Michigan Divorce & Family Law FAQs

Michigan Divorce and Family Law FAQs for Women: Answers to Your Common Questions

Woodford Sathappan McGee is comprised of driven attorneys who share a passion for empowering women with knowledge of their rights and guiding them through family law matters so that they can move forward into a bright future.

Our law firm exclusively represents women which allows us to meet your needs in a unique way. We believe in giving women the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. With this knowledge often comes more confidence, which is part of what drives us in our work.

We have provided Michigan divorce FAQs and our answers. However, we offer a free consultation so you can seek answers based on the specific details of your case before making any decisions.

Contact us today and arrange a free consultation with an experienced Michigan divorce attorney at 380-212-3731.

What is The Divorce Process in Michigan?

The divorce process will be slightly different in each case. However, most divorce proceedings will follow a similar structure.

  • Filing For Divorce – In an uncontested divorce, spouses can file for divorce jointly. Or, if the divorce is contested, then one spouse will file, who will become the Plaintiff. Initial divorce papers include a summons, a complaint, and requests for temporary orders.
  • Serving the Divorce Papers – Once the initial divorce papers have been filed by the plaintiff, they will be served to the other spouse, who becomes the Defendant. Papers are usually served by certified mail.
  • The Answer – The Defendant then has 21 days to file an Answer, which is a response to the initial divorce papers detailing what they agree with and what they don’t. The Answer will then be served to the Plaintiff.
  • Default Request – If an Answer is not filed, then in order for the divorce to continue, the Plaintiff will need to file a Default Request. If approved, the divorce will continue without the Defendants’ participation unless the default is dismissed at a later date.
  • Pre-Trial Hearing – You may need to attend a pre-trial hearing to discuss the terms of your divorce. At this hearing, you and your spouse can make clear what you agree on and what you don’t. Unless you agree on everything, rulings are not usually made at this hearing.
  • Waiting Period – Michigan law requires a six-month waiting period for divorce before the process can be finalized. However, if there are contested issues, it may take longer. This waiting period can sometimes be shortened if a Judge deems it necessary, but it can never be less than 60 days.
  • The Discovery Process – During the discovery process, you and your former spouse will exchange information such as written answers to questions, evidence of assets, and testimonies under oath. Usually, both parties will have an attorney who will help you negotiate agreements on key issues.
  • Additional Court Hearings – If there are any issues that you and your former spouse cannot agree on, then you will need to attend additional court hearings. In these hearings, your attorney will present your case to a Judge, who will make final rulings. If you negotiate all of the terms of your divorce, then a Judge will review it and approve it if they deem it to be in line with Michigan divorce laws. If you and your spouse reconcile, then your divorce case can be dismissed at any time.
  • The Final Judgement – Once every issue has been resolved and approved by the Judge overseeing your case, your divorce will be finalized. You and your former spouse will both receive copies of your divorce decree and can begin to move forward with the rest of your life.

The divorce process might sound overwhelming, but when you seek the help of Woodford Sathappan McGee, you will benefit from a local, committed attorney who will be by your side from start to finish. They will ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly, all deadlines are met, and that you are kept informed and engaged at every stage.

Who Can Get a Divorce in Michigan?

In accordance with Michigan divorce laws, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state in order to file for divorce there. To be a resident of Michigan, you must have lived in the state for at least 180 days. Even if you are married in another state or country, you can still divorce in Michigan if you are a resident.

You must also file in the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse has lived for at least ten days.

Do I Need to Provide Grounds For Divorce in Michigan?

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you do not need to provide grounds for divorce. You do not have to be separated, and your spouse doesn’t have to agree to the divorce.

Instead, when you file for divorce, you will need to testify 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.

Although all states have a no-fault option, most states allow one party to place blame on the other in the divorce complaint, known as an at-fault divorce. However, in Michigan, you cannot file for an at-fault divorce, and if you do want to accuse your spouse of wrongdoing, such as abuse, then you will need to raise it after the initial filing in your divorce hearing. 


While Michigan offers a no-fault divorce option, not all divorces in the state are uncontested. Many divorces are contested due to disagreements over crucial issues like spousal support, child custody, child support, and property division. In some instances, one spouse may be abusive or not want to end the marriage, leading to a legal dispute where both parties typically hire lawyers, resulting in a lengthy and expensive legal proceeding. For couples who can come to an agreement on major issues, choosing an uncontested divorce can save them a considerable amount of time and money.

What is the Difference Between an Uncontested Divorce and a Contested Divorce in Michigan?

