Filing for divorce can be intimidating. It represents one of the biggest changes you can make to your life: parting ways with a spouse you can no longer live with. However, for many Michigan residents, the process of divorce is as big a mystery as what they will do once the judgment is entered.
What Happens In The Days After You File For Divorce?
When you file your Complaint for Divorce, your case will be assigned a case number and a judge. Depending on the local court rules, you may receive a notice that pleadings must be filed electronically, or your case may be immediately set for a hearing, usually at least 60 days in advance.
Immediately after you file for divorce, your lawyer will attempt to have your spouse served with the paperwork. This could happen by:
- Your spouse picking up the papers and signing an Acknowledgment of Service
- A friend handing them to him or her and then signing an Affidavit of Service
- Your lawyer mailing the papers to him or her with a return receipt
- A process server formally serving him or her at home or at work
“Service” proves to the court that your spouse knows the case has been filed and has received the paperwork connected to it. Without proper service, you case will be dismissed, and you will have to start over.
What Hearings Should You Expect to Attend?
The hearings in a divorce action depend on whether there are children involved, and the local court rules. While there are exceptions, if you file for divorce without children, in most cases you can expect to attend the following hearings:
- Status Conference: to set out the issues, expectations and schedules for the case.
- Motion Hearing: to resolve some issue that arises during the divorce process. This could include interim spousal support, occupancy of the home, problems with information gathering, or anything else that needs to be resolved before the Judgment can be entered.
- Mediation: the parties and attorneys meet with neutral third party, often in the mediator’s office, to try to resolve the case.
- Settlement Conference: to resolve the case and inform the judge of outstanding issues. There may be more than one of these hearings if there are complicated issues or you are working toward resolution.
- Trial: to present the case to the judge using witnesses and evidence gathered during discovery. You will likely be asked to testify in front of a judge.
In cases involving children, the Friend of the Court assists the judge with issues of child custody, support, and parenting time. However, the method used, and the hearings involved vary depending on the size of your court and the arrangements between judges and Friend of the Court referees. Depending on your county, you should expect to attend the following additional hearings:
- Early Intervention Conference: to determine if a Friend of the Court investigation is needed.
- Temporary Custody or Support Hearing: to set the schedule for custody, parenting time, and child support to be paid during the Divorce proceeding.
- Friend of the Court Investigation: The Friend of the Court meets with the parties (and sometimes the attorneys) to review evidence related to custody, support, and parenting time.
- Objection to Referee Recommendation Hearing: If you do not agree with a Friend of the Court recommendation, your attorney can ask the judge to review the issue and make a decision.
What Happens Between The Hearings?
In between all the hearings, you should expect to answer questions and provide documents about your financial circumstances. You may also meet with your lawyer to discuss possible settlement, or even meet together with your spouse and his or her attorney in a 4-way meeting to resolve outstanding issues.
Divorce is complicated. When you file for divorce, you set in motion a series of tasks and hearings that could take six months to a year to resolve. The exact nature of the process depends on your priorities, the issues in the case, and your county court. Make sure you discuss the process with your lawyer so you know what to expect when you file for divorce.