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Common Questions about Domestic Violence and Divorce with Children

Contents

    These are common questions regarding domestic violence and divorce with children. 

    Questions about the Process for Starting a Divorce

    How long do I have to live in Michigan before I can file for divorce?

    You or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least the last 180 days before you can file for divorce.

    Where do I file for divorce?

    To file for divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least the last 180 days. In general, your divorce must be filed in the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse has lived for at least the last ten days. Most people file where they live, but you don’t have to. You can file where your spouse lives.

    There is one exception to the ten day requirement. You can file in any Michigan county regardless of how long you or your spouse lived there if all of the following things are true and you include them in your complaint for divorce:

    • The defendant (your spouse) was born in a country other than the United States or is a citizen of another country;
    • You and your spouse have a minor child or children; and
    • There is a risk that the defendant will take the minor child or children out of the United States to a different country and keep them there, and there is information that would allow the judge to conclude this.

     

     

    What if only one of us lives in Michigan?

    To get a divorce in Michigan, only one spouse must live here. However, if you or your spouse has never lived in Michigan, the court may only have limited jurisdiction in your case. Limited jurisdiction means the court can divorce you, but might not be able to do other things like:

    • Make custody and parenting time decisions
    • Order child support
    • Divide your property

    If you think Michigan has limited jurisdiction in your case, consider talking to a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to look for a lawyer or legal services in your area.

    What if I previously filed for divorce in another state or county?

    Before you can file a new divorce case, all prior divorce cases must be dismissed. You must tell the court about all other court cases between you and your spouse. If a prior case is still active, the court might not have jurisdiction in a new case. If you have a prior divorce case that might be active, you should talk to a lawyer.

    I wasn’t married in the United States. Can I get a divorce in Michigan?

    Yes. You can get divorced in Michigan if:

    • Your marriage is valid in the place where you were married; and
    • You or your spouse has lived in Michigan for at least six months.
    I’m not a U.S. citizen. Can I get a divorce in Michigan?

    Yes. Neither spouse is required to be a U.S. citizen to get a divorce in Michigan. You can get a divorce here as long as one of you has lived in Michigan for at least six months. But if your right to live in the United States depends on your marriage, divorce may affect that right.

    If you are in this situation you should consider talking to a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer or legal services in your area.

    If my child’s other parent or I are members of an Indian tribe, do I have to file in a tribal court?

    No, unless both parents and the minor children live on a reservation. Then, you must file your case in tribal court.

    Can I get a legal separation instead of a divorce?

    Yes. Separate maintenance is like divorce, but you stay married at the end of the case. The court will still divide your property and make custody, parenting time, and child support orders. You might decide to file for separate maintenance because of your religion or if you want to stay married for other reasons. But, if you file a separate maintenance case and your spouse files a counterclaim for divorce, the court must treat the case as a divorce.

    To learn more, read Alternatives to Divorce: Separate Maintenance and Annulment.

    Can I get an annulment?

    Maybe. An annulment is a court decision that your marriage is not valid. You can only get an annulment in certain situations. Reasons for annulment are:

    • Bigamy
    • Incompetence
    • You or your spouse were too young for marriage
    • You and your spouse are close relatives
    • Your spouse used force or fraud to get your agreement to marry

    To learn more, read Alternatives to Divorce: Separate Maintenance and Annulment.

    I think I have a common-law marriage. Can I get a divorce?

    A Michigan court can grant you a divorce if you have a valid common-law marriage. Michigan has not allowed common-law marriage since January 1, 1957. Michigan only recognizes common-law marriages that:

    • Were entered into before January 1, 1957; and
    • Were entered in a state that recognizes common law marriage

    If you think you have a common-law marriage and want a divorce, consider talking to a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    Do my spouse or I have to prove fault to get a divorce in Michigan?

    No. Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means you don’t have to prove cheating, abandonment, cruelty, abuse, or anything else to get a divorce. 

    The only reason for divorce in Michigan is 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.” This means there has been a serious, permanent, marital breakdown. It means it is very unlikely you and your spouse can work things out. 

    Do I need a lawyer to help me with my divorce?

    Representing yourself in a divorce case is not easy. Consider talking with a lawyer about your rights and options even if you decide not to hire one.

    The more complicated the issues in your divorce are, the more important it may be to have a lawyer. Consider talking to a lawyer if:

    • You own real estate;
    • You have a pension or retirement account;
    • You have children that were born while you were married, but one spouse is not the parent;
    • You need spousal support (alimony);
    • Your spouse has been emotionally, verbally or physically abusive;
    • You and your spouse disagree on one or more major issues in your divorce.

    Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer or legal services in your area.

    What is the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?

