Michigan Divorce Court Rules

by Jim Thomas

MIchigan is a no-fault divorce state. You can file for a no-fault divorce simply by claiming there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship with "no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved." If there are no issues in dispute, the divorce proceeding can go very smoothly. However, if you can't agree on issues such as child custody or a division of property, those matters will be decided by a judge at a trial.

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Filing for Divorce

To file for divorce, either you or your spouse must have been a Michigan resident for at least 180 days, and one of you must have lived in the county where you file for at least 10 days. You must submit a form, called a Summons, to the court, along with a Complaint for Divorce. Forms are available on the Michigan Court's website or at the county court itself. You must pay a filing fee and, if you have minor children, another fee to a court mediator, called a Friend of the Court.

Orders and Motions

After you file the complaint, it needs to be served on the other spouse by mail or in person by a process server. The defendant spouse files an answer to the complaint and, if there are any contested issues, the judge often will issue orders or motions -- requested by one or both parties -- that will maintain the status quo during the divorce process. For example, the court might freeze the assets of the couple or issue restraining orders against one or both parties.

Waiting Period

Rules in Michigan require at least a 60-day waiting period after the complaint is filed before a divorce is granted. If you have minor children, the waiting period is 180 days. However, if there are no issues in dispute between the parties, the judge has the option of shortening the waiting period.

Minor Children

If you and your spouse have minor children, you are required to submit to a Friend of the Court, or FOC, for an investigation. The FOC is a division of Michigan county courts and handles all issues involving minors, such as custody, child support and visitation rights. If you and your spouse agree on these issues, and they are acceptable to the FOC, the agreement will become part of the divorce settlement. If you can't agree, the FOC will write up recommendations for the judge to consider.


Some courts in Michigan require you to mediate contested issues to see if you can work out your differences. A neutral third-party mediator is appointed to work with you. Mediation is favored by many courts since it empowers you and your spouse to work out your own solution, instead of a judge imposing a settlement upon you.