Uncontested Divorce in Michigan
Filing for divorce can be a very difficult decision and a painful process filled with many emotions. The thought of a long, contentious divorce can be daunting for people who have made the decision to file for divorce. The possibility of an uncontested divorce, on the other hand, may ease those fears and move a person towards filing. An accurate assessment of whether the divorce process will truly be uncontested is necessary, and the best plans may be foiled if the other spouse decides to fight after receiving the divorce papers. This post covers some of the considerations and considerations for hiring counsel to assist you.
How to File Uncontested Divorce in Michigan
Filing for divorce in Michigan begins with the filing of a complaint with the county circuit court family division. The complaint must include certain statutory information about the parties to satisfy the minimum requirements for filing. A party may include additional information, and should if there is concern that the divorce may be contested. A "bare bones" complaint is generally not a good idea because leave to amend the complaint may be required.
A party should assume going into the process that the divorce may be contested. In cases where there are no assets, no debts and no minor children between the parties, going into a divorce with the belief that the process will be straightforward may be reasonable. Without digging deeper into those categories, the opposing party may surprise the filer with a belief that there is property. One surprise could be a retirement plan or pension that was never mentioned, or possibly an inheritance. When filing for divorce, planning for a contested divorce is always a good idea.
How to File Papers for an Uncontested Divorce in Michigan
For divorces that are expected to be uncontested, the normal divorce filing process should be followed. A judge will not allow variations from the many court rules just because the plaintiff believes the divorce case will be settled or a judgment entered prior to trial or discovery.
The divorce jurisdictional requirements must be followed including being a resident of Michigan for 180 days prior to filing. Once the complaint is filed, the court clerk will issue a summons to serve on the defendant spouse along with the complaint. This is a mandatory step, as notice is required to satisfy the defendant's due process of law.
The summons and complaint can be served via a process server, through the mail or in rare cases through publication. A defendant who attempts to avoid or evade service of process may be subject to a default judgment for failing to participate in the litigation.
What is the Best Way to File an Uncontested Divorce in Michigan?
The best way to file an uncontested divorce in Michigan is to file as if it will be contested. A party may claim they will not contest the divorce, but then when reality sets in and they are served, they change their mind.
Even in a case where there is an amicable divorce, the parties should plan to file as if it is not amicable unless they have an agreement reached ahead of the divorce filing. The parties in such a case may keep part of the terms of their divorce settlement private.
What If You Cannot Locate the Defendant?
If you hire a process server, or use someone you know to serve the divorce papers, failing to find the party may delay the court from entering a judgment of divorce. If the plaintiff cannot locate the defendant spouse, a judge will ask the plaintiff to make additional efforts including mailing the papers to the last known address and through publication. There may be cases where a defendant successfully claims lack of notice should result voiding the judgment and allowing the defendant to litigate the divorce case, which would involve either property settlement or rights related to the parties' minor child or children.
How Long Does It Take to For an Uncontested Divorce in Michigan?
If a case is truly uncontested and service of process is valid, a case without minor children can take approximately 90 days. For cases with minor children, there is a mandatory minimum of 180 days.
Where the defendant is successfully served, but fails to file an answer, the plaintiff may ask the court to enter a default judgment against the defendant. The default judgment will likely grant the plaintiff's requests for relief, but still must be reasonable. A defendant may be able to overturn a default judgment if he or she acts quickly enough and can show cause regarding why an answer was not filed. A court is not required to grant the request to set aside the default judgment.
What to Expect at Your Uncontested Divorce Hearing in Michigan
At the divorce hearing, if the defendant appears then the court may ask the defendant if the parties have discussed the divorce action and if there is any agreement. If there is nothing for the court to do regarding minor children or division of assets, then the court may enter a judgment or partial judgment according to the terms agreed to by the parties.
A judge may request that the parties declare that they are satisfied regarding discovery of assets, debts, etc. in order to make an informed decision regarding a property settlement. This may result in additional court dates. If the parties are both represented by attorneys, the court may be more likely to be satisfied that a settlement is fair and has been thoroughly reviewed by each party for completeness.
Contact Detroit Divorce Attorney Andrew Steiger for Uncontested Divorce Questions
Filing for divorce can be a very difficult decision and a painful process filled with many emotions. The thought of a long, contentious divorce can be daunting for people who have made the decision to file for divorce. The possibility of an uncontested divorce, on the other hand, may ease those fears and move a person towards filing. An accurate assessment of whether the divorce process will truly be uncontested is necessary, and the best plans may be foiled if the other spouse decides to fight after receiving the divorce papers. This post covers some of the considerations and considerations for hiring counsel to assist you. .