at the courthouse within 91 days from the day your summons was issued. Typically, papers are served in person by a process server or served by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested. You must file proof of service with the court clerk.
If your spouse responds to your complaint within the period listed on the summons, you may have to present evidence in front of a judge and let him decide the terms of your divorce. However, if your spouse does not respond, you can still obtain a divorce by filing a Default Request, Affidavit and Entry form with the court and serving it on your spouse. The court will then schedule a final hearing for your case. The court may also require you to fill out financial affidavits, forms that list your income and assets. Often, these types of forms help the court make decisions regarding property division, spousal support and child support.
You must prepare a Judgment of Divorce for the judge to sign at this hearing. The judgment repeats much of the same information in your original complaint, including the terms of your divorce. Once the judge signs this form you prepared, your divorce terms are legally established.
- Michigan Legal Help: I Need a Divorce and I Do Not Have Minor Children
- Mid-Michigan Family Law: Jurisdiction, Residency, Venue Requirements for Filing a Divorce in Michigan
- Michigan Legislative Website: Michigan Compiled Laws: Section 552.9
- Michigan Legislative Website: Michigan Compiled Laws: Section 552.6
- Harris & Literski: Financial Affidavit Tips for Michigan Couples Considering Divorce
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.