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Michigan Court Records

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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Michigan

A divorce in Michigan is different from an annulment in a few ways though both have the same effect: ends a marital union. The main dissimilarity between the two legal processes is that while a divorce terminates a lawful marriage, an annulment terminates an unlawful one. In Michigan, an annulment is only granted when there is conclusive proof that a marriage should not exist at all, because it is not legal. Whereas, as the Michigan courts operate with a no-fault divorce system, a divorce can be granted when any spouse shows that their marriage is destroyed to the extent that it cannot be salvaged. The Michigan Circuit Court hears all divorce cases occurring within the state. However, the courts do not have standard forms for annulment or offer instructions on obtaining an annulment decree. Therefore, interested spouses are advised to consult a qualified family law attorney on annulment court procedures.

What is a Michigan Divorce Decree?

In Michigan, a divorce decree is a court document approving the termination of a marriage and the obligations of ex-spouses. This decree is one of three records created because of the divorce proceedings. Others are the divorce certificate and complete divorce record. Typically, a decree of divorce will have the terms of a divorce, including custody, visitation, and property rights, and protection orders. Under MCR 8.119, divorce records maintained by the court are publicly accessible unless restricted by law, court rule, or court order.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Michigan?

Annulment is a legal course of action used to dissolve an illegal marriage in Michigan (MCL 552.3).. Under this law, a petition for annulment may be filed in the Circuit Court or Court of Chancery in the county where at least one of the spouses resides. Before an annulment can be decreed by any court of law, there must be proof of the illegality of the marriage. Michigan law describes five such elements including:

  • Incapacity to marry because of age: When one of the spouses was below 16 years of age when the marriage was entered (MCL 551.51), or above this age but under18 years and a parent or legal guardian did not consent to the marriage (MCL 552.34)
  • Incestuous and bigamous marriages (MCL 552.1)
  • Force or fraud: When a party was forced or deceived to consent (MCL 552.37; MCR 552.38)
  • Physical or mental incompetence (MCL 52.39)

Annulment vs Divorce in Michigan

At the end of a marriage, a spouse may file for divorce or annulment to dissolve the marriage and be able to remarry legally. In the case of annulment, this dissolution not only terminates the marriage but also declares it non-existent and returns the spouses to their former statuses. Other than establishing legal grounds, state above, and limitations or exceptions of certain grounds, Michigan law does not exactly indicate the waiting periods for obtaining annulment decrees. However, court procedures and residency requirements are the same as those for divorce. Limitations/exceptions include:

  • MCL 552.37 and 552.36: When the annulment petition is based on grounds of force, fraud, or incapacity to contract, and both parties cohabitated voluntarily prior to the suit while being aware of such grounds, no annulment decree will be issued by the court
  • MCL 552.35 and 552.34: A suit for annulment may be filed by a next friend on behalf of a person who is incapable of contracting (minor or incapacitated persons), and a parent or legal guardian, on behalf of a minor
  • MCL 552.39: When the annulment petition is based on the ground of physical incapacity, a decree will not be issued if the suit is brought 2 years after the date of the marriage

Spouses who have children may also be able to obtain court orders for child support, visitation, and support, and property settlement. Generally, an annulment is a complex procedure in Michigan and decrees are rarely issued. Therefore, it is advisable to seek legal help before proceeding with such action in court.

Divorce, on the other hand, is quite straightforward in Michigan. One spouse only has to declare that the marriage is irreparably broken by filing a complaint for divorce with a Circuit Court. Prior to filing, such spouse or the person’s partner must be living in the state for a minimum of 180 days and a resident in the county of filing for a minimum of 10 days (MCL 552.9).. When a marriage has no minor children, there is a waiting period of at least 30 days before a divorce can be decreed. When there are minor children, this period is 180 days unless there is a domestic abuse factor, then it may be 30 days. Like an annulment, marital rights involving custody, property/debt division, child support, are decided by the court. However, spousal support (alimony) is only decided in divorce cases. Under MCL 552.6, a divorce decree will be issued only when it has been irrefutably established that one’s marriage is indeed beyond repair. In this, the law is similar to that governing annulment, which permits decrees only when certain grounds have been established. Typically, there is a 6-month waiting period for a divorce to be finalized for parties with minor children, and a 60-day waiting period for parties without children.

