How long does it take to get divorced in Michigan?
In cases where there are no minor children, the statutory waiting period is 60 days from the date the Complaint is filed. But remember that is the minimum amount of time it will take. Rarely are cases resolved in 60 days due to the court’s schedule or factors in the case. In cases involving children, the statutory waiting period is 60 days from the date the Complaint is filed. That being said, the typical case involving children could take up to a year to resolve.
The thing to remember is that the more issues you and your spouse can resolve together, such as custody and parenting time, or who is keeping the house, etc., the faster your case will be resolved and the less it will cost you in attorney fees.
What will it cost me to get divorced?
That depends on the issues in your case. The filing fee for a divorce without minor children is $175 and the fee with minor children is $255. There may be additional costs such as process server fees, motion fees or costs of mediation. Those costs depend on the issues in your case and do not apply for each case. My hourly rate is $300 and I determine what my retainer fee will be after our initial free consultation. Again, remember that the more you and your spouse can agree to, the less your costs will be.
Can we get a divorce without attorneys?
You have that right. Judges may or may not be helpful to you, though, and the legislature keeps changing the forms we need to file and the law changes constantly, making it difficult for attorneys who don’t regularly practice family law to keep up, let alone a non-lawyer. While it can be done, even successfully, I don’t recommend it.
What are the grounds for divorce in Michigan?
Michigan is a “no-fault” state. That means that we don’t have to “blame” either party for the divorce (even if we want to). That being said, fault could play a very small part in determining the property division, whether one party will receive spousal support or how much it will be, and it could affect custody of the children.
Is there any residency requirements to obtain a Michigan divorce?
Yes. You must live in Michigan for 180 days before you file your complaint for divorce. You must reside in the county in which you file for at least 10 days before you file.
What if my spouse lives in another state?
No problem. We are able to serve him or her in the state where they are living.
Is there a trial in every case?
No. As a matter of fact, trials in divorce cases are rare. If we are unable to come to an agreement on all issues between the parties and their attorneys, which isn’t unusual, we will be required to go to Mediation, where in my experience 90 percent of the cases are resolved. If we are unable to settle the case with Mediation, we can either go to trial or Arbitrate the case. Trials are very expensive, take a long time (several days spread out over several months) and take a terrible emotional toll on the parties. And almost no one wants their future, the future of their children and their property rights determined by a stranger.
What are Mediation and Arbitration?
Mediation is often successful in bringing the parties to an agreement. Mediation is held at the office of a neutral attorney — the Mediator. Each party and their attorney will be in a separate room, and the Mediator will sit with each side separately in an attempt to get each side to give a little on their positions to settle the case. The cost of Mediation is shared between the parties. The cost is usually $300 per hour and typically takes about four to five hours. Again, most cases submitted to Mediation are resolved there.
Arbitration is conducted in much the same way as Mediation. The Arbitrator is again a neutral attorney who will first get the parties to settle as many issues as possible. Those issues that don’t settle will be decided by that attorney. Essentially, he or she is the “judge” in the case. The differences between Trial and Arbitration are the cost, the length of time it takes, the appeal rights and the toll on the parties. A typical Trial could run upward of $10,000, while a typical Arbitration might be $3,000. The Trial will be conducted over several days, which may be spread out over several months due to the court’s schedule, over which attorneys have no control, while Arbitration may be conducted over a couple of short days, which are scheduled together with the Arbitrator so as to minimize the length of time it takes. After a Trial, you may have issues that can be appealed to the Court of Appeals. While you have that right, it doesn’t mean the decision will be different, it will delay the finality of your case and it will cost a great deal more. For Arbitration, there is virtually no appeal right. What the Arbitrator says goes, absent of showing of fraud or bias on the part of the Arbitrator. The advantage is the finality of the case. The other difference is the emotional toll. Arbitration is a much more casual atmosphere where the parties are kept separate whenever possible and the rules are relaxed. In a Trial, the parties must take the stand and testify about emotionally charged issues.
Do I have a right to a jury trial?
No, not in Michigan.
Can my spouse and I use the same attorney?
The easy answer is no, but parties can get a divorce with just one attorney and it happens quite often. In order to do so, one party is represented by the attorney (the Plaintiff) and the other party (the Defendant) is unrepresented. What I do in those cases is have an initial consultation with the person who will be retaining me and then another meeting with both parties so that I can answer any procedural questions for the nonrepresented party. The necessary component to make these cases run smoothly is cooperation. The parties resolve the issues between them and tell me what it is, and I prepare the paperwork to make it happen. Frankly, I wish more cases could be resolved in this manner and I encourage everyone to work together as much as possible to settle their cases amicably whether there are two attorneys or only one.