Michigan Divorce Laws – Everything there is to know.

Every marriage ends. For some, “til death do us part” is a realty. For others, they cannot wait that long. There are two paths in every divorce, the emotional path and the legal path. We trust that you understand how you feel. We understand the law. We provide a tremendous amount of information on Michigan divorce. The application of the law is what we do best in helping our client’s achieve their goals.


The Michigan Divorce Process.

Although the decision to divorce may not be easy, the basic documents to file divorce in Michigan are not complicated. Most Michigan divorce cases require specialized attention. While a basic “form divorce” may be suitable for a short-term marriage with no children or nothing to divide. Special consideration should be given to more complicated cases.

Article on the Michigan divorce process

Michigan no fault divorce law.

The Michigan no fault divorce law is found in

 Michigan Compiled Laws Section 552.6. Section (1) of the Michigan no-fault divorce law provides that a divorce shall be granted upon the allegation 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.

Michigan no-fault divorce statute – MCL 552.6(1)

There is no need to allege a “ground for divorce” in Michigan and it may seem counter-intuitive that “fault” can play a role in a Michigan divorce.

Michigan divorce laws – no fault divorce article

Michigan divorce laws on jurisdiction requirements.

In order to file a divorce in Michigan, one party must be a resident of the State of Michigan for a minimum of 180 days.  This is the Jurisdictional requirement.  The jurisdictional residency requirement is found in MCL 552.9 and a Co

The Michigan divorce statutory waiting period law.

The statutory waiting period for a Michigan divorce is found in Michigan Compiled Laws 552.9f.  MCL 552.9f provides that a Michigan divorce without a minor child must wait until:

“ . . . the expiration of 60 days from the time of filing the bill of complaint . . .” before the divorce can be granted.   

MCL 552.9f

The same statute, MCL 552.9f provides that a Michigan divorce with a minor child (under the age of 18) a divorce cannot take place until:

“the expiration of 6 months from the day the bill of complaint is filed.” 

In simple terms, the statutory waiting period for a divorce in Michigan without a minor child is 60 days and the statutory waiting period for a divorce with a minor child is 180 days or 6 months. 

Michigan divorce laws – The statutory waiting period.

The Complaint for Divorce

The Complaint for Divorce is a legal document setting forth a desire to divorce. Michigan Compiled Laws section 552.6 is the Michigan divorce law that govern a Complaint for Divorce.

Section (1) of the statute provides:

(1) A complaint for divorce may be filed in the circuit court upon the allegation 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. In the complaint the plaintiff shall make no other explanation of the grounds for divorce than by the use of the statutory language.

MCL 552.6(1)

A Complaint for Divorce must also include Jurisdictional language, a declaration that the wife is not currently pregnant, a prayer for relief and additional specific language in cases involving children.  These requirements are bundled in statutes, court rules and local rules.  Rather than confusing you with all of the requirements of a Complaint for Divorce, we provide a sample complaint for divorce below.  As a general proposition, there is nothing particularly special about a Complaint for Divorce.  It is a simple form.  Notwithstanding, what follows the Complaint for Divorce is typically not simple.

The Judgment of Divorce

The requirements of a Judgment of Divorce is found in Michigan Compiled Laws 552.101. The statute requires the following deteriminations:

  • The division of any policy or contract of life insurance, endowment, or annuity;
  • Determine all rights, including any contingent rights, of the husband and wife in and to all of the following:  (a) Any vested pension, annuity, or retirement benefits.  (b) Any accumulated contributions in any pension, annuity, or retirement system.  (c) In accordance with section 18 of 1846 RS 84, MCL 552.18, any unvested pension, annuity, or retirement benefits;
  • Division of all assets and liabilities;
  • If applicable, Child custody, support and parenting time;
  • If applicable, spousal support (alimony);
  • Statutory pension and insurance provisions; and
  • Provide finality to the marriage.

Michigan Divorce Laws on property division.

Michigan divorce laws provide as  a general rule, court’s are only concerned with property acquired during the course of the marriage (See: Byington v. Byington).  While there is no requirement that property should be divided equally (See: Sparks v. Sparks), the division of property should at a minimum be fair. Debts should also be related to a marital purpose.

Michigan divorce laws on property division article

Michigan Compiled Law 552.19: Provides the statutory authority for a court to divide property in divorce .

Michigan Compiled Law 552.23(1): Provides authority for a court to invade separate property.

Michigan Compiled Law 552.101: Addresses life insurance, endowments and annuities.

Michigan Compiled Law 552.103: Provides authority to convert jointly owned real property (entireties or joint tenancy) to individual ownership in divorce.

Michigan Compiled Law 552.22:  The court may require the disclosure of property interests under oath.

Michigan Compiled Law 552.401:  Statutory exception to the doctrine of non-invasion of separate property.  (1)  Has the claimant spouse contributed to the “acquisition, improvement or accumulation of the property.

Michigan Compiled Law 552.23:  MCL 552.401:  Statutory exception to the doctrine of non-invasion of separate property. (2) The award to the claimant spouse from the marital assets is “insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance of the claimant and any children in his or her care.

