The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Divorce in Michigan
Life is complicated and so is divorce. From the division of property to decisions about custody and child support, there are a number of issues that can arise during your case. This guide will help you to answer some of the pressing issues you may face when getting a divorce from “how much does a divorce in Michigan cost?”, to “will we need to go to court?” We hope this guide helps you make the best decision for you and your family.
Divorce Topics Covered:
- How much is this going to cost?
- How long is this going to take?
- Do I really need a lawyer?
- Do I have to go to court?
- What happens if we get back together — did I just waste all of my money?
- What if we can agree on some issues but not others?
- What’s the best way to keep my costs down in a contested divorce?
- What is a “no-fault” divorce under Michigan law?
- On what grounds can I divorce my spouse in Michigan?
- Does Michigan allow legal separation?
- How is property divided between spouses in a Michigan divorce?
How much Does it Cost to Get a Divorce in Michigan?
In Michigan, the average cost for a non-contested divorce can range from $1,200 to $1,500 with court filing fees and other legal documents. If your divorce is contested the costs can dramatically increase with a base price starting at $5,000. Other complications that may increase the cost of your divorce include the division of a business or other property along with disagreements over custody and spousal and/or child support. All of these complications will require your attorney to spend more time on your case increasing your overall costs. In addition, there may be additional filing fees that will need to be paid to the court system.
How long is this going to take?
There are some time requirements related to having a divorce finalized. If there are no children involved with your case, the final divorce decree may be issued in 60 days. However, if you have children involved it can take a minimum of six months from the date of filing.
Do I really need a lawyer to Get a Divorce in Michigan?
It is possible to go through a divorce without hiring a lawyer, but without the assistance of a professional, there is no guarantee your needs will be protected. There are a number of legal aid agencies who provide tools to help you build your case without hiring an attorney. Even though you can do it yourself it is important to have legal representation especially if your spouse has an attorney handling his or her case. At Grewal Law, we ensure your rights are protected and will provide you with a free, no obligation quote on the estimated costs for your divorce proceedings.
Do I have to go to court?
Sometimes people worry about having to go to court after filing for divorce. If your divorce is uncontested the process may move fairly smoothly without having to go to court. Often times these couples can have a written agreement reached between their attorneys. However, in many cases, there are some areas a couple may not be able to agree on regarding the divorce. In these instances, a divorce is considered contested and further legal action will need to take place before an agreement is reached.
When a divorce is contested, it is important to note that not every case will end up going to a Divorce Trial. One of the best alternatives to going to court is to enter into Divorce Mediation. Unlike having a trial in court, when a couple goes through mediation their case is handled by a neutral third-party who will work with both spouses to reach an agreement. There are different types of mediation and as your attorney, we can help you understand what options may be available to you.
What happens if we get back together after filing for divorce — did I just waste all of my money?
If you and your spouse decide to get together the divorce can be stopped. However, you are not able to receive a refund for any costs associated with court filings or with legal representation prior to that decision. Depending on where the divorce is within the court proceedings there may still be some costs associated with the withdrawal of the case. However, the costs you will be required to pay should be relatively minimal compared to if you went through with the divorce.
What if we can agree on some issues but not others?
There are alternatives to going to court when you and your spouse are able to partially agree on an agreement. The process of mediation allows the two of you to go before a neutral third party, a trained mediator, to have them negotiate an agreement. During the process, the two of you will be able to have open communication regarding your wants related to any disputed topics. Areas typically covered at mediation include parenting time, child custody, alimony, property division, assets, and debt.
More complicated cases will be referred through the Friend of the Court to Domestic Relations Mediation. When entering into the process each party has the chance to weigh in on the person they want to handle their case. If the two parties can’t decide on someone the court will appoint a mediator. It is important to note a professional mediator must be used for the case; you cannot have an outside party handle the mediation. Once the process begins, each party will be required to attend the sessions with their respective attorneys.
The focus of this type of mediation revolves around parenting time. The mediator will work with both parties of the divorce to reach an agreement that will eventually be issued through a court order and signed by a judge. The agreement is not automatically entered in a final judgment, you will have a chance to review it before it is officially filed with the court.
Another type of mediation you may be able to use in your case is Evaluative Mediation. Everyone must agree to participate in this type of mediation. Evaluative Mediation typically takes places if an initial agreement cannot be reached through Domestic Relations Mediation.
In these circumstances, the mediator will provide a written recommendation as to what he or she thinks should be the terms of the settlement. Once the document is received, both parties will have a chance to review the settlement in order to decide if it can be used to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached then the mediator will report to the court and your divorce case will move forward with a trial.
What’s the best way to keep my costs down in a contested divorce?
There are ways to keep down costs in a contested divorce. First, have your attorney provide you with a quote up front regarding estimated costs for your case. Once you have hired your attorney, try to maximize your time when talking to them on the phone, in-person or by email. Save up your questions to ask all at once rather than sending them in one at a time. This will reduce the overall charges you accumulate with your legal counsel because the time spent with them will be maximized.
Also, try to reach agreements with your spouse without having to go to trial. Even if you may not initially agree on everything look for alternatives compared to going to trial. Options such as mediation can save on time and headaches related to your divorce. The sooner you are able to reach an agreement the easier it is for you to keep the costs down related to the proceedings. Even if you are striving to keep down costs, still ensure your needs are met during the process. Working towards a mutual agreement through these alternative routes can help avoid high costs related to an actual divorce trial.
What is a “no-fault” divorce under Michigan law?
Michigan is a No-Fault state which means it is possible for a spouse to get a divorce without proving fault of the other party for the marriage’s breakup. Someone seeking a No-Fault divorce can allege there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. What this means in terms of your case is that you will be able to proceed with a divorce without any allegations of abuse, mental cruelty, adultery, drug/alcohol abuse or abandonment existing in the relationship.
No-Fault divorces do not mean that fault is not assigned in any issues addressed in your case. The court may still place fault when determining the final judgment. Any fault found against one person may be used in considerations related to alimony, child support and the division of property.
On what grounds can I divorce my spouse in Michigan?
Because Michigan is a No-Fault state you can divorce your spouse without proving anything. All you need to show is that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. Of course, if you can validate allegations of abuse, mental cruelty, adultery, drug/alcohol abuse or abandonment in the relationship these may be used in consideration of the final court judgment.
Does Michigan allow legal separation?
In our state, legal separations are known as separate maintenance. These occur when a couple legally divides assets, custody and parenting time, however, the couple decides to stay legally married for some reason.
How is property divided between spouses in a Michigan divorce?
Under Michigan law, the division of most property is equitably divided. The types of property divided within a divorce include real property such as cash assets, houses, and vehicles. Considerations will also be made regarding additional pieces of property such as a vacation home, cabin or timeshare. Other assets that will be considered for division include items such as the following items:
- Health insurance
- Stocks, bonds and investment accounts
- Retirement accounts including 401(k)s and pensions
There are some exceptions to the equal distribution of assets. These include certain assets you brought into your marriage or those you inherited during the marriage. Assets that meet these criteria may be counted as personal property not eligible for equal division in the divorce. During the divorce proceedings, the court will have you and your spouse disclose how each asset was obtained. It is important to have legal counsel to ensure your personal property is protected and not considered marital property.