Divorce

Nichols & Eberth, P.C., lawyers handle all types of divorce cases, including those that require litigation and those settled outside the court. Depending on the situation and willingness of both parties, our attorneys can assist with a divorce mediation or arbitration, which is less expensive than litigating and often leads to a more fair and amicable outcome.

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the process of divorce in general as well as how it relates to residents of Michigan and some specifics for Wayne and Oakland counties.

If you have additional questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your divorce matter, please call us at (888) 571-5700 or email us today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Divorce

Divorce is a complex process and can be traumatic for many couples. The so-called “simple” or “friendly” divorce is all too rare. Often, hostility between divorcing spouses is due to fear of the unknown. We, the attorneys of Nichols & Eberth, P.C., hope to eliminate some of that fear by answering many frequently asked questions about the legal and emotional process of divorce.

 

What do I do prior to starting divorce proceedings?

  • Gather information. Assemble as much information as possible regarding family financial matters. This should include:
    • copies of tax returns for the last three years;
    • lists of marital assets and debts such as are often required for credit applications;
    • wills, trusts, and estate planning schedules such as are often prepared by an attorney, accountant, insurance agent or bank trust officer;
    • the most recent statement from your spouse’s employer regarding employee fringe benefits, especially retirement pensions; and
    • recent account statements from financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, and brokerage houses.
  • Avoid new debt. Do not incur any additional joint debt with your spouse. If you are currently working, remain employed.
  • Take care of repairs. Make any needed repairs on major appliances, cars, your home, etc., out of joint family funds.
  • Attend to medical needs. Take care of all your medical and dental needs out of family funds. If you are covered under the health insurance of your spouse’s employer, verify that your coverage has not been terminated.
  • Be cautious if filing a joint tax return. Do not sign any joint income tax returns if you have reason to believe they have not been properly completed.
  • Close or notify charge accounts. Close out joint charge accounts, or, if you want to retain them, notify the creditors in writing that you will no longer be responsible for your spouse’s purchases.

 

How much does it cost to file for a divorce?

The fee charged by the circuit court to file a Complaint for Divorce is $150.00. If the couple has minor children, the fee is $230.00. If you file in Wayne County and desire that the Friend of the Court conduct an investigation regarding child support and/or spousal support, there is an additional charge of $40.00. Of course, attorney fees and costs are in addition to the court fees. You are welcome to call us to find out our current hourly rate and retainer fee.

How long does it take to get divorced?

In Michigan it takes a minimum of 60 days to get divorced. If there are minor children involved, the waiting period is 180 days. However, this 180-day waiting period may be reduced if “undue hardship” can be proven. In those cases, the 60-day minimum waiting period still applies.

How do I start a divorce?

In Michigan, you are required to file the Complaint for Divorce with the circuit court of the county where you or your spouse currently reside. However, one of you must have resided in the county for at least the last 10 days before you file. In addition, one of you must have lived in Michigan for at least the last 180 days (6 months) before you can file in Michigan. In Michigan, like all other U.S. states, there is no requirement to prove fault by either party to get the divorce.

What happens if I’m served with divorce papers?

If you are served with a divorce complaint, you must file an answer within 21 days. If you fail to file an answer within 21 days, you can be defaulted. A default could prevent you from having a say in how the court decides custody, visitation, support and property settlement issues.

How will the court divide our property?

In determining property division, the court will consider the following:

  • age of the parties;
  • health of the parties;
  • sources of the property;
  • length of the marriage;
  • how property was accumulated;
  • needs of the parties;
  • needs of the children;
  • earning ability and capacity of the parties;
  • fault of the parties; and
  • other equitable factors.

The property to be divided will include common items such as a house, cars, and bank accounts. It will also include professional degrees and practices, businesses, pensions, profit-sharing plans and other things that most people would not necessarily think of as “property.”  Although every judge views property division differently, the most common approach is to divide the property equally between the two parties.

Will I be entitled to alimony/spousal support?

In determining if a party should be awarded alimony/spousal support, the court will take into account the following factors:

  • past relations and the conduct of the parties;
  • length of the marriage;
  • the parties’ ability to work;
  • the source and amount of property awarded to the parties;
  • age of the parties;
  • ability to pay alimony;
  • parties’ present situation;
  • parties’ needs;
  • parties’ health;
  • prior standard of living of the parties and whether the parties support others; and
  • general equity principles.

