If you do not choose to use mediation or collaborative process, your divorce case will proceed through the traditional litigation system. This will include several steps.
- Complaint for Divorce
The process begins with filing Complaint for Divorce documents with the court. These provide the judge and the Friend of the Court with information about you, your spouse, and your children, and let the court know your wishes about parenting time, child custody and support, spousal support, and the division of property and debt.
- Waiting period
In Michigan, there is a mandatory waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. If you and your spouse have no minor children together, you must wait 60 days. If you have minor children together, you must wait six months. The waiting period begins when the Complaint for Divorce is filled.
- Temporary order
Sometimes a temporary order is needed to determine how issues will be handled during the waiting period. These issues can include parenting time, child custody and support, spousal support, payment of bills, who lives in the marital home, among other matters. If a temporary order is needed, a Motion/Request for Temporary Order can be filed with the complaint documents.
Mediation or a conference with the Friend of the Court may be required in an attempt to resolve these temporary issues before going to court. If you and your partner cannot agree on temporary arrangements, a judge or referee will make a decision on the requests.
- Discovery process
After the initial paperwork is filed and temporary issues are resolved, the discovery process begins. Discovery gathers documentation about each spouse’s income, debts, and assets, among other things. This allows you to make informed decisions during settlement negotiations, and provides information to be presented at the trial. Discovery may include a set of written interrogatories you or your partner must answer under oath. Subpoenas can be sent to employers, financial institutions, and others requiring them to provide documents. Discovery may also include taking your partner’s or other people’s depositions.
- Settlement or judge’s ruling
In the majority of cases, you and your partner will agree, or the court will order you to attend mediation with a neutral third party (the mediator) to resolve outstanding issues. Your lawyer may or may not need to attend the mediation session with you. The court will also require you both to attend a settlement conference at the courthouse if resolution has not been reached. At the conference, you will meet with your spouse and both attorneys to discuss settlement options. The judge will provide his or her perspective on the outstanding issues.
Participating in a trial is one of the biggest fears people have when going through a divorce. However, we have handled numerous trials and will assist you at every step along the way. Further, in Michigan, statistics show that only 2% of cases go to trial. The rest settle before the final hearing date. At the trial, you and your spouse, and any witnesses called, will take the stand and respond to questions from attorneys for both sides. Based upon the testimony and other evidence, the judge will decide disputed issues. The judge may take several weeks before issuing a ruling.