A divorce, like any type of court case, must follow certain procedures. Depending on whether the divorce is agreed to or contested, the process can be simple and quick or complex and protracted. If you’re planning to dissolve your marriage, you can make reasoned decisions based on having an understanding of what procedural steps lie ahead.
In Michigan, these are the 10 steps to divorce when there are disagreements on material issues:
- File complaint — The divorce action begins with a complaint, which is a formal request for dissolution. The plaintiff spouse files the complaint and serves it on the defendant. The law prescribes residency requirements and waiting periods prior to filing.
- Answer complaint — The defendant has either 21 or 28 days to respond, depending on where and how the defendant is served. The defendant can either admit or deny the allegations and can raise his or her own.
- Temporary orders — Either party can petition the court for temporary orders relating to such matters as child custody, visitation, possession of the marital home, protection of assets, child support, spousal support and protection against domestic violence.
- Discovery — The parties must each disclose all relevant financial information and personal relationship information that might affect the divorce. This is done by producing documents, answering written questions and appearing at depositions.
- Negotiation — The parties attempt to negotiate an amicable settlement. If the parties can come to an agreement on all issues, a formal agreement will be drafted for the court’s review and approval.
- Mediation — If the parties cannot agree on all issues, there will be at least one mediation session. A neutral mediator will try to get the parties to compromise on areas of disagreement. The mediation is non-binding. Neither party can be forced to accept the result.
- Motion hearings — The parties and their lawyers appear in court to be heard on any motions. These are requests for the court to grant relief where, for example, one spouse is alleged to be violating a court order or hiding assets. The hearings can involve legal arguments and testimony and can take place anytime during the divorce proceedings. Some cases have numerous motion hearings.
- Settlement conference — The parties appear in court again for a supervised settlement conference with the goal of reaching a compromise on outstanding disagreements.
- Trial — If the settlement conference is unsuccessful, the court schedules a trial at which all unsettled issues are decided. Trials, where a judge make a decision, are extremely rare and expensive.
- Judgment — A judgment, by consent, means that the parties have agreed to all the issues. This is the most common type of order that divides all the marital estates assets, debts and custody. If the parties have a trial and the judge makes the decision, the judgment will follow the judge’s opinion. Only a judgment entered after trial can be appealed.
The time required for each of these steps can vary widely depending on the circumstances. Experienced divorce attorneys are skilled at helping their clients find a path for resolving contested issues so as to reach a mutually beneficial divorce settlement.
Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights, Michigan practices divorce and family law throughout the greater Detroit metropolitan area. Contact us online or call 833-671-4445 for a free initial consultation.