    Your divorce is uncontested if you and your spouse agree on all of the divorce issues or if your spouse doesn’t participate. Usually you can handle an uncontested divorce yourself, but you might need a lawyer if the issues in your case are complicated. A contested divorce means you and your spouse disagree about some of the major issues in your divorce. This could include things like:

    • Property or debt division
    • Custody or parenting time
    • Child support
    • Spousal support

    If you have a contested divorce, consider talking to a lawyer. If you are low-income, you may qualify for free legal services. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer or legal services in your area.

     

    Do my spouse and I have to be separated to get a divorce?

    No. You don’t have to be separated or living apart to get a divorce.

    How do I start a divorce with minor children?

    Start your divorce by filing a:

    • Summons
    • Complaint for Divorce with Children
    • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit
    • Verified Statement
    • Record of Divorce or Annulment (depending on your county)

    You must file your case in the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse has lived for at least the last ten days. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Divorce to create the forms you need.

    If you file for divorce, you are the plaintiff and your spouse is the defendant.

    How much does a divorce with children cost?

    There is a $175 fee for filing your case and an $80 judgment fee. There may be other costs such as:

    • Fees for having papers served on your spouse;
    • Motion filing fees; and
    • Fees for mediation or similar services.

    You can ask the court to waive your fees if you get public assistance or are low-income. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Fee Waiver to do this.

    To learn more about waiving court fees and costs, read the Fee Waivers in Court Cases article.

    I am the Plaintiff. How do I serve papers on my spouse?

    To learn about serving divorce papers, read How to Serve Divorce Papers.

    What if I can’t find my spouse?

    You must serve your spouse with the divorce papers to give your spouse legal notice that you filed for divorce. If you can’t find your spouse, you must get a court order for alternate service. Alternate service allows you to serve the divorce papers by publication in a newspaper or another way.

    To get an order for alternate service, you must file a Motion and Verification for Alternate Service. In the motion, you must include everything you did to try to find your spouse. Also, the process server must list what efforts were made to serve your spouse. If the judge agrees you did everything you could to try to find your spouse, he or she will probably grant your motion.

    What if my spouse is in the military?

    Having a spouse on active military duty can complicate your divorce case. It may be difficult to find and serve papers on a service member stationed overseas. There are also state and federal laws that give people on active duty extra protections in civil cases. For example, the court won’t enter a default judgment against an active-duty spouse without first appointing a lawyer for him or her.

    If you are filing for divorce and your spouse is on active military duty, you should consider talking to a lawyer. If you are low-income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you are low-income or not, you can use the “Find a Lawyer” function to look for legal help in your area.

    What if my spouse is in prison and I am getting a divorce with minor children?

    You must notify the court that your spouse is in prison. In your complaint, you must state the following:

    • That your spouse is incarcerated
    • Your spouse's prison number
    • Your spouse's location
    • That a telephonic or video hearing is required by Michigan Court Rule 2.004.

    You must also notify your spouse about the divorce case even if they are in prison. Having papers served on an inmate is usually not hard. Call the Department of Corrections to confirm the incarceration and the other party's prison number and location. Then mail a copy of the complaint and other papers you filed to the prison. Also include the proof of service so the server can fill it out and send it back to you. Mail the papers by registered or certified mail, with service restricted to your spouse and a return receipt requested. 

    A prison employee can serve the papers and send you back the completed proof of service form along with the return receipt (this looks like a green card). Most Michigan prisons have a litigation coordinator to help with this process. You can also use the Personal Service on Prisoner and Affidavit form to ask the Warden or Administrator of the prison to serve the papers.

    When you receive the completed proof of service from the prison, attach the return receipt before filing it with the court clerk's office.

    The court must allow your spouse to participate in your divorce case by phone, video conference, or in person.

    What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?

    Your spouse can’t stop you from getting a divorce. Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means you don’t have to prove cheating, abandonment, abuse, or anything else to get divorced.

    Even if your spouse shows up in court and says “I don’t want a divorce,” you can get one. If your spouse doesn’t file an answer or participate in the case, you can still get a divorce.

    Can I file for divorce if I am pregnant or if my spouse is pregnant?

    Yes, you can file for divorce if you are pregnant or your spouse is pregnant. You must tell the judge about the pregnancy in your divorce complaint. The judge may require you to wait for your divorce to become final until after the birth. A judge might do this to make sure the custody, parenting time, and child support arrangements in the Judgment of Divorce are complete.

    Which minor children must be included in my divorce?

    Include all of the minor children that you and your spouse have together, whether biological or adopted. This includes stepchildren who were legally adopted by one spouse. If you or your spouse is expecting a child when the divorce is filed, include information about the pregnancy in your divorce complaint

    If you and your spouse are the opposite sex and a child was born during your marriage who is not the husband's biological child, that child must be included in the complaint for divorce unless there is already a court order revoking the husband's paternity. If there is no order revoking paternity, you can still use the Do-It-Yourself Divorce to prepare your divorce forms. You can also use our Do-It-Yourself Revoke Paternity Established by Marriage tool to prepare forms asking the court to revoke the husband's paternity. Revoking paternity can be complicated. To look for a lawyer or legal services in your area, use the Guide to Legal Help.

