How to File For a Divorce in Michigan

How to file divorce in Michigan

Filing for Divorce in Michigan

If you’re contemplating a divorce in Michigan or you’ve already decided to move forward with filing, then it’s important to understand the steps you’ll need to take. When you have more clarity on the actual process, it will help reduce the pressure of what can be a stressful and emotional experience.

Here are several things you should know as you begin the process:

Gathering your important information

important information

No matter your circumstances, you will benefit from being organized at the outset when it comes to tracking down the financial documentation that you’ll need.

Many parts of divorce can be overwhelming, so any steps you can take to save time and reduce stress and anxiety should be a priority for you early in the process.

To help you gain a better understanding of the types of documents and information you’ll need to pull together, we’ve created a great Divorce Information Checklist.

What type of divorce is right for you?

Divorce Procedure to Use

Deciding on what divorce process to use (litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, etc.) provides you with the framework to begin moving forward. That’s an important decision and not one that should be taken lightly.

It will drive how amicable or contentious your divorce will be and set the tone for your future co-parenting relationship if you have kids. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that you understand all of your options and how they will play upon your individual situation.

To learn more about your options and the pros and cons, be sure to check out our article on The Types of Divorce.

Fill Out the Necessary Forms to Start the Process

Necessary Forms to Prepare

To start a divorce in Michigan, you will need to complete several forms. If you’re using an attorney, they will get the appropriate information from you and complete the forms on your behalf. One of the keys to moving as quickly through a divorce as possible is to make sure all the forms are filled out properly and completely.

If you’re going to complete forms by yourself, which many people do, there are several you’ll need to submit.

As a basic point of understanding, if you’re the one filling the forms, you are known as the plaintiff. Your spouse will be referred to as the defendant. The roles are switched if your spouse is the one who completes and files the forms.

Be sure to check with the Clerk of Courts in the county where you live to make sure that you have all the forms you need prior to submitting them. Rules and procedures can vary depending on the county where you live in Michigan.

At a minimum, you will need to prepare the following documents:

  • Complaint for Divorce. This officially starts the divorce action and includes an overview of your situation, including statistical information, the reason for the divorce, property to be divided and if any child support or alimony is being requested.
  • Summons. When you file your paperwork, it must also be served on your spouse. The Summons and Complaint gives a respondent 21 days to answer the complaint if he or she is living in Michigan and 28 days if living out of state. The person who actually serves the paperwork must complete a Proof of Service form that documents delivery of the complaint.

You will need to also complete additional forms if you have minor children.

If you are seeking a waiver of the filing and services fees due to an inability to pay, then you will also need to complete a Waiver/Suspension of Fees and Costs form as well. This request will be considered by the courts and you will be notified within a day or two if your fees have been waived.

File Your Documents with the Court

How Do You File Your Forms for a Divorce

After you have completed your forms, you will need to file the paperwork at the Clerk of the Court’s office in the county where you or your spouse lives. Make sure you have lived in the county for at least 10 days before filing as this is an important residency requirement.

When you file, you will also need to pay a filing fee of $175 plus a judgment fee of $80. There will also be a fee to have the paperwork served on your spouse. Depending on the method you choose, this may run about $25 to $50. If you can’t afford to pay the fee, you can request a waiver that will need to be reviewed by the court for possible approval.

When you file your forms, you will be given instructions that pertain to your specific circumstances.

Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers

After you file for divorce, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the Summons and Complaint as well as any other documents that you filed with the court. You have 91 days from the date you filed to make sure this task is properly carried out.

You cannot serve the papers yourself. You must have someone else who is at least 18 years old and who is not a party to the divorce to serve your spouse. This can either be a friend, a local process server or the sheriff’s department. In Michigan, papers can be served either in person or through the mail.

The papers are served in person, then the person completing the service must fill out a Proof of Service form and have it notarized and either return it to you or directly to the court.

If the papers are mailed, then it must be done either by registered or certified mail along with a return receipt request. Your spouse will need to sign the return receipt when they get the papers, and the person who serves the papers will still need to fill out a Proof of Service form and it will need to be filed by you or the server with the court along with the signed receipt.

If you have made several attempts to serve your spouse without success, or if you can’t find your spouse, it is possible to ask a judge for permission to complete service another way. To do so, you will need to file a Motion and Verification for Alternate Service. If the judge allows this, then you will follow the judge’s directions for serving the papers.

Until Proof of Service has been completed by any of these means, a divorce complaint cannot move forward.