Michigan divorce laws on child custody.

Michigan child custody laws provide the legal and practical manner parents exercise their parental rights.

Michigan divorce laws on child custody

Michigan Child Custody laws are found in the Child Custody Act of 1970 as amended in Michigan Compiled laws section 722.21.

Michigan Compiled Laws section 722.25(1):  Custody battle between a parent and a third party gives priority to the parental presumption.

(UCCJEA) governs interstate custody disputes

Michigan Compiled Laws section 722.27(1)(c): A court cannot enter a new custody order or amend an existing order without first determining if there is an established custodial environment.

Michigan Compiled Laws section 722.27:  If an established custodial environment exists, a change can be made only on clear and convincing evidence that the change is in the best interest of the child.

Vodvarka v. Grasmeyer (2003) 675 N.W.2d 847, 259 Mich.App. 499., To establish a “change of circumstances,” under Child Custody Act provision requiring party seeking change in custody to first establish proper cause or change of circumstances, a movant must prove that, since the entry of the last custody order, the conditions surrounding custody of the child, which have or could have a significanteffect on the child’s well-being, have materially changed; the evidence must demonstrate something more than the normal life changes, both good and bad, that occur during the life of a child, and there must be at least some evidence that the material changes have had or will almost certainly have an effect on the child. Vodvarka v. Grasmeyer (2003) 675 N.W.2d 847, 259 Mich.App. 499Child Custody  555

Michigan divorce laws on Parenting time (visitation)

Parenting time or visitation is similar to child custody and describes the frequency of time a child spends with each parent. We invite you to explore our knowledge base.

If the parents of a child can agree on parenting time terms, the court will order parenting time in accordance with the agreement unless it would endanger the child. (See MCL 722.27a(2)). However, if the parents of a child cannot agree on parenting time terms, the court will decide.

Parenting time in Michigan – The details

Parenting time is governed by the Child Custody Act of 1970 – MCL 722.27a, which provides in pertinent part that:

(1) Parenting time shall be granted in accordance with the best interests of the child. It is presumed to be in the best interests of a child for the child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents. Except as otherwise provided in this section, parenting time shall be granted to a parent in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and the parent granted parenting time.

The best interest of a child is a legal term of art used in both custody and parenting time cases. However, the parenting time statute provides a more detailed list of factors to be considered by the court such as:

(a) The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.

(b) Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.

(c) The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.

(d) The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.

(e) The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child of traveling for purposes of parenting time.

(f) Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order.

(g) Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time.

(h) The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent’s temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent’s intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent.

(i) Any other relevant factors.

Michigan compiled laws section 722.27a (5) allow either party to ask for a specific schedule for reasonable parenting time in Michigan and MCL 722.27a( 6) clarifies the reasonable parenting time in Michigan terms, which can include the cost to transport the child, supervision, specific times, bond to insure compliance and reasonable notice if reasonable parenting time in Michigan is cancelled.

Michigan divorce laws on Alimony

Alimony and spousal support are synonymous. It is the legal obligation to provide financial support to a dependent spouse.

A leading spousal support case in Michigan is McLain v. McLain and sets forth a number of factors that should be considered in evaluating an award of alimony or spousal support:

Michigan case law reveals a number of factors which have been considered in evaluating whether alimony should be awarded. These factors include:

1. The past relations and conduct of the parties. Johnson v Johnson, 346 Mich. 418; 78 NW2d 216 (1956), Feldman v Feldman, 55 Mich. App. 147; 222 *172 NW2d 2 (1974), Abadi v Abadi, 78 Mich. App. 73; 259 NW2d 244 (1977), lv den 402 Mich. 870 (1978).

2. The length of the marriage. Abadi, supra.

3. The ability of the parties to work. Hoffman v Hoffman, 9 Mich. App. 715; 158 NW2d 78 (1968), Van Ommen v Van Ommen, 25 Mich. App. 652; 181 NW2d 634 (1970), Abadi, supra.

4. The source of and amount of property awarded to the parties. Pinchuk v Pinchuk, 317 Mich. 523; 27 NW2d 81 (1947), Schaffer v Schaffer, 37 Mich. App. 711; 195 NW2d 326 (1972), Abadi, supra.

5. The age of the parties. Johnson, supra,Abadi, supra.

6. The ability of the parties to pay alimony. Ross v Ross, 24 Mich. App. 19; 179 NW2d 703 (1970), Hoffman, supra.

7. The present situation of the parties. Johnson, supra,Hoffman, supra.

8. The needs of the parties. Abadi, supra.

9. The health of the parties. Johnson, supra,Abadi, supra.

10. The prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others. Johnson, supra.

11. General principles of equity. Stathas v Stathas, 1 Mich. App. 510; 136 NW2d 713 (1965), lv den 377 Mich. 698 (1966), Hoffman, supra, Ross, supra.

Want to know more?

We recognize that it is impossible to identify every Michigan divorce law in a blog post which is why we created the Michigan Divorce Education Series which is a collection of video webinars covering Michigan divorce and family law issues in detail. We also have written more articles on Michigan divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm.

About Findling Law

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling

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