This section has basic information about divorce in Michigan. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.
What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Michigan?
To be granted a divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days immediately before filing your complaint for divorce. In addition, you or your spouse must have lived in the county where the complaint is filed for 10 days immediately before filing.1 If you or your spouse has not lived in the county that you are filing in for at least 10 days, you can still file for divorce in that county (or in any county) if all of the following are true:
- your spouse was born in, or is a citizen of, a country other than the United States;
- you and your spouse have a child under 18 years old; and
- the judge believes that your child is at risk of being taken out of the United States by your spouse and held in another country.2
1 M.C.L.A. § 552.9(1)
2 M.C.L.A. § 552.9(2)
What are the grounds for divorce in Michigan?
Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce. Under Michigan law, a complaint for divorce can be filed (in circuit court) only based on what is commonly known as an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” To file for divorce, your complaint must state that “there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” You do not need to give an explanation in your complaint other than using the language in the law stated above.1
Your spouse can submit an answer and can agree (admit the grounds) or disagree (deny the grounds) without including an explanation. The judge will consider your spouse’s admission of the grounds for divorce, but his/her admission is not binding on the judge’s decision.2
If the judge decides (based on evidence presented in court) that your marriage has suffered a breakdown to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and there is no likelihood that your marriage can be repaired, the judge will grant you a divorce.3
1 M.C.L.A. § 552.6(1)
2 M.C.L.A. § 552.6(2)
3 M.C.L.A. § 552.6(3)
Can I get alimony? What factors will a judge consider?
Alimony (also known as spousal support) is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse. In Michigan, if the property awarded to you through your divorce or through a separate maintenance order is not enough to support you or any children of the marriage in your custody, the judge may order your spouse to pay you spousal support. The judge will consider the ability of your spouse to pay and will also consider the character, situations, and circumstances of you and your spouse when deciding what amount of support is fair and reasonable.1
The judge may award you support if it is necessary to help you keep your property and help you continue or defend your action for divorce. The judge may order your spouse to pay your court fees or the fees may be paid from your spouse’s property. Your alimony may stop if you remarry unless you have an agreement that says otherwise included in your divorce decree. If the judge ends your support, it will not affect the payments that have accrued (are owed to you) before the judge terminated (cancelled) your order.2
1 M.C.L.A. § 552.23(1)
2 M.C.L.A. § 552.13
Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Michigan?
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps, generally:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
- Second, you must have a legally acceptable reason (“ground”) to end your marriage. The grounds can be fault-based (such as adultery or cruel treatment) or no-fault-based. The most common no-fault divorce ground is often called “irreconcilable differences,” an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, or something similar.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies served on your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)
- Fourth, how the divorce goes forward will depend on whether your spouse agrees to the divorce and/or whether or not your spouse responds to the divorce complaint once it is served upon him/her. Here are a few different possibilities of what could happen:
- If your spouse agrees with everything in the divorce papers, s/he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If there is property that you need divided, if custody of children is an issue, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to agree about those issues in an out-of-court settlement in order to have an uncontested divorce. However, when there are children of the marriage, some states require that custody be decided as part of the divorce. Therefore, in those states, you could not get an uncontested divorce if you cannot agree upon a custody arrangement.
- If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
- If your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, your spouse will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his/her side and asking for the outcome s/he wants. This is called a “contested divorce.” Even if your spouse agrees that s/he wants to end the marriage, disagreement on property, finances, custody, or other issues means you may have to attend a series of court appearances to have a judge decide those issues.
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?