    Can my spouse file for divorce in Michigan even though I don’t live there?

    Yes. Michigan law only requires that either you or your spouse live here. However, the court’s jurisdiction might be limited. This means the court can grant your divorce, but might not be able to do things like divide your property and order child support. If you think Michigan has limited jurisdiction in your case, you should talk to a lawyer.

    What if my spouse or I have already filed for divorce in another county or state?

    You must tell the court about all other court cases between you and your spouse. If a prior case is still active, the court might not have jurisdiction in a new case. If you have a prior divorce case that might be active, consider talking to a lawyer. 

    Use the Guide to Legal Help to look for a lawyer or legal services in your area. 

    What should I do after my spouse files for divorce?

    Read Being a Defendant in a Divorce Case to learn what you can do if your spouse files for divorce.

    Does my spouse have to prove fault to get a divorce in Michigan?

    No. Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means your spouse doesn’t have to prove cheating, abandonment, cruelty, or anything else to get a divorce. Your spouse can get a divorce even if he or she is the person who did something that made your marriage end.

    The legal standard for Michigan divorce is:

    • There has been a breakdown of the marriage;
    • The objects of matrimony have been destroyed; and
    • There is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be saved

    This means there has been a serious, permanent, marital breakdown. It means it is very unlikely you and your spouse can work things out.

    I am the Defendant. How do I serve papers on my spouse?

    Serve your spouse with a copy of every paper you file in the divorce case. If you are the Defendant, do this by mailing the papers by first class mail to your spouse at the address listed on the summons. If your spouse has a lawyer, you must mail the papers to the lawyer instead of your spouse.

    Complete a Proof of Mailing form each time you mail your spouse papers. File the Proof of Mailing with the court clerk in the county where your divorce case is located.

    What if one of us doesn't want a divorce?

    You can’t stop your spouse from getting a divorce. Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state. This means no one has to prove cheating, abandonment, abuse, or anything else to get divorced.

    Even if one of you tells the judge, “I don’t want a divorce,” the other spouse can still get one. If the Defendant does not file an answer or participate in the case, decisions about marital property, debt, and children will get made without their input.

    Can I ask to have my court fees waived?

    Yes. To get your court fees waived, you must file a Waiver/Suspension of Fees and Costs. This form tells the court that you can't afford to pay the fees in your case, and it asks for a waiver. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Fee Waiver to complete the affidavit.

    The affidavit must be signed by the person who needs the waiver. If you are under 18 or can’t sign because of a disability, someone who has personal knowledge of the facts can sign. The affidavit must be signed in front of a notary public or a court clerk. You will need photo identification to show that you are the person signing. You may have to pay a fee for a notary.

    If you get public assistance, your fees will be waived. In all other cases, a judge will review your request and decide whether to waive your fees. You may have to wait for the review and decision, so plan ahead. You can’t file your court papers until the judge grants a waiver or you pay the fee.

    Questions about What Will Happen During a Divorce Case

    How long will my divorce take?

    It depends. There is a 60 day waiting period if:

    • There were no children born during your marriage; and
    • You aren’t expecting a child

    There is a 180 day waiting period if:

    • there were children born during your marriage; or
    • you are expecting a child

    The waiting period starts when you file for divorce. The court will require you to wait until the end of the waiting period to enter your judgment of divorce. In a divorce with children, the judge can waive part of the waiting period if your case involves unusual hardship or a compelling need to shorten the waiting period. The judge cannot make the total waiting period less than 60 days.

    The waiting period is the minimum time your divorce will take. If you and your spouse disagree about major issues, it can take much longer than the waiting period to get divorced.

    What gets decided in a divorce with minor children?

    Some things that get decided in a divorce with minor children are:

    • Your marriage is dissolved
    • Custody, parenting time, and child support
    • Division of your marital property and debt
    • Whether one spouse should pay spousal support
    Can my spouse and I work out all the terms of our divorce?

    Yes. You and your spouse can work out your own settlement. However, the court won’t approve your property and debt division unless it is fair to both of you. The custody, parenting time, and child support terms must also be in your children’s best interests. For more information on how the court views the best interests of children, read the article, The “Best Interests of the Child Factors”.

    What is mediation?

    Domestic relations mediation is a process that the court can use to help resolve contested issues in a family law case. The mediator is a neutral person who helps you and the other party work out an agreement in your case. You could be referred to mediation if you agree to it or if the judge orders it. You and the other party will pay the mediator a fee.

