Finalize Your Judgment of Divorce
Before you go to your final divorce hearing, carefully read your Judgment of Divorce (JOD) to see if you need to make any changes. You can make changes to the judgment by hand, but it is better to log back in to the Law Help Interactive website to make changes to your forms. Go back to the Do-It-Yourself Divorce tool or the Do-It-Yourself Judgment of Divorce tool (whichever you used to prepare your JOD). When you are directed to LawHelp Interactive, log in with the username and password you created when you prepared your forms. After you log in, you can click on your answer file and return to your saved answers.
Find the section you want to change. Change any answers you need to and reprint the documents you changed. You don’t have to reprint the other documents – just the ones you changed.
Mark the box on your JOD that shows it is entered either by default (if your spouse is not participating) or on consent of the parties.
Prepare for the Hearing
If you are the Plaintiff, the judge may ask you to enter testimony at the final hearing. The Testimony in Final Divorce Hearing script printed with your other documents if you completed the Do-It-Yourself Divorce tool or the Do-It-Yourself Judgment of Divorce tool. If you don't have it, you can print the script from the article Testimony in Final Divorce Hearing. Review the script, complete the blank spaces, and update information as needed. Bring this document with you to the hearing.
Get Your JOD Signed and Filed
At your final hearing, the judge will sign your JOD or may require you to make changes to it before they will sign. After the hearing, follow the judge’s instructions for filing your JOD with the court clerk. In some counties, a court employee will file it for you, but in most counties you have to file your own JOD. If the signed JOD is not filed with the court clerk, you will not be considered divorced.
Ask the clerk how to get copies of the signed JOD. You will need at least two copies – one for your own records and another to serve on your spouse.
Serve Your Spouse with the Signed JOD
Your spouse must be served with the signed JOD as soon as possible. If your spouse is at the final hearing, you can give them a copy of the signed judgment in the courtroom. Otherwise, mail it to their last known address. Complete and file a Proof of Service with the court clerk.
Other Documents You May Need to Finish Your Divorce
Even if your JOD says you get certain property, title to that property is not automatically transferred. If your JOD says your spouse is responsible for certain debts, you are not automatically free of those debts. You must have certain documents prepared and filed or sent to the right place.
Some of the documents you may need to complete or actions you may need to take (or hire a lawyer to do for you) are listed below:
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or an Eligible Domestic Relations Order (EDRO)
Pension and retirement accounts can only be divided by a special order called a QDRO or an EDRO. If your JOD awards you part of your spouse’s pension or retirement account, you must have a QDRO or EDRO drafted, filed, and served on the administrator of the pension or retirement plan.
Drafting a QDRO or EDRO is complicated. There is no form you can use to do this on your own. A lawyer can draft a QDRO or EDRO for you.
Warning! If this isn’t done, you won’t get your share of retirement funds.
You or your spouse may need to sign a quitclaim deed if your JOD awards real property (a house, building, or land) to one spouse and the deed is in both your names or only in the name of the spouse not keeping the property. A quitclaim deed is a document that transfers the real property (also called real estate) from one party to another.
Transfer Car Titles
You must transfer a car’s title if the JOD awards the car to one spouse and the car is titled in both your names, or only in the name of the spouse not keeping the car. It is best if you and your spouse can go to a Secretary of State office together to complete the title transfer. Make sure:
- You have the title. Making changes on a title, such as crossing out a name, invalidates it. Copies are also not acceptable. The spouse giving up their interest in the vehicle must complete the seller's portion of the title, including the odometer disclosure statement, and sign it;
- There is no outstanding loan against the vehicle. A title cannot be transferred until the vehicle loan is fully paid. A representative from the bank or financial institution that administered the loan must either have signed the title or provided the owner with a lien termination statement;
- You check to see that the odometer reading and vehicle identification number (VIN) on the title match the vehicle's odometer reading and VIN.
Transfer Mobile Home Titles
Mobile homes are titled in Michigan. The title is identified as a "Certificate of Manufactured Home Ownership" or "Certificate of Mobile Home Title." These documents look like a vehicle title and serve the same purpose. Transferring a mobile home title is necessary if the JOD awards the mobile home to one spouse and it is titled in both your names, or only in the name of the spouse not keeping the mobile home.
The spouse who is not keeping the mobile home should assign the title to the other spouse. The spouse keeping the mobile home can take the assigned title to a Secretary of State branch office to have it transferred into their name.
If a third party has a security interest in the mobile home (a person or bank that loaned you the money to buy the mobile home), you may want to check the loan documents to see if the third party must approve a title transfer.
Mutual funds, stocks, and bank accounts need to be transferred if the JOD awards them to one spouse and they are held in both spouses’ names or only in the other spouse’s name. A lawyer or financial advisor can help you with investment transfers.
Letters to Creditors
You can send a copy of your signed JOD to your creditors if the judgment assigns your spouse responsibility for paying joint debts. But doing so is not a guarantee that the creditor will not hold you responsible for a debt that your spouse fails to pay.
If you took your spouse’s last name when you were married, you may have asked the court to allow you to change your last name as part of your divorce. Your JOD does not automatically change your name for you. You must take further steps to complete your name change with the appropriate agencies. You may need a certified copy of your JOD for certain agencies. Some places you should consider changing your name with are:
- Your employer
- The Social Security Administration office
- The Secretary of State (to update your driver’s license, vehicle title(s), and voter registration)
- The Post Office
- Credit card companies
- Insurance companies
- Utility providers
If you want to keep your married name, you do not have to change it. Even if your spouse wants you to change your last name, Michigan law allows you to keep your married name.
If you decide to change your name after your divorce, you may want to try filing a post-judgment motion in the divorce case asking the judge to let you change your name. Sometimes a judge will not grant this type of motion, so you may want to talk to a lawyer if you are considering this option. Another way to change your name is by filing a name change case. To learn more, go to Filing for a Name Change.
Finding a Lawyer
You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.