While courts are not bound by a mathematical formula in awarding alimony/spousal support, there are computer programs that assist in determining whether you will likely have to pay alimony/spousal support and if so, what amount you will likely have to pay. Nichols & Eberth, P.C., uses the latest software available for estimating the likelihood and amount of alimony/spousal support payments.

What is a “Friend of the Court?”

The Friend of the Court is an agency of the circuit court established in 1919 to assist the court in divorce-related cases. The Friend of the Court is staffed by analysts who meet with the parties to review their respective incomes and then make a recommendation as to which party should pay child support and the amount of child support. Nichols & Eberth, P.C., uses the same computer software that the Friend of the Court uses to compute child support.

The Friend of the Court also investigates and makes recommendations regarding child custody and parenting time (a.k.a. visitation). Child support payments are processed through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) in Lansing. When a support payer falls behind in payments, the Friend of the Court can initiate enforcement proceedings.

Will I be awarded custody of my children?

Child custody is one of the most emotional and traumatic issues in any divorce case. The “Child Custody Act” sets forth 12 factors that a judge must consider when making a custody decision. In determining which parent shall have custody of the minor children, the court focuses on what is in the child’s best interest (not what is in the parent’s best interest).

The court will take into account the following factors:

(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.

(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.

(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.

(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.

(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.

(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.

(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.

(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.

(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.

(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.

(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

Source: MCL 722.23.

The court has broad discretion in determining the relative weight or importance given to each of the 12 factors. Please keep in mind that disputes over child custody are very disruptive to all concerned, especially the children. Child custody fights are also very expensive, often exceeding $20,000 in attorney fees, expert witness fees and costs.

Will I receive or have to pay child support, and if so what will be the amount?

Child support is money paid by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the support of a minor child. In determining the amount of child support, Michigan has adopted a Statewide Child Support Guideline. The Guideline considers the incomes of both parents and the needs of the child based on national statistics showing what it costs to raise a child in a typical family of a similar income level.

Child support is modifiable upon a showing of “changed circumstances.” Support is usually ordered until the minor child reaches the age of eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. Child support should be paid through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU), rather than directly to the custodial parent. This allows for more accurate recordkeeping and prompt and inexpensive enforcement if an arrearage accrues.

Child support obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy and are given priority over all other debts except federal income tax liens. Michigan has one of the best records in the nation for collection and enforcement of child support.

What do I do if my spouse is abusive towards me or I do not feel safe in the marriage?

Experts offer this advice for dealing with a violent incident:

  • Move toward an exit when an argument begins.
  • Practice how to get out of your home and plan where you would go.
  • Devise a signal to use with others when you need the police.
  • Confide in a neighbor. Ask the person to call police if there’s a disturbance, or on a signal.
  • Memorize the shelter number and keep change with you.
  • Keep your personal protection order with you always.

Personal protection orders issued by courts can protect people from harassment, assaults and stalking. To get one, go to the county clerk’s office or circuit court in the county where you live and ask for a packet on filing for an order.

In addition, domestic violence shelters offer help with housing, counseling and legal advice. Phones are answered all day, every day.

  • Statewide: Michigan DHS Vulnerable Adult Services (800) 996-6228
  • Livingston County: LACASA (866) 522-2725
  • Macomb County: Turning Point (586) 463-6990
  • Oakland County: HAVEN (248) 334-1274 or toll-free (877) 922-1274
  • Washtenaw County: SafeHouse; (734) 995-5444
  • Wayne County:

A list of shelters around the state is available by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233).

What are attorney fees?

The client should have a full understanding of the fee or hourly rate to be charged before any work is done. In all instances, we charge a retainer fee at the beginning of the case. This fee can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the case. This retainer is applied toward your final fee. A written retainer agreement must be signed by both you, the client, and we, the attorneys. A copy of this agreement will be given to you, and a copy will also be kept in your file.

In addition to the attorney fees, there may be other charges associated with a divorce. You, the client, are also responsible for the payment of items such as court costs, filing fees, service of process, appraisals, expert witness fees, mileage, parking, copying, postage, fax charges, long distance telephone, etc.