How to Contest an Uncontested Divorce Summons From Michigan

by Michael Butler

If your spouse filed for divorce in Michigan and you did not answer the petition, your spouse can file for a default judgment. You will receive a summons of an uncontested divorce or default judgment hearing. If you want to contest the default, you have a limited time to do so.

Default Judgment

When your spouse requests a default judgment, he is asking the court to hold an uncontested divorce hearing to grant the divorce and make property, custody and support orders granting what your spouse wants. He can ask for a default because you failed to file an answer with the court within 21 days of receiving the petition (28 days if you live outside of Michigan). A default can also occur if you failed to appear at a scheduled hearing or missed another deadline in the case. To avoid the default judgment, you must file a motion to set aside the default either before the judgment is granted or within 21 days after the judgment is entered. To have the court rule in your favor, you must first show that there was a good cause for your default and that you have a meritorious defense in the divorce.

Good Cause

You must prove to the court that you had a good reason for the failure that put you in default. This is known as "good cause shown." Generally, neglect is not a good cause. For example, if you forgot to file an answer on time, that's not a good cause. You can demonstrate a good cause due to fraud, excusable mistake or impossibility. For example, if you were in the hospital for two weeks before your answer was due, that might be good cause. If your spouse failed to properly serve you with notice of the divorce, that also might be good cause.

Meritorious Defense

If the court agrees that you have a good cause for the default, you still need to show the court that you have a meritorious defense to something in the divorce case. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, so a meritorious defense cannot be that you don't want the divorce. However, if your spouse is requesting an inequitable property division or a custody order not in the best interests of your children, you might have a meritorious defense.

Considerations

In Michigan, judges have wide discretion in ruling on motions to set aside a default, which means that standards sometimes vary between judges. You should consider consulting an attorney familiar with the judge in your case to see how the judge usually rules in similar circumstances as yours. If the judge does agree to set aside your default, the divorce will proceed normally. Be sure to meet all deadlines in the case to avoid another default.