Let’s say you were married in Ohio and live in Michigan. Do you file for divorce in Michigan or Ohio? What if you were married in Mexico, live in Michigan and are not a citizen? Lawyers use the term “jurisdiction” to determine where to file.
Where do you file for divorce?
You can file for divorce in Michigan if you lived in the state for more than 180 days. You file in the County in which you have lived for the last 10 days. It makes no difference where you married or your citizenship.
The Legal Analysis
For those that are interested in a more thorough answer to the question, where do you file for divorce, I offer the following excerpts from a law journal I authored a few years back.
In Michigan, there is no common-law authority to grant a judgment of divorce. The jurisdiction of the circuit courts in matters of divorce is strictly statutory. (See: Yedinak v. Yedinak; and Flynn v. Flynn. The jurisdictional requirements for divorce are found in statute. Specifically, Michigan Compiled Laws 600.1021(1) which provides in pertinent part:
(1) Except as otherwise provided by law, the family division of circuit court has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over the following cases commenced on or after January 1, 1998: Cases of divorce and ancillary matters as set forth in the following statutes: . . .
At first glance, Michigan Compiled Laws section 552.9 appears to address residency and venue, the county where the case must be heard. However, the statute is in fact a jurisdictional limitation. MCL 552.9 provides in pertinent part:
A judgment of divorce shall not be granted by a court in this state in an action for divorce unless the complainant or defendant has resided in this state for 180 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint and, except as otherwise provided in subsection (2), the complainant or defendant has resided in the county in which the complaint is filed for 10 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.MCL 552.9
Case law provides interpretation of statututory law and the following cases add clarity to the statute.
In Stamadianos v. Stamadianos, the Michigan Supreme Court has held that both the 180-day state residency requirement and the ten-day county residency requirement set forth in MCL 552.9 are a jurisdictional limitation on the circuit court’s power to enter a divorce decree. Id. at 7.
In Hartzler v. Radeka et al., the Michigan Supreme Court held that domicile and residence are synonymous:
Domicile is the place where a person has his home, with no present intention of removing, and to which he intends to return after going elsewhere for a longer or shorter time.
Residence has a more restricted meaning and may be the place where he lives while engaged in work or duty which keeps him away from his domicile.
See also: Gluc v. Klein at pg. 452.
A statutory exception exists to the ten-day county residency (jurisdictional) requirement set forth in Michigan Compiled Laws section 552.9. Section (2) of the statute provides the exception:
(2) A person may file a complaint for divorce in any county in the state without meeting the 10-day requirement set forth in subsection (1) if all of the following apply and are set forth in the complaint:
(a) The defendant was born in, or is a citizen of, a country other than the United States of America.
(b) The parties to the divorce action have a minor child or children.
(c) There is information that would allow the court to reasonably conclude that the minor children are at risk of being taken out of the United States of America and retained in another country by the defendant.
Notably, in Kar v. Nanda the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the residency requirement under MCL 552.9(1) does not require an intent to remain permanently and indefinitely. Id. at 294. Also see Funk v. Funk, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued April 2, 2010 (Docket No. 319467).
By: Daniel Findling (2023)
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