Whether filing for divorce or annulment in Michigan, legal advice is essential, not only to understand one’s legal options when dissolving a marriage but also to obtain the best results.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Michigan?

No, an annulment is not less expensive than a divorce in Michigan, mostly because it requires litigation to prove a marriage’s invalidity. Legal, judicial, and related costs of an annulment case can also be less or more expensive depending on the length of time required to finalize a case, or if there are conflicts over marital issues. The timeframe for annulment in Michigan, though vague in comparison to divorce, may be substantial as well, but financially less tasking when there is no question of a marriage’s illegality. Usually, when a case drags on, the effect is that all associated costs and fees will increase as well.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Michigan?

In an uncontested divorce, spouses are on the same page about the terms of the divorce. Also, divorces are uncontested when no answer is filed in response to a petition. The terms agreed upon in uncontested divorces include how marital properties and debt will be shared, who has custody of a minor child, how much will be paid to support a child or spouse, and visitation rights. This type of divorce is more low-cost than a contested divorce.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Michigan?

An uncontested divorce has the same legal procedures as a contested divorce in Michigan. T Except that the filing fees when there are minor children ( $255) are higher than when there are no children ($175). The forms to be filed are also similar, no matter the case. A key difference is the inclusion of the Marital Settlement Agreement form in uncontested cases. Divorce forms and packets are available at Clerk offices for a fee. It is also possible to download them from the Clerk of Circuit Court websites. A few forms may be available from the Michigan Judiciary.

The process for uncontested divorces usually goes like this:

  • Filing the forms: Complete and submit the Complaint for Divorce with Children or Compliant for Divorce without Children form and other documents/forms with the Clerk of Circuit Court. For marriages with kids, file the Verified Statement and Application for IV-D Services and Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit. Other forms that will be required include Answer and Waiver, Judgment of Divorce, Record of Divorce and Annulment, Marital Settlement Agreement forms. Indigent persons may file the Waiver/Suspension of Costs and Fees form as well. It is advisable to review all forms before filing. Attorneys and Family Law Self-Help Centers can help with this.
  • Service: Serve the other party with a copy of the Complaint for Divorce and Summons. The Clerk issues the Summons after the complaint is filed. This is known as the Service of Process. After the summons is served, the petitioner must file a Proof of Service, attached with a return receipt if the summons was served by the U.S certified mail, with the Clerk of Court. Typically, the Summons expires after 91 days from the date the complaint was filed. The case will be dismissed if service does not occur within this period.
  • Attend court hearings: Once filing and serving procedures are completed, petitioners are required to attend all related court hearings and notify their spouses of any hearing. For each notification, a Proof of Service must be filed.

Uncontested divorce records are available to the public at Clerk offices and official online public access systems per MCR 8.119.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Michigan?

In Michigan, the accessibility of divorce records to the public is regulated by court rules (MCR 8.119).. As such divorce decrees are available to the public and can be requested from the offices of the Clerk of Court. These judgments can also be searched and viewed through the courts’ public access sites. Some courts provide access via mail, email, fax, phone, online, and in-person. Records can be inspected or copied during normal business hours while the contact information, mail/email addresses, and online portals can be found on Clerk of Court websites. Usually, requesters must provide the names of the spouses pre-divorce, the year when the divorce was filed, or case number, as well as the fee for copies ($1/page for regular copies and $10 plus $1/page for certified copies). This required information is more or less the same across counties. Some courts, including the Livingston County Circuit Court, may also provide downloadable or fillable forms to make copy requests.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How do I get a Michigan Divorce Decree Online?

Some Michigan Courts, including the Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland County Circuit Courts, provide online tools to search for and view or purchase the judgment of divorce cases. These tools can be found on their websites. The records available range from a specific year to the current date. It is important to note that the records provided online are unofficial versions. Typically, the official decrees are obtainable only at the courthouses or by direct request to a Clerk of Court.

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