Free Do-it-Yourself Divorce in Michigan
By Jayne Thompson
Updated November 04, 2019
The state of Michigan permits divorcing couples to file the necessary court paperwork themselves without legal assistance. This is a cost-effective and easy option, particularly for amicable divorces whereby the parties are in agreement about child custody arrangements, spousal support and the division of property. While it’s possible to start from scratch with the required documents, the interactive Do-It-Yourself Divorce tool from Michigan Legal Help makes the process even easier.
Who Can Get Divorced in Michigan?
Like many states, Michigan has residency requirements that must be met prior to filing for divorce. Specifically, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the state of Michigan for at least 180 days before filing for divorce and in the county where they file for at least 10 days immediately before filing.
Other than that, there are no requirements. Michigan operates a no-fault divorce system, which means that the parties only have to state that there’s been an irrevocable breakdown of the marriage. There is no need to prove that the other spouse did anything wrong such as infidelity, abuse or abandonment.
What Paperwork Is Needed?
To dissolve the marriage, one spouse must file a complaint with the circuit court in the local county. This document asks the court to grant the divorce. The complaint is a relatively straightforward document that includes basic information such as the names and addresses of the spouses, place and date of the marriage, and whether there are any minor children.
Since this is an uncontested divorce, the spouses are expected to agree on a specific plan for dividing up property as well as child custody and parenting time arrangements. The plan should be written up and attached to the complaint. If the divorce is contested, meaning the spouses are not in complete agreement about the terms of the divorce, then the court will decide these matters.
The simplest way to get started on the court documents is to create an account with Law Help Interactive, accessed through the Michigan Law Help website, and answer a series of interview questions. The process takes around 30 to 90 minutes and will result in a completed set of court papers that are ready to sign and file with the court.
Service and Wait Periods
Once the papers are filed, an adult who is not a party to the marriage must serve them on the other spouse. Usually, the filing spouse will hire a process server to ensure that the papers are delivered correctly and proof of service is filed with the court clerk.
A mandatory wait period follows before the divorce is finalized. For couples without children, the wait period is two months. For couples with children, the wait period is six months. At this point, the court may refer the spouses to Friends of the Court, a mediation service that provides a caseworker to help couples with children deal with any unresolved family issues and ensure that the parents can obey parenting plans and other court orders.
Finalizing the Divorce
While there may be a final hearing in the divorce case, the court will normally just confirm the agreed arrangements for custody, alimony and so on if these arrangements appear to be sensible. The court may ask the spouses to fill out financial affidavits, listing their incomes and assets, to ensure that any decisions regarding property division, child support and alimony are fair and reasonable. Once everything is agreed and in order, the judge will issue the final order finalizing the divorce.
A former real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and corporate communications, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London.