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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 41221
Experience:  I provide family and divorce law advice to my clients in my firm.
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I filed for divorce on August 17, 2012 in Circuit Court in

Customer Question

I filed for divorce on August 17, 2012 in Circuit Court in Michigan. On the day prior to physical separation, August 30, 2012, the Defendant and I signed and had notarized a Marital Settlement Agreement. The agreement included provision for short-term alimony payable to Plaintiff. The terms of alimony were for payments of $600 / month from Sept 2012 through Feb 2013. Starting with the first due date, the Defendant defaulted. As I was unemployed and desperately needed the money, I begged and pleaded and finally got the first two payments. The Defendant also defaulted on certain other written (e-mail) agreements we made but these are outside the Marital Settlement Agreement. In that context, I feared that I'd never get the alimony. I couldn't afford a lawyer (unemployed) so I am pro per, but he has nearly $60,000 in annual income and hired an attorney. The next two payments were made because we had court hearings scheduled to set pre-trial and trial dates. The last two payments, Jan/Feb 2013 he simply defaulted. His attorney told him not to pay because the agreement was not entered as an Order with a Judgment of Divorce. I don't disagree; the agreement is not an order. But I believe the agreement to be a contract in this interim period until such time that it becomes an order and I need a legal opinion on that point. I finally lost patience and filed Small Claims actions, one for each payment. He then paid the alimony but not the court costs ($35 for each action). Apparently the only way I can collect the court costs due to me under MI law ($70 total) is to move forward with the SC actions. The SC hearing is June 1, 2012 for both cases. The Defendant's attorney is pressing -hard- for entry of the Marital Settlement Agreement on or before May 17, 2013. If this document becomes an Order in Circuit Court, will I lose my opportunity to collect the court costs in District Court a month later? Defendant's attorney claims that only Circuit Court has jurisdiction over alimony. How can that be when the agreement is not entered as a Judgment of Divorce? What happens to the Small Claims actions after the agreement becomes an order in Circuit Court? The amount may seem to be small but to an unemployed person, every dollar counts. Please advise.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

To answer your underlying question, if this document is entered and becomes an order, it DOES NOT terminate your ablity to seek court costs unless the language in the order expressly limits your ability to seek such action. The small claims action and the order are not directly related unless he can later show that what he owed was already paid out. Further, you should (or at least can) include court costs as part of your cause of action right away, I am not quite sure why that did not happen and why you were not awarded court costs right away. Consequently adding those fees to your cause of action in small claims is valid and is something small claims judges routinelly award the winning plaintiff. The defendant's attorney is correct that Curcuit Court has jurisdiction over alimony, but small claims has jurisdiction over a breach of contract claim, and you can argue that this was a breach as it was not an issued order.

Hope that helps.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

When I filled out the Small Claims actions, I asked for the $600 payment plus court costs. I haven't had my hearing yet. It is scheduled for a futue date. But when the Defendant got the SC action, he then paid the $600, but not the court costs. So I did not dismiss the SC actions. Do I understand your answer to say that because he paid the $600 that I cannot collect the court costs? I only got paid because I filed the SC actions.

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.


Thank you for your follow-up. If he paid, then the cause of action disappeared. Therefore there is no need to bring it court as the underlying cause is no longer a cause of action. That would avoid him having to pay you the money for filing the cause of action. If/when you appear in court and the judge sees that the cause of action took place already under which you were compensated, there is no further issue in controversy. I wish I had a different answer for you, but he likely paid at his attorney's urging since when you accepted the funds, that negated the cause of action.

I am sorry.