    If any issues remain unresolved at the end of mediation, you can ask the mediator to make a written recommendation to the judge about how to solve those issues.

    Some cases are not appropriate for mediation. Your case might be excused from mediation for any of the following reasons:

    • You or the other party have a personal protection order against the other
    • Your children have been abused or neglected
    • There has been domestic violence in your relationship, unless you both have attorneys at the mediation sessions
    • You or the other party are not able to negotiate for yourself at the mediation, unless you both have attorneys at the mediation sessions
    • There is reason to believe that the health or safety of one or both of you will be put at risk by mediation
    What is arbitration?

    Arbitration is an alternative to trial when the parties can’t reach an agreement on their divorce issues. Arbitration is different from mediation because the arbitrator’s decisions are binding. The arbitrator will make decisions and issue orders that are enforceable, just as a court would.

    You can’t be ordered to participate in arbitration. The court will only send your case to arbitration if you and your spouse agree to it on the record.

    Can I date during my divorce?

    It is not against any law to date during your divorce. But, dating could affect some of the issues in your divorce, like custody and parenting time. The judge in your case could also order you and your spouse not to have someone you are dating around your children during your divorce.

    What if I want to dismiss my divorce?

    You can file a form to dismiss your case anytime before the Judgment of Divorce is entered. But your case will continue if your spouse filed a counter-claim for divorce against you and wants the divorce to continue.

    If you dismiss your divorce case and later want to go through with it:

    • You must file a new case;
    • Your waiting period will start over; and
    • Orders from the first case will no longer be valid.
    Can I change my last name as part of my divorce?

    If you are a woman who took her husband’s last name, you have the choice of keeping your married name or changing it. Your Judgment of Divorce can restore your maiden name or the last name you used before your marriage. Or, the judge can allow you to take a different last name. However, you must not be asking for the name change to commit fraud or for another bad purpose. For example, you can’t change your name to avoid a creditor or hide a criminal record.

    The law in Michigan doesn’t work the same way for men. Men aren’t able to change their name automatically when they divorce. Instead, they must go through the process of petitioning the court for a name change. To learn more, see the Name Change toolkit.

    Will I be able to stay in our home?

    Your marital home will be part of the property settlement in your divorce. The decision about ownership of the home will not determined by who moves out; instead, it will be made when all of the marital property and debts are divided.

    Even if you and your spouse agree that you can stay in your marital home, your spouse will probably want to be paid for his or her share of the home. If you do stay in your marital home, you will have to figure out how to continue to pay your mortgage after your divorce. Usually when you are awarded property in a divorce, you also become responsible for the debt related to the property.

    Sometimes the marital home must be sold because the parties need different places to live and the marital home is too expensive for one person.

    What if I have a disability and have to go to court?

    If you are a person with a disability and have to go to court, you can ask the court to provide you with an accommodation so you can fully participate in the court activity.

    To make your request, complete our Do-It-Yourself Request for Accommodations and mail or deliver the form to the court administrator in the court where the activity will take place.

    You should mail or deliver your Request for Accommodations as early as possible so the court can consider it and arrange for the accommodation(s) if it grants your request. If you don’t file your request before the court activity starts, but the activity is on-going (like a hearing that lasts more than a day), file your request as soon as you can.

    Examples of accommodations that may be available are:

    • Interpreter for deaf (such as a sign language interpreter)
    • Assistive listening device
    • Handicap accessibility (such as use of a service animal)
    • Other accommodations depending on your need

    Each court has an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator. You can find your court’s ADA Coordinator on Michigan’s One Court of Justice website.

    What if I decide to change my last name after my divorce is final?

    If you do not change your last name when you divorce, you may later decide to change your name. In that case, you must go through the process of petitioning the court for a name change. To learn more, see the Name Change toolkit. 

    What if I change my mind about getting divorced?

    You can change your mind about getting divorced, but a lot depends on where you are in the divorce process. Typically, the way to close a case is by filing a Dismissal.

    If you filed a complaint for divorce, and your spouse has not filed an answer or motion in the case, you can file a Dismissal. You can do so without your spouse’s consent. If your spouse has already filed an answer or motion, you can only file a Dismissal if your spouse agrees to dismiss the divorce. In that situation, your spouse also must sign the Dismissal.

    You can use our Do-It-Yourself Divorce Dismissal tool to prepare the form you need.

    If you dismiss your divorce case and later want to go through with it:

    • You must file a new case;
    • Your waiting period will start over; and
    • Orders from the first case will no longer be valid.

    Questions about Alimony, Property, and Debt in a Divorce

    How will our property and debt be divided?

