Consider talking to a lawyer. Some people incorrectly believe they don’t need their own lawyer if their spouse already has one. However, you can’t rely on your spouse’s lawyer to protect your interests. This is true even if you and your spouse agree on most issues. A lawyer is only allowed to represent one of you. If a lawyer has filed paperwork for your spouse or has appeared in court for your spouse, that person cannot represent you.
If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. Whether you are low-income or not, you can use the “Find a Lawyer” part of this website to look for a lawyer in your area.
Pay attention to deadlines. There are strict deadlines you must follow in a divorce case. If you want to file an answer and/or a counterclaim to your spouse’s complaint for divorce, you must do so within the time limits stated on the summons. This is 21 days from the date of service if you were served personally (handed the papers). It is 28 days from the date of service if you were served by mail or while you were outside of Michigan.
If you don’t file an answer by the deadline the court can enter an order of default against you. If a default is entered the judge may not allow you to participate in the case unless you file a motion to have the default set aside. This means that the court could make decisions about your marriage, property and children without your input.
Decide how you want to respond. If your spouse has filed for divorce, you don’t really have to do anything. If you do nothing, your spouse can finish the divorce without your input, and you’ll end up divorced on your spouse’s terms. This may be fine if you don’t have children or property to divide. But, you should consider participating in the case if you care about how those issues get decided and want the court to know what you want to happen in the divorce.
To participate in the case you, file an answer to the divorce complaint by the deadline on the summons. You can also file a counterclaim for divorce, where you also ask the court to give you a divorce and state the terms that you want. If you file a counterclaim for divorce you must file and serve it at the same time that you file and serve your answer.
You can use our Do-It-Yourself Answer and Counterclaim for Divorce to file just an answer, or an answer and a counterclaim.