October 25, 2011

Michigan Divorce and Family Law Definitions

Michigan divorce and Family Law Definitions:


A contemporary term for spousal support.  Periodic monthly payments for the maintenance and support of a spouse.  https://vimeo.com/70357676

Answer to Complaint

The formal legal document confirming or denying the allegations in the complaint.  Typically an Answer to Complaint must be filed within 21 days after receiving the complaint for divorce.  https://vimeo.com/70357419


The formal process in which the litigants present their case before an Arbitrator.  Parties can contract to empower a 3rd party to decide their case.  Unlike a trial, Arbitration is usually less formal. However, there are limited rights to appeal.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Best Interest of the Child

A legal term of art used to define the twelve child custody factors a court must evaluate when awarding custody of a minor child under the Child Custody Act of 1970.  https://vimeo.com/70407197

Case Management Conference

The name for a Status conference in Wayne County, Michigan – See Status Conference  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Child Support

The amount of financial assistance provided from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent.  Typicallym the amount must comply with the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual.   https://vimeo.com/70407197


The formal legal document that reflects the lawsuit terminating a marriage.   https://vimeo.com/70357419


The party being sued.  The party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff.    https://vimeo.com/70357419


A type of Discovery request. Testimony under oath, subject to the penalties of perjury given outside of the courtroom with a court reporter who transcribes the proceedings.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Divorce Decree

See Judgment of Divorce  https://vimeo.com/70357419


The formal process by which the parties exchange information under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury.   Typically, lawyers use three types of discovery methods.  A Subpoena, Interrogatories and Depositions.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Early Intervention Conference

A conference typically at the Friend of the Court that introduces the parties to the Court process when minor children are involved.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Established Custodial Environment

In a contested custody case, the existence of an established custodial environment defines the burden of proof by which the parent seeking to modify custody must prove his or her case.  An established custodial environment exists if a child looked to a specific parent for the regular necessities of life for an appreciable period of time.  https://vimeo.com/70407197

Ex Parte Order

An Order entered without a formal hearing.  Typically filed at the beginning of a divorce case.

Financial Status Quo

A common ex parte Court Order requiring the parties to continue to contribute to the marital obligations during the pendency of the case.


A type of discovery request. Written questions that must be answered under oath.

Judgment of Divorce

The formal legal document that terminates the marriage, defines the custodial and support arrangements and divides the parties estate.

Legal Custody

The parent responsible for “legal” or “major” decisions of the child. Typically, legal custody to both parties.  https://vimeo.com/70407197

Marital Property

Typically property acquired during the course of the marriage and used for a marital purpose. Marital assets may also consist of pre-marital property that changed value during the course of the marriage.


A non-binding, informal settlement process with a neutral person (the mediator) who attempts to negotiate a settlement among the parties.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Mutual Restraining Order

A Court Order prohibiting the parties from doing something such as a prohibition on the sale of property during the divorce process.  Typically entered as an ex parte order.

Parenting Time

See also Visitation.  The time a child spends with each parent.  https://vimeo.com/70407197

Physical Custody

The custodial or “primary” custodian. Where does the child spend the majority of his/her time?  https://vimeo.com/70407197


The party who initiates a lawsuit or the Complaint.

Spousal Support

See also alimony.  https://vimeo.com/70357676

Separate Property

Typically, property acquired before or after marriage.  https://vimeo.com/70407197

Settlement Conference

A Court date usually reserved to facilitate settlement and for the scheduling of a trial date.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Service of Process

The manner and method by which someone is put on legal notice of a lawsuit. Typically a process server hands the Defendant the lawsuit, however service can be in other ways such as mail, publication, acknowledgment by the party.  https://vimeo.com/70357419

Status Conference

A Court conference typically reserved for scheduling dates and assessing the status of the case.  https://vimeo.com/70357419


A discovery request. A court order that requires a party to appear or for the production of documents.


The formal process in which the litigants present their case before a Judge (There is no right to a jury trial in a divorce case) who makes a ruling regarding the contested issues.  https://vimeo.com/70357419


See parenting time.  https://vimeo.com/70407197

By:  Daniel Findling

The Divorce Guy, Michigan Divorce Attorneys and Specialists