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Michigan Court Records

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How to File For Divorce in Michigan

When a marriage breaks down such that there is no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation, the law in Michigan allows couples to file for divorce. The Michigan judiciary is responsible for adjudicating divorce cases and hearing appeals if a litigant decides to file one. Generally, a divorce may be over as soon as sixty days, although most filings take two-six months or more in complicated divorces. As of 2018, the divorce rate in Michigan stands at 6.9 per 1000 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau. 

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Michigan?

Not necessarily. Per Section 552.3 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, intending divorcees only needs to state in the petition that the marriage is beyond reconciliation, i.e., no-fault divorce or irreconcilable differences.

Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

Suffice to say that many divorces, i.e., uncontested no-fault divorce filings, can be completed without professional legal services. However, reasons abound for why an intending divorcee should consider hiring a divorce lawyer. In a matter that can quickly escalate, the attorney acts as the voice of reason, adopting a stance based on logic and evidence. Also, he/she draws from legal training and experience to ensure that the client gets the fairest judgment possible under the circumstances. Likewise, throughout the process—from filing to verdict—the attorney is a legal buffer between the client, their spouse, and the legal system.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in Michigan?

Before filing for divorce in Michigan, the law requires that one or both parties must meet residency requirements. An intending divorcee must have lived in Michigan for no less than 180 days. He or she must also reside in the county of filing for at least ten days before filing a complaint for divorce. The court waives the requirement where a spouse is a citizen of a foreign country. The waiver extends to cases where a minor is at risk of being taken out of the United States by a spouse (MCL Section 552.9)..

Filing a divorce in Michigan goes viz:

  • Filing Forms: The first step in filing a divorce in Michigan is to prepare a complaint of divorce and complete other required court forms. As these forms depend on the nature of the divorce, the petitioner must enquire about the relevant forms at the clerk of courts office. To make the process easier, the intending petitioner may use this resource to prepare necessary forms online. Upon completion, the individual must submit the forms at the clerk’s office.
  • Complete the Service of Process (SOP): Here, the petitioner must serve a copy of all documents filed with the clerk of courts with the other spouse (respondent). The county sheriff is the designated authority to complete the SOP in Michigan and charges a fee for this service. The petition will have to complete a statement or proof of mailing. Upon receiving the documents and summons, the respondent will have the opportunity to submit an answer and counterclaim for divorce. If the divorce is uncontested, this process is unnecessary. Instead, the spouse must sign either an answer and waiver form or a marital settlement agreement.
  • Hearing before a Friend of the Court: This hearing applies to contested divorces where both parties fail to arrive at a settlement or have other dispute pending a final court hearing, e.g., child custody and support, alimony, or property division. Here, the intending divorcee must fill out and submit a Friend of the Court questionnaire.
  • Schedule Hearing Date: Here, the intending divorcee needs to schedule a hearing for the final judgment or preliminary matters pending final adjudication. He/she must complete, file, and serve the respondent with a notice of hearing. Often, contacting the clerk will accomplish this, but sometimes the petitioner may have to get a date from the Friend of the Court, or the secretary of the presiding judge. Due to the court caseload, a rule of thumb is to contact these officials to set a court date well in advance.

How to File for Divorce in Michigan Without a Lawyer?

Individuals looking for information regarding self-representation in a divorce case must do well to contact the clerk of courts for official resources and guidelines. Another resource is the self-representation section on the judiciary website. Here is a basic checklist of forms/documents that pro se petitioners must submit in a divorce:

  • Summons
  • Complaint for Divorce
  • Status Report (Mediation)
  • Notice of Hearing
  • Proof of Mailing
  • Order for Alternative Service
  • Financial Information form
  • Marital Settlement Agreement
  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act Affidavit
  • Answer and Waiver form
  • Judgment of Divorce
  • Default, Application, Entry, Affidavit form (for spouses who fail to respond to a summons and Complaints of Divorce within 21 Days)
  • Request for Certificate of Military Service Status (for spouses who do not know spousal military service status)

How Does Michigan Divorce Mediation Work?

Mediation in divorce proceedings is a form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral party helps the intending divorcees arrive at a mutual agreement on disputed matters. By using a mediator, intending divorcees can avoid protracted divorce hearings. However, bear in mind that while mediators receive training in conflict resolution, their recommendation is a suggestion at best. It is not legally binding on the intending divorcees before the final verdict. In many cases, the court may order intending divorcees to schedule a hearing with a Friend of the Court. The Friend of the Court will conduct a hearing of the disputes and make recommendations, but these recommendations are not binding either.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Michigan?

Not all mediations and hearings with a Friend of the Court are successful. Often time, spouses may come to agree upon certain disputes through mediation but disagree on other matters. If the intending divorcees are unable to settle for several sessions, the parties must contact the court to schedule a hearing on disputed issues. Thus, depending on the caseload and available time, the finalization of a divorce may take several months.

Are Divorce Records Public in Michigan?

Yes, under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, Michigan divorce records are public records at the time of finalization. However, the court may order the sealing of documents that contain sensitive information such as information on minors, details of financial agreements, and bank statements. The parties involved may also petition the court to seal divorce records if the existence of such records constitutes a threat or discomfort that outweighs the public right to access divorce records.

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 the person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of 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 Michigan Divorce Records?

Anyone can access case information and divorce records that are not sealed by statute or court order. To get a divorce record in Michigan, the requester must visit the court where the divorce was filed and finalized in person and during business hours. Most courts also honor mail requests for divorce records, but the requester must contact the clerk’s office to get a cost estimate. Alternatively, interested members of the public may find and access case information and history of a divorce filing with the Michigan Case Search. Nevertheless, all requesters must provide the information to facilitate a records search, e.g., party name, docket number, and the name of the attorney. The dates of filing or finalization, as well as case number, are also useful information to help court staff find the records faster. Likewise, divorce records are available to public requesters who complete and submit an application form to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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