There are mandatory official approved and simplified (fill-in-the-blank) forms available for all phases of the divorce process. These forms are contained in the official Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Office Forms Book and should be available from the Clerk of the Circuit Court in any Michigan county. In addition, the Michigan Friend of the Court Bureau is to supply each party in a divorce case with a pamphlet discussing the court procedures, the rights and responsibilities of the parties, the availability of mediation, human services, and joint custody
. [Michigan Court Rules 3.204 and Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated; Section 552.505].
The easiest and simplest route to divorce is a Consent Divorce. In this routine, the couple 1) must meet the Michigan residency requirements, and 2) agree a) to sign any necessary papers and attend any required hearings, b) about the division and distribution of all property, c) spousal support
(either no support or support, how much and for how long) and d) child custody and support (which parent and how much).
In this arrangement, the couple follow these steps:
> complete the necessary forms;
> file the forms with the court clerk;
> if there are children, both spouses agree to meet with the Friend of the Court, and provide any additional required papers and information, as requested;
> the Plaintiff appears for a short hearing before the judge. (The Defendant may appear if he or she wants to.)
In a Consent Divorce, the Plaintiff must file the following forms:
> A Complaint for Divorce, which starts the action. It includes statistical information about both parties, identifies the grounds, identifies minor children, establishes whether or not property is to be divided, whether support is sought.
> A Verified Statement and Application for IV-D Services, which is filed if children are involved. The Verified Statement and Application is used by the Friend of the Court in collecting, recording and enforcing child support
> The Marital Settlement
Agreement, which spells out the details of the spouses’ agreement. It includes the details of child custody, child support, heath care insurance and expenses, child visitation, the division of assets and liabilities, alimony
as well as any provisions that are unique to the couple.
> A Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit, which establishes the legitimate home state of any minor children and is used in conjunction with the prevention of child abuse as well as parental kidnapping. This affidavit must be completed if there are minor children.
> An Answer and Waiver, which establishes that the Defendant has received the Complaint for Divorce and agrees to let the action proceed.
> A Judgment of Divorce, which ends the marriage.
> A Record of Divorce or Annulment, which is an administrative form used to keep track of divorces in the state.
Some couples end marriages by way of a uncontested divorce
. An uncontested divorce happens when 1) the Defendant simply ignores the action and does not file an Answer or 2) when he or she cannot or will not be located. Both situations then resolve themselves by default.
In an uncontested divorce, the Plaintiff must complete all of the forms filed in a Consent Divorce. In addition, however, he or she must file these forms:
> A Summons, which gives the Defendant 21 days to answer the Complaint if he or she is in Michigan and 28 days if he or she is out of state. The Summons puts the Defendant on record as being informed of his or her rights. The Summons and a copy of the Complaint are served on the Defendant, who accepts them. The person serving -- a sheriff, deputy or process server -- returns the Proof of Service form, which becomes part of the record of the case.
Other than the Summons, all other forms that must be delivered to the Defendant may be send by certified mail.
> A Default Request, Affidavit, Entry and Judgment, which requests that the court enter a judgment when the Defendant fails to respond to the complaint within the allotted time.
> A Request for Certificate of Military Service Status, which certifies that a spouse is or is not in a branch of the armed forces.
If the spouse is in the military, he or she may enjoy protections from divorce under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and may be able to postpone the divorce action. If he or she is not, the Default Request may be filed.
Sometimes a Defendant may file an Answer to the Complaint, then for one reason or another decide to let the case proceed as an uncontested divorce. In that case the Defendant must file a Stipulation to Withdraw Answer Order, which, when signed, permits the case to proceed uncontested.
If the parties reach agreement and file a Martial Settlement Agreement, the action can either move along as a Consent Divorce or a default divorce, which is now uncontested.
Between the filing, service and final decree, couples with children must meet with the Friend of the Court, who will require financial information about the parties.
After all the above steps have been taken, the Plaintiff must file a Notice of Hearing, which informs the Defendant of the time, date and place of the divorce hearing.
If you are representing yourself, at any hearing you are expected to conduct yourself professionally and to follow the same general rules an attorney would. If you require special accommodations to use the court because of disabilities, please contact the court before the hearing date to make arrangements.
Go to the judge's courtroom or the hearing officer's hearing room on the scheduled day and time. Dress neatly. Arrive 10 or 15 minutes before your hearing is schedule. Be prepared to spend most of the morning or afternoon in court. Bring your witnesses with you.
Go into the court room and tell the hearing officer or the clerk sitting near the judge's bench your name, that you are there for a hearing, and that you are representing yourself. Don't interrupt any hearing that is in progress. Take a seat in the back of the court room and wait for your case to be called.
When you are called, go to the podium and clearly state the following:
* your name
* you are representing yourself
* the specific order you are asking the court to issue
* the facts or reasons for your request (bring papers that will support these facts or reasons
* whether you have witnesses in court who are willing to testify
* any other information that you believe is necessary for the court to hear
Answer the judge's or hearing officer's questions clearly and directly. If the judge or hearing officer wants to hear from other witnesses, ask them to tell the court what they saw or know regarding your situation. Ask questions if you don't understand what is being said.
If the other party is in court, he or she will have a chance to speak also. When the other party talks, take notes. Do not try to interrupt the other party. After the other party speaks, you will have another chance to address the court.
The judge or hearing officer will make a decision after everyone has presented their side of the case. Ask questions of the judge or hearing officer if you don't understand what that decision is (what is being ordered). Normally, the order will be filled out at the hearing if a court form is used.
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