Answering a Divorce Complaint in Michigan
By Claire Gillespie
Updated July 24, 2018
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If your spouse has filed for divorce, he is the plaintiff and you are the defendant. You may file a response to the divorce complaint, but you are not legally obliged to do so. However, if you want to contest the terms of the divorce and have your views considered by the court, you must answer the complaint, otherwise the court is likely to enter a default judgment and grant the divorce without your input.
Michigan Grounds for Divorce
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, meaning there is no need to prove grounds, such as adultery or abandonment, to get a divorce. The plaintiff must simply state that the marriage has been broken down to the extent that "the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved." No other grounds are required in the divorce complaint apart from this statutory language.
In Michigan, a divorce can be granted even if one spouse does not want a divorce. There is no need to live in a separate home in order to get a divorce. Separated spouses can still live under the same roof, provided they are not living together as a married couple.
Contesting a Divorce in Michigan
The complaint includes the plaintiff's requests regarding division of property, child support and/or spousal support, and child custody. If all of the information in the complaint is correct, and you agree with the plaintiff's requests, you do not need to contest the divorce and as such, you are not required to file an answer.
However, if you disagree with any of the plaintiff's requests, this means you contest the divorce and you should file an answer to the complaint. Every divorce case has different circumstances and considerations, and it's important that both parties have the chance to make their views known to the court.
There is no official answer to a complaint for divorce form in Michigan. Some courts may provide an answer sheet with the complaint on which you can indicate your responses to each section. This also lets you provide your own requests in relation to matters such as child custody, support and division of property. Check the information provided with the complaint for specific instructions from the court on how to answer the complaint.
Response to Divorce Petition Procedure
You have 21 days from the date you were served personally with the divorce complaint to file an answer or 28 days from the date of service if you were served by mail or while you were outside of Michigan. You can either mail your answer to the court office or deliver it by hand.
You may also file a counterclaim for divorce, in which you ask the court to grant a divorce on your specified terms. You must file a counterclaim for divorce at the same time as you file your answer. If you don't file an answer, the court may enter a default judgment and rule in favor of the plaintiff by granting the divorce.
- If you have a lot of assets to defend, consider hiring a lawyer. Having the help of a professional will help you get a fair distribution of the assets.
- Failure to answer the divorce petition on time will result in a default divorce, in which the judge is likely to accept all the terms of the divorce requested by the petitioner. The judge will see your failure to answer as a way of agreeing to all the terms in the petition.
Claire Gillespie writes about health, science, home and parenting. She has bylines on SELF, SheKnows, The Washington Post, Vice and more.