    The property and debt division must be fair. This usually means a 50/50 split, where each spouse gets an equal share. To decide what is fair in your case, the court may consider:

    • Length of marriage
    • Contributions to the marital estate. Contributions include income and other contributions, like being the primary parent
    • How old each spouse is
    • How each spouse's health is
    • Your standard of living
    • The needs of each spouse
    • The ability of each spouse to earn a living
    • Fault
    • General principles of fairness

    All the property and debt you acquired during your marriage gets divided. Property one of you had before your marriage can also be divided if necessary to create a fair division. A fair division of property and debts does not always mean a 50/50 split. There may be reasons, such as who is at fault in the break-up of the marriage, to divide the property 60/40 or some other way.

    During a divorce the parties normally try to divide all of their marital property and debt in a way that is equal. If the parties can’t agree how to divide their property and debt, the court will decide on a fair division.

    What is separate property?

    Separate property is property that does not get included in your property division. Separate property includes property that:

    • One spouse owned before the marriage
    • One spouse received as an inheritance or gift

    Separate property is normally kept by the owner. But, the court can include separate property in your divorce if:

    • The marital property is not enough to support the non-owner spouse and children; or
    • The non-owner spouse somehow contributed to the value of the property.
    I signed a prenuptial agreement, but now I don’t agree with it. Can it be enforced?

    A prenuptial agreement can be enforced if:

    • It is in writing and signed by you and your spouse;
    • You signed it voluntarily and with full disclosure;
    • There was no fraud, mistake, or bullying;
    • It was fair when you signed it, and circumstances have not changed enough to make its enforcement unfair.

    If you signed a prenuptial agreement and are filing for divorce, consider talking to a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services help in your area.

    My spouse makes more money than I do. Will I be able to get alimony?

    Alimony (spousal support) is not common. You and your spouse can agree that you should get spousal support as part of your divorce. However, if you don’t agree, the court must decide the issue in a trial. To decide whether your spouse must pay spousal support, the court will consider:

    • How long you have been married
    • Your ability to work
    • What property you are getting in the divorce
    • Your age
    • Your spouse’s ability to pay support
    • Your present situation and needs
    • Your health and your spouse's health
    • Your standard of living
    • Whether your spouse is responsible for your support
    • Fault
    • General principles of fairness
    Can I get part of my spouse’s retirement plan in my divorce?

    Pension and retirement plans are marital property. This means the court will decide how to divide them in your Judgment of Divorce. The judge may give you part of your spouse’s retirement benefits as part of the property division in your divorce. If you have a retirement plan or pension, the court may also give part to your spouse.

    Will my spouse have to continue providing health insurance for me after our divorce?

    No. Although Michigan law requires parents to provide health insurance for their children, there are no such laws for a spouse. However, the court may require your spouse to maintain your health insurance during the divorce process.

    Additionally, under COBRA (a federal law) your spouse's employer must allow you to be covered by its health insurer for three years after your divorce. However, you must pay the premiums, which will probably be more expensive than when you were covered as a spouse. Also, COBRA doesn’t apply to very small companies (those that have less than 20 employees).

    Do I need a quitclaim deed for a car or mobile home?

    No. Quitclaim deeds are used to transfer real property, such as houses and land. Cars and mobile homes are not real property.

    Cars and mobile homes are properties that use titles to transfer ownership, not deeds. Neither your Judgment of Divorce nor the judge will transfer a title for you. You and your spouse must sign and file the paperwork with the Secretary of State to transfer title to a car or mobile home.

    How do I know if I need a new deed to transfer real estate?

    You need a new deed to transfer real estate after your divorce if your name and your ex-spouse’s name are both on the current deed. You also need a new deed if the current deed is not in the name of the person keeping the property.

    Does the Judgment of Divorce transfer the property?

    It is possible for a Judgment of Divorce to transfer the property. After a divorce, ex-spouses usually use a deed to transfer property so that the Judgment of Divorce is not part of the property records that anyone can search. But, if your ex-spouse does not complete his or her part of the quitclaim deed, you can transfer the property by recording your Judgment of Divorce at the Register of Deeds.

    Can the judge change my current deed?

    No. The judge will not change the names on a deed for you. You have to prepare and complete a quitclaim deed and record it with the Register of Deeds.

    Should I use a quitclaim deed or a warranty deed?

    You can use a quitclaim deed or a warranty deed to transfer your property. Unlike warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds do not make any guarantees about the property title. With a quitclaim deed, the person selling or giving up the property is not responsible for any title defects.

    It is common to use a quitclaim deed to transfer property after a divorce because people who have been married are likely to know about the property they are getting and if there is clear title. If you have concerns about title, you may want to consider using a warranty deed instead and doing a title search.

    To learn more about the difference between quitclaim deeds and warranty deeds, read the article Quitclaim Deeds and Divorce.

    What can I do if my ex-spouse won’t complete the quitclaim deed?