When you divorce your spouse, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made, such as those relating to property division, child custody, spousal support, and child support. If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on all issues before going to trial, then this is an uncontested divorce.

On the other hand, if there are any issues that you cannot agree on, then your divorce will be contested, and the Judge will need to make a final judgment on one or more issues.

It is possible for a divorce to start as contested and then become uncontested. This can happen when you have the help of an experienced divorce attorney who helps you and your former spouse negotiate decisions.

At Woodford Sathappan McGee, we will prioritize negotiation where possible so that you can come to amicable agreements. This saves time and money on court proceedings and allows for personalized arrangements. However, if you cannot agree, then we will be prepared to present your case at trial.

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take in Michigan?

An uncontested divorce in Michigan usually takes less time than a contested divorce that goes to trial. If there are no children involved, the divorce can be finalized within 60 days. However, one of the spouses must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days, and in the county where the complaint is filed for at least 10 days before filing for divorce.


In Michigan, most divorces take a minimum of six months, especially if there are minor children involved because the divorce must wait for a mandatory six-month period before it can be finalized. However, it may take longer if there are contested issues such as child custody, spousal support, or division of assets, or significant assets at stake.


Your attorney can help you navigate the divorce process and ensure it moves forward at a steady pace while safeguarding your rights.

What Happens While We Wait For Our Divorce to be Finalized?

In Michigan, once a complaint is filed, couples who do not have children must wait for 60 days before their divorce can be finalized.There is a six-month or 180 day waiting period for divorce if there are minor children involved, and if there are contested issues in your case, then it is likely to take considerably longer. In the meantime, you may require guidance on key issues such as who stays in the family home, how bills are paid, how you share parenting time, and whether one spouse is required to pay child or spousal support.

Your attorney can help you file for temporary orders, which will place legal obligations on you and your former spouse while your divorce case is ongoing. The Judge may also issue temporary orders without anyone filing for them if they deem it necessary.

How Does Child Custody Work in Michigan?

In Michigan, there are two types of custody, physical custody, and legal custody.

  • Physical Custody – Physical custody determines who the child lives with and how much parenting time they have with each parent. Physical custody may be shared equally, or one parent could become the primary caregiver while the other has visitation rights.
  • Legal Custody – Legal custody determines who has the right to make important decisions on behalf of their child, such as those that relate to school, religion, and medical care. Legal custody may only be given to the primary caregiver, or it may be shared and parents may be required to cooperate to make important decisions on behalf of their child.

How Are Child Custody Decisions in Michigan Made?

Child custody decisions must be made based on the child’s best interests. In most cases, that involves creating a joint custody arrangement that fosters stability in the child’s life. Your attorney from Woodford Sathappan McGee will help you achieve an agreement that does just that.

Some important considerations when determining what is in the child’s best interests include the following:

  • Maintaining a child’s relationships with close family, friends, and community members.
  • The child’s wishes.
  • The ability of each parent to consider and meet their child’s needs.
  • How involved each parent has been in their child’s life in the past.
  • The work schedule of each parent.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable and loving home.
  • Any potential danger to the child from either parent, such as evidence of abuse, neglect, or substance misuse.
  • The wishes of each parent.

Do Family Law Courts Favor the Mother Over the Father?

Family law courts do not favor the mother over the father. The law requires the Judge to make decisions free from gender bias and to base their decisions on the child’s best interests.

Some mothers assume that they will automatically become the primary custodian for their children, but this is not always the case. If you believe that you should be the primary caregiver, then we will help you negotiate an agreement that prioritizes your children.

Could I Be Granted Sole Custody?

It is considered to be in the child’s best interests for them to have a strong relationship with both parents. Therefore, most cases will result in some form of a shared parenting plan.

However, if one parent poses a risk to their child’s wellbeing, they may lose their right to custody. Examples could include a history of abuse or neglect, a criminal history, or substance abuse issues.

If you believe that you should be granted sole custody or that visitation with your child’s other parent should be supervised, then you will need to present clear and convincing evidence to a Judge.

At Woodfrod Sathappan McGee, thanks to our dedication to women, we have helped numerous families in difficult and abusive situations. If you believe that you should be granted sole custody, we will help you evidence your claims and will fight to protect you and your children.

What Should I Do If I Have Suffered Domestic Abuse From My Spouse?

If you have suffered domestic abuse from your spouse, then it is important that you seek help from an experienced attorney as early as possible in the divorce process, preferably before it begins.

