The Role of a Michigan Divorce Lawyer

Marriages end for a variety of complex reasons. Since Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state, couples may divorce without assigning blame or wrongdoing. In other words, the reasons for the breakup do not affect the ability to obtain a divorce. However, the divorce process remains complicated and emotionally exhausting. Therefore, everyone getting a divorce needs an experienced family law attorney.

Do I Really Need a Divorce Attorney?

Divorce paper being signed with two wedding bands on the sheet

Legally, you may file for divorce on your own. However, the process is complex and many folks make mistakes. A “do it yourself” divorce may take longer and negatively affect decisions regarding property and custody. Also, if your spouse has an attorney and you do not, there is a STRONG possibility that you will not do well in the divorce process. Do NOT share a lawyer.

Your rights are best represented by your own experienced family law attorney. Remember, this is an emotional, complicated time and it’s vital that you hire an experienced family law attorney that specializes in divorce to protect your interests.

What Will My Divorce Attorney Do?

A Michigan divorce attorney will guide you through the specific laws and regulations regarding divorce. Your lawyer knows your rights and thoroughly explains all processes. The attorney’s responsibilities include:

  1. Legal Advice: Divorce lawyers will explain all options to you regarding your case. They help you understand your rights, responsibilities, and possible outcomes. An experienced attorney assists you in understanding child custody, property division, and alimony issues.
  2. Document Preparation: Attorneys prepare and file all necessary court documents on time. This includes drafting the divorce complaint, financial disclosures, and any other necessary legal paperwork.
  3. Negotiation: Divorce attorneys negotiate on behalf of their client. So, your best interests are represented during any negotiations. Issues may include custody, spousal support, property division, and other issues.
  4. Court Representation: When cases are not settled through negotiation or mediation, your lawyer will represent your interests in court. They present evidence, make legal arguments, and advocate for you before a judge.

Michigan’s Divorce Process

The divorce process usually follows these steps:

  • Filing a petition for divorce: One spouse files a “complaint” for divorce with circuit court in the county where you both live. Your attorney will handle this for you.
  • Serving the complaint: The spouse that filed the complaint must serve the other party with divorce papers within 90 days. Often, a third party will do this. Many times the spouse will let the party know when and where they will be served. Your attorney may advise you on this matter.
  • Responding to complaint: The spouse receiving divorce papers must respond to the complaint. Once again, an attorney may handle this for you. Do not wait! There are time limits.
  • Temporary orders: Either party may ask the court to issue temporary orders regarding custody, child support, alimony, bill payment, visitation, or protection. These orders may last until a divorce decree replaces them.
  • Discovery: Both parties exchange information regarding finances, assets, or debts. This helps with property division. Child custody arrangements may also be discussed.
  • Waiting period: Often there is a six month waiting period for divorcing couple with children. Spouses with no children generally wait two months.
  • Mediation: If couples are unable to agree on any aspect of the divorce, a mediator may be assigned to assist them.
  • Trial: If mediation fails, a divorce proceeding may go to trial. In this case, the judge makes the final decision.
  • Divorce decree: This is the final step in the divorce process. This document is signed by a judge and includes all aspects of the case. Everything is spelled out in this long document including: spousal support, child support, property division, custody, and visitation.