MICHIGAN DIVORCE LAW AND FAMILY LAW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: How long does a typical Michigan divorce take?
A: In Michigan family law, an uncontested divorce, one in which the parties agree on all aspects of the divorce, usually takes about 90 to 120 days. Michigan has a 60-day waiting period following the filing and service of the initial divorce documents. After the 60 days, the court, either pursuant to a hearing or upon submission, sign the final divorce judgment . This is the reason for the additional time. If the dissolution is contested, it usually takes substantially longer, typically between six and eighteen months; however, some divorces take years.
Q: If one spouse moves to another state with the children, which state has the authority to rule on custody and visitation issues?
A: This is a common issue in divorce cases. Once a divorce has been filed and served, a court order called a Preliminary Injunction goes into effect. Among other things, this Injunction states that neither party may remove the children from Arizona without permission. However, if the children are removed prior to the divorce being filed, a number of factors come into play. Usually the strongest factor is the length of time that the children have resided in each place. Each situation is different, however.
Q: If the divorce isn't going to be final for months or more, are there any rules until then?
A. Yes. First, many rules go into effect via the Preliminary Injunction, as described above. This Preliminary Injunction is part of every properly filed divorce action in Michigan. Second, many parties to a divorce want more specific rules in place until the divorce becomes final. These case-specific rules are handed down by the court after one or both parties request temporary orders. A request for temporary orders may require a brief court hearing if the parties cannot agree. These temporary orders may address such issues as child support, custody, parental access, spousal maintenance (alimony), payment of debts, use of the marital residence and other issues. The temporary orders are only valid until the court finalizes the divorce.
Q: Can a parent move with the common children to another state after the divorce is final?
A: Under Michigan family law, it is possible that a parent with sole custody or one who is designated the primary physical custodian may be permitted to move from the state, as long as the reasons for moving are ones designated as proper according to divorce law. Some of these reasons include employment-related changes of the parent or the parent's new spouse, as well as health and safety considerations.
Q: May a parent with sole custody deny the other parent access to the child's school and medical records?
A: No, unless the court has issued its Order denying the access. In fact, under Michigan divorce law, an entity who does not comply with a parent's reasonable request for records must reimburse the requesting parent for court costs and attorney fees that parent incurs in forcing compliance with this family law. In other words, a non-custodial parent may request a child's records directly from a school or medical facility, as long as the request is done reasonably, and the records must be provided.
Q: Can't I just use a paralegal?
A: If your divorce is complex, contested or involves children, we don't recommend it. And we don't consider it a good idea to let a paralegal file the initial documents and then retain an divorce attorney later. It's preferable to let an attorney guide your divorce from the beginning. Of course, independent paralegal firms might disagree with our opinion.
Q: Any chance that my spouse will have to pay for my attorney's fees and court costs?
A: Yes. Under Michigan divorce law, the court may grant a party's request for attorney's fees after considering two factors: (1) the parties' financial resources, and (2) the reasonableness of the positions each party has taken throughout the proceedings. This means that a wealthy spouse may end up paying for a less well to do spouse's attorney fees. Likewise, a party who has been unreasonable has probably delayed the final resolution of the case, caused the other party to incur unnecessary fees and wasted the court's time. The court may use one party's unreasonable position, therefore, to justify an award of attorney's fees. There are no guarantees that a particular judge will award fees and costs, as this is a discretionary decision.
Q: What are Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce in Michigan?
A: You must be a resident of Michigan for 180 days and a county resident for 10 days to file for a divorce. Either spouse can get a divorce by stating in divorce papers that there has been a breakdown in the marriage to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.
Q: CHILD CUSTODY. WHAT IS IT?
A: Child custody is most often described by two concepts. The first is "legal custody." Michigan
encourages judges to award joint legal custody to parents. This means that both parents would
have a right to make decisions concerning such things as their child's education, medical
treatment, religious training or enrichment activities. The court also has the power to award
"physical custody" of the child to one or both parents. In establishing custody, the court reviews
all of the facts that are presented, and then determines where the child will primarily live based
on what the court believes will be in the best interests of the child using 12 best interest factors:
1- The love, affection and other emotional ties between the parents and the child
2- The capacity and disposition of the parents to give the child love, affection and guidance to continue the education and
3- raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any
4- The capacity and disposition of the parents to provide the child with material needs such as food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care in the place of medical care permitted by state law
5- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity
6- The permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes
6- The moral fitness of the parents
7- The home, school, and community record of the child
8- The reasonable preference of the child
9- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relations between the child and the other parent
10-Domestic violence, whether or not it was directed against or witnessed by the child
In addition, a court deciding whether to award joint custody will also consider:
11- whether the parents agree on joint custody, and
12- whether they will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decisions affecting their child's welfare
Q: How does a Court decide whether or not to award spousal support (alimony)?
A wide variety of factors will be considered in determining a spousal support award, including the age of the parties,
length of the marriage, health, needs, ability to work and the past relations and conduct of the parties, among others.
Q: How is property divided at divorce in Michigan?
Michigan is an equitable division state. In an equitable division state, each spouse owns the income he or she earns during the marriage, and also has the right to manage any property that's in his or her name alone. But at divorce, whose name is on what property isn't the only deciding factor. Instead, the judge will divide marital property in a way that the judge considers fair, but won't necessarily be exactly equal.
If you need an effective and experienced divorce attorney, contact us, today, to schedule your free initial consultation.
From our offices in Dearborn and Detroit, we represent clients throughout southeastern Michigan, including Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties.