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  Practice Areas - Divorce & Family Law  
 

Divorce and family law in Michigan are regulated by statute. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state which means that the person seeking the divorce does not have to make any allegations of fault against his or her spouse; all that is needed is an allegation that the marriage has broken down and that there is no likelihood that it can be preserved. Fault does not enter into the granting of the divorce; that is, the person seeking the divorce will get the divorce regardless or whether or not they feel one spouse or the other is at fault.

Fault can enter into property division as well as child custody. Therefore, if there is reason to believe that one spouse or the other is more at fault for the divorce, that information should certainly be brought up to the attorney who is representing you.

In Michigan, a person cannot file for divorce unless they have lived in Michigan for at least 180 consecutive days as well as in the county in which they are filing for divorce for 10 consecutive days. There is a statutory 60-day waiting period in Michigan before the divorce can be final when no children are involved and there is a six-month waiting period before the divorce can be final when there are children involved.

When child custody is disputed, the court will award custody based on what is known as the best interests of the child, which are outlined in the Michigan statutes.

A divorce is initiated by the Plaintiff filing a Complaint in the appropriate circuit court. The Defendant then has 28 days (if served by mail) or 21 days (if served in person) to file an answer. If an answer is not filed within the time limit, a default can be entered against the Defendant which would preclude the Defendant from presenting his or her case until the default is set aside.

When children are involved in a divorce, issues of custody, support, and parenting time must be resolved. To accomplish this, the Friend of the Court in the county in which the divorce is filed becomes involved. Typically, the Friend of the Court will initially hold a conciliation conference between the two parents at a very early stage of the proceedings in an effort to reach a temporary agreement regarding custody, support and parenting time. Frequently, the parties can agree on this temporary agreement and it is signed by both parties and signed by the judge, thereby, becoming the order of the court. When the parties cannot agree, the Friend of the Court will issue recommendations which will become the order of the court if neither party objects to the recommendations within a specified amount of time. If one party objects within the specified period of time, then a hearing will be held by the judge to make a determination of temporary custody, support, and parenting time.

Child support is generally set by guidelines (tables) provided by the State Court Administrative Office. These guidelines recommend a certain amount of support be paid by the noncustodial parent on a weekly basis.

Parenting time (formerly known as visitation) can frequently be arranged by the parties with the approval of the court. Parenting time is often quite liberal and customarily involves every other weekend, alternate major holidays, etc. Disputes regarding parenting time are initially handled by the Friend of the Court.

In some instances, spousal support (alimony) is appropriate and is awarded. You should speak with your attorney regarding whether you might be entitled to or have to pay spousal support (alimony).

After the divorce has been filed, frequently there is a period of discovery in which each side tries to find out as much as they can about the other side's assets, debts, etc. Frequently, much of this information is already known, since the parties have lived together as husband and wife. Discovery usually takes the form of either interrogatories ( written questions which must be answered under oath) or depositions (where the attorneys will be able to ask questions and responses will be taken down under oath by a court reporter).

Once discovery is completed, the parties are frequently ordered to go to mediation. Mediation is a process in which a neutral, trained mediator (who is usually an attorney) sits down with the parties and their attorneys in an effort to resolve all outstanding issues. Frequently, mediation will last at least half a day. Mediation frequently settles cases. If the parties are able to reach an agreement during mediation, the agreement is reduced to writing and signed by the parties at the time of mediation. That agreement is a binding settlement of the divorce. The Plaintiff's attorney will then draft the Judgment of Divorce. A Pro Con Hearing will be scheduled at which time the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff's attorney will appear in front of the judge for a brief hearing to satisfy the judge that the grounds for divorce have been met and the divorce should be granted. If the judge is satisfied, the judge will sign the Judgment of Divorce and the parties are divorced.

If the parties are unable to reach agreement at mediation or otherwise, then the case will continue to trial.

Divorce can be a very emotional experience for all involved, especially when children are involved. We encourage the parties to the divorce to work together as much as possible to minimize the disruption and difficulty for their children. The best long-term results occur when the parties are able to recognize their differences but also recognize that they must work together for the best interest of their children.

Frequently, after a divorce has been granted , there are post-judgment issues and disputes which require court filings and hearings. These disputes can have to do with child support, parenting time, and changes in custody. To the extent that the parties are able to resolve these disputes between themselves, with the assistance of an attorney, they can sign a stipulation changing whatever it is they wish to change and, if the judge approves, then that becomes the new order of the court. When the parties can't agree, then it is necessary to. once again, become involved in litigation.

Post-judgment disputes regarding custody, support and visitation usually go to the Friend of the Court first where a hearing is held. The hearing will result in a decision which will become the order of the court if nobody objects; otherwise, if somebody objects within the requisite amount of time, then the judge will have to make the decision.

In addition to it being emotionally draining, a divorce can also be expensive. The keys to the expense of the divorce are, quite literally, in the hands of the parties. The more the parties fight, the greater the expense.

Our law firm has been doing divorces and family law since 1986. We have worked with many people to obtain a divorce. We have also helped many people resolve post-judgment difficulties. In particular, Randolph L. Bodwin has considerable experience in the numerous issues that arise during a divorce. He and the other attorneys at Bodwin & Associates, P.C., stand ready, willing and able to help you in your time of need. While results can never be guaranteed, Bodwin & Associates, P.C., can assure you that they will give your case the attention which it deserves and will do everything within their power to bring about the result which you desire.



 
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