The divorce process can be lengthy, tiring, and expensive in seriously contested divorce cases. However, most couples seeking divorce are unaware that most divorces do settle. The idea that divorce is inherently messy is an illusion in today’s modern liberalized world. By seeking an uncontested divorce, spouses can fast track their divorce through the court system, saving considerable time, headache, and expense.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Michigan uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Michigan Defined
Unlike many states, Michigan does not have a special uncontested divorce filing process. Instead, couples seeking an uncontested divorce must file for divorce normally, and then the court will categorize the filing as uncontested. In Michigan, uncontested divorce is accomplished by the filing of agreed separation agreements. That is why many people call Michigan uncontested divorce a 'negotiated judgment'.
An uncontested divorce is essentially an agreement between the spouses on the terms of their divorce. In a contested divorce, the judge must make a ruling on all of the various contested issues after hearing evidence. When a divorce is uncontested, however, the spouses will normally present the judge with a written settlement agreement suggesting terms for the divorce. If the judge believes that the agreement is fair, the judge will approve the settlement without hearing additional evidence or argument.
Requirements for Seeking a Michigan Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Michigan, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Michigan divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The spouses must satisfy Michigan’s two-tiered divorce residency requirement. First, at least one of the spouses must have resided in Michigan for more than six months prior to filing for divorce. Second, at least one of the spouses must have resided in the county in which the complaint was filed for at least ten days prior to the filing of the divorce (this second requirement may be waived if minor children are involved in the divorce).1
The parties must also demonstrate that sufficient grounds (or reasons) exist to grant a divorce. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. To file for divorce, the couple must allege that “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.”2
Finally, the couple seeking a divorce must agree on the disposition of the issues in the divorce. This is most often accomplished by the filing of a legally-binding separation agreement. In general, Michigan judges will approve any settlement agreement between the spouses if the agreement is fair. A completed separation agreement should address each of the following issues in the divorce:
- Division of the property the couples shared (this would include the marital residence, vehicles, and pets);
- Division of any debt obligations between the couple jointly;
- The effect of any tax consequences of the divorce;
- Spousal support (also known as alimony or spousal maintenance);
- Payment of attorneys’ fees and costs (in uncontested divorces, and
- If applicable, child custody, visitation and parenting plans, and child support.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Michigan
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- If you are filing for uncontested divorce without the assistance of an attorney, the first step is to prepare the divorce paperwork and create a written and signed separation agreement. Fortunately, several sample self-help divorce forms are available for free on the Michigan Courts’ website.3
- Next, you will need to determine where to file for divorce. You and your spouse should file in the circuit court in the county in which either spouse meets the residency requirement.
- The filing spouse must prepare divorce complaint and summons. File the complaint and summons along with any other required documents (ask your local circuit court for additional information on what documents they may require).
- The filing spouse must then serve your spouse either by hiring a process server, asking a sheriff’s deputy to make the delivery, or by U.S. mail.
- The non-filing spouse should file an answer admitting the divorce allegations and agreeing to the separation agreement.
- Once all of the paperwork has been filed, the filing spouse must schedule a divorce hearing with the court.
- Wait! Michigan law does not allow the judge to hear your divorce case until the required statutory waiting period has elapsed. The waiting period after filing either is two months without children involved in the divorce or six months if children are involved.
- The judge will approve the agreement and sign the final divorce decree at the hearing.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9.
- Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.6.
- Index of SCAO-Approved Forms for Use in Domestic Relations Matters, MICHIGAN COURTS: ONE COURT OF JUSTICE