Divorce FAQ — Straightforward Answers To Your Vital Questions

On this page, you will find some of the questions we hear most often at Apex Legal Group, PLLC, in Monroe, Michigan. Talk to a lawyer to get personalized answers to your questions about divorce.

What are the requirements to file for divorce?

You or the other party must live in the state of Michigan for at least 6 months, and must have lived in the county where you are filing for at least 10 days. When the process begins, there does not need to be a separation, and the parties do not need to be living in different places.

How long does it take?

A divorce in Michigan cannot be resolved prior to 60 days after the petition was filed when there are no children involved in the divorce proceeding. When there are minor children of the parties, there is a "cooling off period", whereby the couple cannot obtain a divorce unless 180 days have lapsed since the filing of the divorce complaint. A period of prior separation does not matter for the time computation — the critical date that controls is the filing date of the complaint.

If there are compelling circumstances to finalize a case before the timeframe expires, those circumstances can be considered by the judge to waive the time lapse requirement.

What is the process?

A divorce or child custody action begins with a complaint filed with the circuit court where a party to the action resides. The clerk of the court gives the matter a case number and assigns a judge to hear the matter. The other side must then be served with the documents.

The other party is then required to file an answer to the complaint within 21 days after they are personally served. The answer should address the issues contained in the complaint for divorce in a paragraph-by-paragraph response whether they admit or deny the allegations stated in the complaint.

Parties often file motions to do various things. Motions are basically requests for the court to consider. Motions may address issues such as custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support (alimony), exclusive rights to a home, to order a party to maintain marital bills and more.

What is a Friend of the Court?

A Friend of the Court will usually be involved where there are minor children, if there is spousal support requested, or to help mediate and finalize a divorce or custody action, or to help enforce any of the stated items. Parties may have to meet with the Friend of the Court at various stages in the process. The Friend of the Court can also help parties mediate to finalize the issues contained in the divorce or custody action.

What determines custody?

Custody decisions are made considering the "best interest of the minor child" standard. These best interests include the child's preference, mental fitness of the parties, physical fitness of the parties, moral character, love and affection between parent and child, ability to provide for the child, and other factors.

There are two aspects of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about your children: where they go to school, what religion they follow and medical decisions. Parties can have joint legal custody, which is usually preferred by courts, but legal custody can be awarded to one person.

Physical custody is usually awarded to the parent where the children reside most. It basically refers to who the children look to for everyday needs and wants. Courts can provide for parties to have sole or joint physical custody.

How is parenting time determined?

Parenting time is also based on the best interests of the minor child. Parenting time for minor children can be "reasonable and liberal" where parenting time is basically left for the parties to work out, or can be specific, whereby days and times are specified when parenting time begins and ends.

Parenting time can be supervised under certain conditions. These can include drug use, criminal history, lack of relationship between child and parent, etc. Supervision can be with a trusted friend or relative, or may be monitored by a third-party service.

How much child support will I have to pay?

Michigan uses a child support formula to calculate support for children. The formula considers things like incomes of the parties, the number of overnights that each parent receives, if the parties have other children from prior relationships, who is paying health or child care for the minor children, and who is receiving a tax deduction for the minor children. The attorneys at Apex Legal Group, PLLC, are able to run guidelines to calculate approximate payments.

Will I owe spousal support?

Spousal support (formerly called alimony or palimony) is calculated pursuant to a formula similar to the above-stated process. The formula for spousal support considers things like level of ages, level of education, income of both parties, years of marriage, etc. The attorneys at Apex Legal Group, PLLC, are able to run guidelines to calculate approximate spousal support amounts and duration.

How is a divorce finalized?

Most divorces are settled after mediation, or by agreements by the parties. The assets of the parties should be equitably or fairly divided. In Michigan, property division of marital assets is normally split on an approximate 50:50 basis. Retirement accounts are often divided by way of qualified domestic relation orders (QDRO) whereby a spouse gets their "marital share" of the account.

Separate property may not be divided. Instead, it may be returned to the original owner. Separate property can include property that a party owned prior to marriage. It can also include inheritance of a party if the inheritance was kept separate from the other party.

A divorce judgment is prepared to put the agreed upon terms in writing. The judgment of divorce will contain paragraphs that separate real or personal property, debts, retirement accounts, and will include custody, parenting time and support provisions (if necessary).

A hearing will be held before the judge to put the agreement on the record, and to ask jurisdictional questions before the case is finalized.

If there is no agreement among the parties, a trial will be set where the court may consider any factor that led to the divorce, and the court will then decide how to divide assets, divide debt and all other decisions involved in the case.

What is separate maintenance?

An action for separate maintenance is very similar to that of a divorce, but at the finalization of the case, the parties are still married. A separate maintenance will still establish custody, parenting time, support, divide debt, assets, retirement accounts. Parties file for separate maintenance for various reasons, including religious reasons, or parties want to remain married for a different reason.

Do you have a question to add to this Divorce FAQ?

Every marriage, divorce, client and case is unique. Your personal questions are important. Let us hear from you. Contact Apex Legal Group, PLLC, in Monroe, Michigan, an established family law firm also serving Lambertville and surrounding communities. Call 734-240-5050 or send an email inquiry through this website.