    If your ex-spouse does not sign the quitclaim deed or give it to you so you can record it, you have two options. You can file a motion asking the judge to enforce the Judgment of Divorce. The judge could fine or jail your ex-spouse for disobeying the Judgment. This might convince your ex-spouse to do his or her part.

    If this does not work, or if you don’t want to go back to court, you can take your Judgment of Divorce to the Register of Deeds and record it instead of the quitclaim deed. If you do this, anyone searching the title to the property will be able to see your entire Judgment of Divorce.

    Will the quitclaim deed take my name off the mortgage?

    No. A quitclaim deed will not change who is responsible for the mortgage. The person keeping the property will need to refinance the mortgage in his or her name alone. However, this may not be possible if the property is worth less than the amount of the mortgage, if the person keeping the property has bad credit, or for other reasons.

    What do I need to do with the quitclaim deed?

    If you are the person transferring your property to your ex-spouse, you must sign the quitclaim deed in front of a notary. Then, you must give the deed to your ex-spouse. Your ex-spouse must sign the deed. Then, your ex-spouse must take the deed to be recorded at the Register of Deeds.

    If you or your ex-spouse prepared a quitclaim deed using the Do-It-Yourself Quitclaim Deed (after Divorce), detailed instructions will print out with the deed.

    Questions about Custody, Child Support, and Parenting Time

    How is custody decided?

    If both parents don’t agree on custody, the court will first decide whether an established custodial environment exists with either of you and determine the proper burden of proof. The burden of proof is applied to the Child Custody Act’s “best interests of the child” factors. The judge will look at all the facts in your case to make a decision. To learn more about child custody, read the articles, Custody and Parenting Time and The “Best Interests of the Child” Factors articles.

    What’s the difference between legal and physical custody? What about sole and joint custody?

    If you have legal custody, you have the right to make important decisions about your children. If you have physical custody, your children will live with you at least some of the time. Sole custody means that only one parent has custody. Joint custody means the parents share custody.

    Both legal and physical custody can be awarded to just one parent (sole custody) or to both parents (joint custody). If you and the other parent have joint legal custody, you must cooperate and agree on major decisions that affect your kids. If you and the other parent have joint physical custody, your children will live with each of you for set periods of time.

    How is parenting time (visitation) decided?

    Parenting time (visitation) may be given to a parent who doesn’t have physical custody of the children. A parenting time schedule may also be used to explain the children’s living arrangements for parents with joint physical custody.

    If both parents agree on a parenting time schedule, the judge will normally approve the agreement. If the parents can’t agree, the court will award parenting time based on the “best interests of the child” factors.

    In most cases it is in the best interests of children to be close with both parents. Children also have the right to parenting time with a non-custodial parent, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the parenting time would put the children in physical, mental, or emotional danger. The amount and type of parenting time must encourage a strong relationship between the children and their parent.

    What is supervised parenting time?

    Supervised parenting time is where children spend time with a parent, supervised by another adult. The court may order supervised parenting time if a parent is not responsible or is a risk to the children.

    The supervisor could be a grandparent, other relative, friend, or other court-appointed supervisor. If a parent is a threat or danger to the other parent but not to the children, the court may still order supervised parenting time. Or, it may allow unsupervised parenting time but require that pick-up and drop-off be supervised or done by a third party.

    Do I need the judge’s permission to move if there isn’t a custody order for my child yet?

    No. But if you are involved in a family law case and want to move, you should consider talking to a lawyer first. You may upset the other parent and the judge if you move and disrupt the other parent’s ability to see your child. You may also complicate your family law case if you move out of Michigan before it is finished.

    How much child support will I get or have to pay?

    You can use the MiChildSupport Calculator on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website to find out what the support amount might be in your case.

    Every case is different. Child support includes a base support amount. It can also include money for health care costs, child care costs, and education costs. The amount of support comes from the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF). The formula is based on factors such as:

    • The parents’ incomes
    • The number of children
    • Child care costs
    • Health care costs
    • The number of overnights the children have with each parent.

    The court must follow the MCSF unless it would be unfair or inappropriate to follow it. For more information about child support, read the Child Support in a Nutshell article.

     

    One of my children is over age 18 but is still in high school. Will the court order child support for that child?

    Maybe. The court may order support for a child who is between 18 and 19½ if:

    • The child is a full-time high school student and regularly attends school
    • The child has a reasonable expectation of graduating
    • The child lives full-time with the person getting child support, or at an institution

    The child support order must include a specific end date for support, regardless of the child’s actual graduation date.

    Will my spouse have to continue providing health insurance for our children after our divorce?

    Most likely. The court may order one or both parents to provide health insurance for the children. The court will also require each parent to keep the Friend of the Court informed of health care coverage that is available as a benefit of employment, or that either party buys directly from an insurer.