At Woodford Sathappan McGee, we know how difficult it is to take those first steps, and you may be concerned that your spouse will be able to manipulate the situation to get what they want. Thanks to our dedication to women, we have created a space where they feel heard and supported. This is why many women who have suffered abuse have come to us for help. Our law firm is comprised of experienced attorneys who have the knowledge and resources necessary to help.

If necessary, we will first file a protection order which will place a legal obligation on your spouse to stay away from you and your children while the divorce is underway. We will set clear boundaries so that your spouse is not able to control the situation. We will work with you to gather evidence and present it to a Judge so that they are aware of your experiences and consider them in every decision relating to your divorce.

How is Child Support Determined in Michigan?

In Michigan, child support is based on a formula that takes into account each parent’s income, how many children there are, the custody arrangement, and other factors. In most cases, the parent who cares for the child for the majority of the time will be owed child support based on this formula.

However, child support payments can also deviate from this standard if the judge deems it appropriate. For example, if you are leaving a high-asset marriage and your child attends private education, then a higher amount of child support may be ordered.

What Can Child Support be Used For in Michigan?

There are no strict guidelines on what child support needs to be used for in Michigan, and parents do not need to trace or justify how the payments are spent. However, child support should be used towards expenses associated with raising the child, such as clothes, food, healthcare, shelter, and entertainment.

When Does a Child Support Obligation End in Michigan?

In Michigan, child support ends when a child reaches 18-19.5, depending on how old they are when they finish high school. However, if your child has a mental or physical incapacity that prevents them from being financially independent, then the child support obligation may continue until a Judge orders otherwise.

How is Property Division Determined in Michigan?

Michigan is an equitable distribution state, which means that each individual’s separate property continues to belong to them after divorce. However, marital property is shared and is subject to equitable distribution.

The first thing your attorney will help you do is to determine what property is separate and what is marital:

  • Separate Property Separate property is anything you owned before marriage and any assets you were gifted or inherited.
  • Marital PropertyAny asset acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered marital property. That includes bank accounts, retirement funds, real estate, debts, and more.

What is an Equitable Distribution of Property?

Equitable distribution means dividing property in a just and fair way. Determining what that is can be incredibly complex and often creates a lot of hostility. It is important to work with an attorney who can advocate for your rights and interests and fight to protect what’s important to you.

Some important considerations when dividing property include the following:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • Each spouse needs an ability to earn money.
  • The financial contributions of each spouse to the marital estate.
  • Whether either spouse sacrificed opportunities to care for children.
  • The value of each spouse’s separate property.
  • The custody arrangement.
  • Whether one spouse was solely responsible for the marital debt.

At Woodford Sathappan McGee, our attorneys have a wealth of experience in this area, including cases that involve complex or high assets. We will fight for what’s important and help you to reach an agreement that supports your future.

How is Spousal Support Determined in Michigan?

While child support payments are based on a formula, spousal support is not. Instead, the Judge will consider each case individually to determine whether one party is owed spousal support, how much they should receive, and how long payments should be made for.

Usually, if spousal support is awarded in Michigan, it is because they do not yet have the financial resources to support themselves. It is usually a temporary order which gives the receiving spouse an opportunity to undergo training or find employment so that they can become financially independent. This could be especially beneficial to mothers who sacrificed opportunities to care for their children.

There are also situations where a permanent spousal support order could be justified, but this is reserved for cases that involve a long marriage and a spouse who is not able to become independent due to health, age, or disability.

What Will Happen to My Health Insurance After Divorce?

If you have health insurance benefits via your spouse’s employer, then it may be maintained during the divorce process and for some time afterward. If the company your spouse works for has more than 20 employees, they need to continue providing you with health insurance benefits for three years after the divorce. However, the premiums you may be required to pay could increase once the divorce is finalized.

Can The Terms of My Divorce Decree be Changed After it Has Been Finalized?

Although your divorce decree is legally binding, the law recognizes that life changes and evolves, and terms that worked for your family once may not do forever. However, you cannot simply stop meeting your legal obligations. Instead, you need to file for a modification.

If you and your former spouse agree, then applying for a modification is relatively straightforward. So long as the new terms are still in your child’s best interests, the court should agree.

However, if you do not agree to new terms, then you will need to show evidence of a material and substantial change of circumstances in order to be successful. Examples could include a new job, illness, changing needs of the child, or if your former spouse has repeatedly failed in their obligations.

Our family law lawyers can guide you through all divorce and post-divorce issues, including modification and contempt proceedings.

Does Michigan Allow Legal Separation or Separate Maintenance?

