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William J. Reisdorf, P.C. – Family Law Attorney

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 Divorce in Michigan

How an Experienced Michigan Divorce Attorney Can Help You

by William J Reisdorf, JD

 

In Michigan, there are two types of divorce – the type where you have children under the age of 18 (coded a “DM” case “divorce, minor children”) and the type where you have no children of the marriage or your children are over 18 and graduated from high school (coded a “DO” case).

 

If you start a divorce case without minor children, you need only wait two months before finalizing the case. If you have a divorce case with minor children, there is a six month waiting period, before you can finalize it. Many family law judges in Michigan will “waive down” the six months to two months if you can show special circumstances.

 

What specific procedure is followed in your Michigan county may be different from other counties; so it is essential that you choose a Michigan divorce attorney who practices all over the state and who has many years of experience. I have been practicing for over 32 years.

 

A divorce starts with two basic documents:  A “Complaint” and a “Summons”. Although very basic forms of these documents are available for you to use yourself, it is best to have an attorney prepare them. What you say in your divorce complaint may affect your whole case. This must be done carefully.

 

A divorce complaint and summons must be answered within 21 days after the other party is served. Otherwise that party (the Defendant) may be “defaulted” for not filing a written “Answer” and the Plaintiff (the person who starts the case) may then ask the judge for whatever he or she wants.

 

A divorce case is finalized with a document called a “Judgment of Divorce”. It is the most important document in the case. It will affect you and your rights and duties for years to come. It must be prepared carefully by an experienced Michigan divorce attorney and explained to you, line by line, if necessary. Contact this law office if you have any questions and we will be happy to talk to you.

 

 

Divorce and Custody:  When to File in Court

 

The discussion below is divided into two groups:  Couples who are married and couples who have children together but were never married.

 

MARRIED COUPLES 

 

When is it important to start a legal action? If you and your spouse are reaching a "rocky stage" in your relationship -- that is the time. If one spouse reaches the point that he or she does not trust the other, then the stability of the home must be preserved by obtaining an order preventing the other parent from removing the children or property from the home. This can't be done without seeing an attorney and filing an action in court. If there is violence, then you need to talk to an attorney about a restraining order (PPO). 

 

There are many benefits to filing a court action first. Often, waiting until the other parent files is waiting too late when things become tense and hateful. If you want to try marriage counseling and don’t want to "rock the boat" by serving papers on the other partner, then you need to know your rights and duties first.

 

You can have a confidential consultation with an attorney first. If the counseling goes nowhere, you need to know how to protect yourself, the children, and your property. My law office will provide one free consultation at a convenient time for you.

  

UNMARRIED COUPLES

 

When is it important to start a legal action? If you are a single parent and your relationship has started to fall apart with the other parent, even if you don't live together, you cannot protect the children without filing some legal action in court. If you are the father and you have not signed an Affidavit of Parentage, and there is no court case involving your child, then you have no legal standing to do anything unless you go to court and start a paternity or custody case. If the child is in your care, and you seek support, regardless if you are the father or mother, you may qualify for free legal assistance for support through the local family division of the prosecutor's office.

 

The same rule applies here about seeing an attorney for a confidential consultation at the first instant when things go wrong in your relationship. The only problem for unmarried partners is that there may be no legal status regarding your child. You have to go to court to create that status. Also, with regard to property, the judge deciding your custody case can't make decisions regarding your property. If you own property together with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and you are fighting over it, you will have to start a different court case to resolve that.

 

 

Bill Reisdorf represents divorce, custody, alimony, and family law clients in Oakland County, Wayne County, and Macomb County Michigan.