    How does the judge handle a child born during the marriage who has a different father than the husband?

    In Michigan, a husband is the legal father of any child conceived or born during the marriage. When a child has a different biological father, the husband and wife may agree that they want the husband to continue as the legal father after their divorce. However, one or both spouses may want to ask the judge to revoke (undo) the husband's paternity so he is no longer the legal father.

    To ask the judge to revoke the husband's paternity, either the husband, wife, or biological father may file a Motion to Determine Child Born Out of Wedlock as part of the divorce case. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Revoke Paternity Established by Marriage to prepare the forms you need to do this.

    If no one files this motion, the husband will continue to be the legal father. This means the judge may award the husband custody or parenting time and may order him to pay child support. You can wait to file the motion until after the divorce is final, but the judge may be less likely to revoke paternity when the child is older. To learn more about revoking paternity, use the I Need to Revoke Paternity Established by Marriage: Tools for the Mother toolkit or the I Need to Revoke Paternity Established by Marriage: Tools for the Legal/Presumed Father toolkit.

    What is the Friend of the Court?

    The Friend of the Court (FOC) is part of the family division of the circuit court. The FOC helps the court in cases involving custody, parenting time, and child support. Some of the duties the FOC performs are:

    • Investigating and issuing recommendations about custody, parenting time, and child support
    • Helping the parties settle disputes during and after their case
    • Providing enforcement services on existing custody, parenting time, and support orders

    In addition, some FOC offices (but not all) investigate and issue recommendations about spousal support.

    To learn more, read Friend of the Court Overview.

    Can the Friend of the Court make decisions in my case?

    If a Friend of the Court referee issues a recommendation in your case and you do not file an objection within 21 days after you are served, the recommendation can become an order. However, the judge is not bound by a FOC recommendation and can choose not to make it an order.

    You may be able to opt out of FOC services in your case if both you and the other party agree to opt out.

    To learn more, read Friend of the Court Overview.

    How can I keep the other parent from taking my children out of the country?

    If you fear the other parent might take your children out of the country, file a motion asking the court to hold your children’s passports. If your children don’t have passports, contact the U.S. State Department to put an alert on your children’s names. If the other parent plans to get passports to travel out of the country with your children, the State Department will give you advanced warning.

    Children with dual citizenship may be able to travel on a passport from the other country. The State Department can’t regulate passports from another country. Contact that country’s embassy or consulate to ask if they have a similar program.

    But, if the other parent has sole legal custody and has filed a motion asking the court for permission to move out the country permanently, the court may grant that motion. See the Responding to a Motion to Change Domicile article for more information.

    What Is Child Support?

    Child support is a parent’s court-ordered payment to help with the costs of raising a child. Child support might be ordered as part of a:

    • Divorce case
    • Paternity case
    • Custody case
    • Family support case
    Can I still get child support if my child is over 18 years old?

    Child support normally stops when a child turns 18. However, a court may order support for a child between 18 and 19 ½ if all of these are true:

    • The child is regularly attending high school full-time.
    • The child has a reasonable expectation of graduating from high school.
    • The child is living full time with the person who gets child support or at an institution.
    If I give up my rights to custody and parenting time will I still have to pay child support?

    Yes. Children have the legal right to be financially supported by both parents. A parent can’t avoid paying child support by giving up custody or parenting time rights. A parent may still have to pay child support after their parental rights have been terminated.

    My child's other parent is behind in child support. Can I refuse parenting time?

    No. Parenting time and child support decisions are separate. Parenting time can't be limited to enforce child support.

    What is a Uniform Child Support Order?

    A Uniform Child Support Order (UCSO) is an order the court issues whenever it orders child support. The UCSO requires the payer to pay a monthly amount for child support. The monthly amount can include:

    • Base support
    • Medical costs; and
    • Child care costs
    What are ordinary medical expenses?

    Every child support order should include an amount for ordinary medical expenses. Ordinary medical expenses are costs for things not covered by insurance. Examples of these expenses are co-pays for office visits or prescriptions.

    Ordinary medical expenses don’t include things like vitamins, Band-Aids or over-the-counter medicine. The parent who gets child support must provide receipts for the expenses and ask the other parent to pay his or her share.

    What are additional medical expenses?

    A child support order states how additional medical expenses get paid. These are costs for some of the things not covered by insurance. They are costs that exceed the ordinary medical expenses in a calendar year.

    Usually each parent is ordered to pay a percentage of the additional medical expense. The percentages are based on income. The parent who gets paid child support must document the expenses. The other parent can then be asked to pay his or her share.

    How is child support collected?

    The Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) and the Friend of the Court (FOC) work together to collect and pay out child support payments. In most cases, child support payments are automatically taken from the payer’s wages through income withholding. MiSDU then forwards the payments to the payee. Both the payer and the payee get a copy of the income withholding order if support is paid this way.