If you want to leave your spouse but are unsure if divorce is the right option for you, then you might consider separate maintenance, known in other states as legal separation. Separate maintenance allows you to seek court orders on all issues that would typically be resolved in a divorce, but you and your spouse remain legally married.

Some people choose separate maintenance due to religious reasons because they hope to reconcile with their spouse one day, to maintain insurance benefits, or for other reasons.

However, the decision should be made with due care and consideration, and it is important that you understand all the implications before making your decision. We offer a free consultation so that you can explore your options and gain clarity on your next steps.

How Do I Find the Best Divorce Lawyer?

Choosing a divorce attorney can feel like an overwhelming task. Considering the far-reaching implications of your divorce decree, and the sensitive nature of the issues you may face in the divorce process, it is essential that you have good representation.

Many family law firms offer free consultations, which is a good opportunity for you to ask some questions and decide whether a potential divorce attorney is a good fit for your case. Divorce is often one of the most difficult times in a person’s life, so it is also important that you like your attorney and feel comfortable speaking with them.

Some questions that you can ask to learn more about your Michigan divorce lawyer include the following:

  • How can I contact you if I have questions, and how soon can I expect a response?
  • Can I see testimonials from previous clients?
  • What would a good outcome in my case look like, and how will we achieve it?
  • Do you have experience handling and representing clients in court?
  • How much of your professional time is dedicated to family law?
  • How much experience do you have helping people experiencing similar issues to me? (i.e., high asset divorce, high conflict custody battles, etc.).
  • How much is representation likely to cost me?
  • What are my options for resolving my case?

How Much Will Legal Representation Cost Me?

It is impossible to say how much your case will cost without knowing the details of your case. We offer a free consultation to assess your case and determine how much it will likely cost so you can decide what your next steps should be. It is also worth noting that although each spouse is usually responsible for your own fees, if your former spouse earns significantly more than you, they could be ordered to cover some of your costs.

Do I Need Legal Representation to Get a Divorce in Michigan?

In Michigan, anyone has a right to divorce without legal representation. If you don’t have children or significant assets, and your marriage did not last very long, then a do-it-yourself divorce could be a viable option. However, we recommend that you at least seek a free consultation for advice from a lawyer before you start the process.

Even if your divorce is amicable, it is essential that you consider your future and that your rights are protected. Once your divorce decree has been issued, it is not easily changed, so you should take the appropriate measures to protect your future.

Why Should I Choose Woodford Sathappan McGee?

At Woodford Sathappan McGee, our attorneys solely represent women in family law matters. We believe that this allows us to meet women’s needs in a unique and comprehensive way.

We take a personal approach to the attorney-client relationship, which involves listening and adapting to your needs. We will be there to support and guide you throughout the divorce process and will always be prompt to answer your questions.

We always prioritize the needs of children if you have them while also advocating for your rights and interests. We will help you and your ex-spouse come to amicable agreements where possible, saving time and money on lengthy court proceedings. However, we are experienced trial lawyers and will always be prepared to present your case in court. 

Our law firm is comprised of a team of skilled attorneys, who each have a wealth of skills and experiences. We will assign the attorney most suited to your case, and if you are facing a case that involves high-assets, abuse, high-conflict, cross-country parenting, physiological evaluations, or other complications, we can help.

Can a Female Divorce Attorney Represent Me?

If you would rather work with a female attorney, then let us know when you call. Some of the women we work with have a preference for working with a female attorney, and we are always happy to accommodate them.

Call Our Team of Experienced Michigan Divorce Lawyers for Women to Schedule a Free Consultation

Divorce is often one of the most difficult times in a woman’s life. At Woodford Sathappan McGee, we are committed to making the process a little easier by providing compassionate and dedicated support.

Our goal is for you to reach an outcome that supports your future. With the proper guidance and knowledge of your rights, you can begin to regain your confidence

Contact us today at 380-212-3731 to arrange a free consultation with a Michigan divorce lawyer for women that understand your unique needs.

Not necessarily; custody decisions are not a factor when determining custody. The Judge is required to make their decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child.

No, only one spouse files for divorce. If you are unsure whether to file for divorce first then you should arrange a free consultation so that an attorney can advise you about your next steps.

Generally, each spouse is required to cover their own legal fees. However, if your spouse has a significantly higher income than you, then you may be able to have your expenses reimbursed/

Contact a Divorce Lawyer For Women Today

Woodford Sathappan McGee represents women exclusively; this gives us a unique ability to meet women’s needs. The goal of our law firm is to empower you with knowledge of your rights and for you to feel confident about your life post-divorce.

Contact our law office today at 380-212-3731 to schedule a free consultation.