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Michigan

How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Michigan?

cost to file for a divorce

When you file for divorce, you are required to pay a filing fee of $175 and an $80 judgment fee. You must also pay a fee to have your spouse served as well. This may run anywhere from $25-$50 or more based on the method you use. Depending on the county where papers are filed, there may also be some added miscellaneous costs as well.

Can divorce fees be waived in Michigan?

It may be possible to have obtain a fee waiver if you get need-based public assistance or you are too poor that you can’t afford the fees. You will need to file a Waiver/Suspension of Fees and Costs form with the court to make this request. Be prepared to document your lack of resources or income. The court will review your request in about a day and then either grant or deny your request.

Can I file for a divorce online in Michigan?

divorce online

You sure can. In fact, filing for divorce online can be a great way to save time and money.

Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It only works if you have an uncontested divorce (you and your spouse are able to reach agreements without going to court).

If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s simply too much on the line to cut corners.

But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself. I won’t sugarcoat it. There’s a lot of paperwork and the divorce process can be complicated.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help. Check out 3 Step Divorce.

3 Step Divorce is an affordable online divorce service that makes it easy to complete your divorce papers and gives you step-by-step instructions for filing your forms with the court. All you have to do is answer the questions online, which should take less than an hour.

Here’s why we recommend 3 Step Divorce:

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How long does it take to get a divorce in Michigan?

How long does it take

An uncontested divorce in Michigan can be granted in Michigan in as little as 60 days if no children are involved. When children are a part of the proceedings, a divorce cannot be granted until a minimum six months have passed. Keep in mind that there are often delays due to forms being filed the wrong way or if there are disagreements regarding any part of the divorce process.

Sixty days and six months are best-case scenario minimums but are rarely the case.

You must also make sure you meet the residency requirement for a Michigan divorce. You must be a resident of the state for at least 180 days immediately prior to filing. You also have to be a resident in the county where you file for at least 10 days prior to filing as well.

Contested divorces or divorces where negotiations must take place regarding custody, alimony, child support and a division of assets will increase the time frame that it takes to reach a settlement. It is not uncommon for some high asset or hotly contested divorces to take as much as one to two years or more. Much of the duration depends on your personal circumstances.

What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Michigan?

To file for a divorce in Michigan, one spouse needs to have been a resident of the state for at least 180 days immediately prior to filing.

In addition, the person who files must also have been a resident in the county where they filed for at least 10 days immediately prior to filing.

Can I file for divorce in Michigan without using a lawyer?

file for divorce without a lawyer

It is possible to get a divorce in Michigan without using a lawyer as long as you meet all requirements for an uncontested divorce.

You and your spouse must agree on all parts of the settlement, including asset division, alimony, child custody and support and all other related matters. In addition, you must also meet the residency requirement of living in the state for six months prior to filing and in the county where you are filing for a minimum of 10 days.

Michigan offers Do-It Yourself toolkits based on different divorce scenarios that will walk you through all the steps required to complete a divorce on your own. To avoid unnecessary delays, it’s important to choose and complete all the right forms that are pertinent to your particular situation.

Another way to avoid using a lawyer while going through a divorce in Michigan is through the use of a mediator, as long as both you and your spouse agree on this option. Over the course of one or more sessions, a mediator will review financial documents, forms and worksheets as part of a discovery process and then guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions about the outstanding issues, attempting to peacefully resolve things such as child support and custody, alimony and a division of assets.

Once these issues are resolved, a mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding and you will file this document with the court as part of your divorce process. Going this route saves time, money and stress in most cases.

Can I get a divorce in Michigan if I am pregnant?

divorce while I am pregnant

You can get a divorce while pregnant in Michigan, but you will need to declare who the father of the child is at the divorce hearing.

If a baby is born while you are still legally married to your husband, he will be considered the father by law. To relieve a husband of his legal and financial responsibility to the child, a mother will have to petition the court to establish legal paternity. This means DNA testing, court costs, and attorney’s fees will all be incurred as part of the process.

How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Michigan?


If you or your spouse are a member of the military and want to get a divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have legal residency in the state or you or your spouse must be stationed in Michigan.

The grounds for a military divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce and only irreconcilable differences must be cited.

Just as in a civilian divorce, once paperwork has been filed in Michigan to begin a divorce, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. However, when that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments. They are also protected from being held in default from failing to respond in a timely manner.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.

Normal equitable property division laws apply for a military divorce in Michigan, but the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place. Federal laws will not allow a military members retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.

Normal Michigan child support guidelines, worksheets and schedules are used to determine the proper amount of child support to be paid, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances.

Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:

Check out our favorite divorce resources

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