In-Court Divorce

While there are increasing options for out-of-court divorce, the majority of divorces in Michigan still take place through the court system, otherwise known as litigation. While many of these divorces are settled before the couple need to go through a trial, they still follow the court’s process and schedule until they are settled and a divorce judgment issued.

Why would someone choose to pursue a divorce through the court system? There are a number of reasons to choose litigation, such as a marriage that involves:

  • One spouse who refuses to participate in or cooperate with the divorce
  • Domestic violence
  • Significant mental health issues
  • Power imbalance between spouses
  • Substance abuse
  • One or both spouses who prefer the structure of the court process
  • One or both spouses who prefer to have a third party making the decisions

If your spouse has already filed for divorce, your divorce will probably be completed through the court system, although you may be able incorporate aspects of out-of-court divorce (alternative dispute resolution, or ADR) into the process to make it easier and more productive.

If neither you nor your spouse have yet filed for divorce, it is worth consulting with an experienced Michigan family law attorney to discuss whether an in-court, litigated divorce is the best option for you.

Understanding the Michigan Divorce Process

The in-court divorce process in Michigan goes more or less like this: one spouse goes to the county Circuit Court and files papers to begin the divorce, along with a filing fee. By filing these papers, that spouse becomes the Plaintiff in the case. The other spouse is the Defendant. The Plaintiff serves the papers on the Defendant (or the Defendant signs a document saying they received them) and the Defendant may have as few as 21 days in which to file an answer with the court.

The court will set dates for certain hearings or meetings to make sure the case is moving along appropriately. If there are minor children in the family, the Plaintiff and Defendant may have to meet with the Friend of the Court regarding issues affecting the children, like custody and parenting time.

After the case is filed but before it is settled or goes to trial, there is time for what courts call “discovery;” the Plaintiff and Defendant can ask each other for documents and information to help them prepare for trial or reach a settlement. If they do reach settlement before trial, their lawyers will prepare a written agreement for them to sign. One or both spouses will then appear in court, answer a few brief questions, and the judge will also sign the written agreement, making it a court order that finalizes the divorce.

If the parties cannot reach agreement before their trial date, any unresolved issues will have to go to trial. The parties and their attorneys will present testimony and other evidence, and the judge will make a final decision. Depending on the number and complexity of issues, trial may take days. From the standpoint of legal fees, preparing for and going through trial is usually the most expensive part of a divorce.

Experienced Macomb County Divorce Litigator

If you are going through an in-court divorce, the attorney you choose makes a difference not only to your outcome, but to your experience and your costs. At Paul S. Kowal, P.C., our philosophy is to work as cooperatively as possible while still protecting our client’s interests. By preventing needless conflict, we help keep fighting—and your costs—down while moving your divorce forward. We understand the local court system and process, including its flaws, and we help the system work for you. Our goal is to get you the results you need while keeping your stress and your expenses under control.

Attorney Paul Kowal has over thirty years of experience in Michigan family law, including helping people through the divorce process in Macomb and Oakland County courts. He has both the courtroom experience to advocate for you, and the negotiation skills to help you avoid unnecessary litigation and legal costs. At Paul S. Kowal, P.C., we can help you find a divorce process that works for you, your family, and your finances.

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