When spouses own no property together and custody of children is not an issue, divorce can be a relatively quick, painless procedure. However, this depends on whether both spouses want the divorce and whether they accumulated any debt during the marriage. In Michigan, divorcing spouses must divide marital debts just as they would property. When spouses can agree how to do that, Michigan allows them to divorce through a simplified consent procedure.
Complaint for Divorce
Michigan is a “pure” no-fault state, which means that it does not recognize fault-based grounds at all. Spouses can only file for divorce by mutual consent, or one spouse can allege irreconcilable breakdown of the marriage. Complaint for divorce packets for both options are available from each county’s Clerk of the Circuit Court. One spouse must have lived in the state for six months to file.
Marital Settlement Agreement
A simplified consent divorce requires that the filing spouse submit a marital settlement agreement and a proposed judgment of divorce to the court when she files her complaint. If there are no children, custody and child support provisions aren’t necessary. The agreement should state that there’s no property. If the spouses have debts, and if they can agree how they’re going to pay them post-divorce, they should detail the terms in the agreement. If they don’t share any debt, they should state this as well. Both spouses must sign the agreement and the proposed judgment.
Michigan typically imposes a six-month waiting period before the court will grant a divorce, beginning with the date of the filing of the complaint. However, when there are no children involved, this waiting period is much shorter: only two months.
Michigan requires only a brief court appearance after spouses submit their agreement and judgment, and after the waiting period has expired. In Michigan, this is a “pro confesso” hearing, or pro con hearing. The spouse who filed the complaint confirms on the record and before the judge everything she stated in her complaint. Often, the judge will sign the submitted divorce judgment that day, attaching to it the marital settlement agreement. The divorce is then final. However, if the court is busier than usual and the judge must hear several cases that day, the court might mail the signed judgment to the spouses at a later date. The signing date is the date of the divorce.
If spouses can’t agree on how to divide debts, a trial is still required even if they have no property or children. The court will have to apportion the debts between the spouses for payment. This is true even if spouses file a complaint on mutual consent grounds. Mutual consent means that both spouses want the divorce, not necessarily that they agree how to resolve all the necessary issues. If a marital settlement agreement and a proposed judgment are not submitted to the court before the two-month waiting period expires, the court will schedule a trial to deal with any open issues between the spouses.