    Sometimes income withholding is not possible because the payer is self-employed or for other reasons. Then the payer must make payments directly to MiSDU. Sometimes the parties agree to an alternative payment arrangement. However, if payments are not made through MiSDU the payer won’t automatically get credit for the payments. The payee must let the FOC know he or she received the payments.

    How is child support enforced?

    Child support orders can be enforced whether the order is ex parte, temporary, final, or a modification of a previous order. Enforcement methods include:

    • Withholding income from a payer’s wages
    • Placing liens on real or personal property
    • Garnishing state and federal tax refunds
    • Suspending driving, occupational, sporting or recreational licenses
    • Contempt proceedings

    Some of these methods may only be used for collecting past due support payments.

    If child support payments are not made, the other parent or court can schedule a show cause hearing. If the court finds that the payer could pay some or all of the amount owed, the payer can be held in contempt. Penalties for contempt include any of the enforcement methods listed here as well as fines, jail time, and other penalties.

    What is imputed income?

    Imputed income is the amount the court decides a person can earn. It is not the amount the person actually earns.

    The court may impute income if a parent is unemployed or takes a voluntary pay-cut. The amount of child support is then based on imputed rather than actual income.

    Will I have to pay child support if the other parent is on public assistance?

    Yes. When a custodial parent lives apart from the other parent, and the custodial parent and/or the child gets public assistance, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will probably seek a child support order. The child support you pay goes to the state instead of the custodial parent. Child support can’t be waived by the custodial parent in these cases.

    Will I still get child support if I am on public assistance?

    No. If you have custody of your child and you get public assistance, like food stamps or cash assistance, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) may seek a child support order in your name. You will continue to get the MDHHS benefits and child support will be paid to the state. If the child support is more than your public benefits, the child support will be paid to you and your benefits will end. You can’t waive child support in these cases.

    Will I have to pay child support if I receive Social Security Disability (SSD)?

    Maybe. If you receive SSD, your dependent children may be able to get SSD dependent benefits. Consider applying for SSD dependent benefits on behalf of your children. How much your children get depends on your work history. The court will count your children’s SSD benefits towards payment of your child support obligation. The court may also order you to pay some additional child support. Usually, you will only be ordered to pay additional money if the amount of SSD your children get is less than the amount of child support that should be paid.

    Will I have to pay child support if I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

    Probably not. If your only income is SSI, you can’t be required to pay child support. A court should not enter a child support order against you if your only income is SSI. The Michigan Child Support Formula specifically says that SSI is not counted as income. If you are the parent getting SSI, tell the court that your only income is SSI. Get a statement from the Social Security Administration that you get SSI and give this statement to the court. If you were ordered to pay child support before you began receiving SSI, you can ask the court to change your child support amount to $0.

    Can I ask the court to change the amount of child support in my case?

    Yes. A child support order can normally be changed until the child turns 18 (or 19½ when child support is ordered to this age). There are two ways you can ask for your amount of child support to be changed. You can ask the friend of the court to review your child support order. If the friend of the court thinks the amount should be changed, it will ask the court to change the child support order. Or, you can file a motion asking the court to change the order. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change or Get Child Support to do this.

    If your child gets public benefits the friend of the court will automatically review your support order once every 36 months. You also have the right to ask for a review once every 36 months. But, you can ask more often if you can show that either parents' income or costs have changed since the court issued the current support order.

    How do I ask for the amount of child support to be changed?

    Either parent can file a motion to ask the court to change child support. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change or Get Child Support to do this. Examples of when you might file a motion are:

    • When the parents informally change custody arrangements
    • When either parent’s income changes

    Child support isn’t automatically changed when parents change custody arrangements. The support amount is as stated in the most recent order until someone files a Motion Regarding Support and the judge signs an order changing the amount.

    When a parent changes jobs that person could make more or less money. The court needs to know about a change in either parent’s income because it could change the amount of child support.

    Past due child support amounts can't be retroactively modified. This means the court can’t change the amount of a child support payment after that payment is due. So if you don’t tell the court about the change right away the payer can end up owing a large amount of past-due child support.

    Do I have to pay child support if I am in prison?

    Your child support duty will not end automatically if you go to prison. You must ask the court to change the amount of support you owe. If not, the amount you owe will build up while you’re in prison, and you will owe all of that money once released. There are two ways to fix this.

    Ask the Friend of the Court to review your child support order by making a written request. If the Friend of the Court thinks the amount should be changed, it will ask the court to change your order. If your sentence lasts more than one year, the Friend of the Court must review your support order within 14 days of notice of your sentence.

    You can also file a Motion Regarding Support to ask the judge to change your child support order. Read the I Need to Change or Get a Child Support Order toolkit to learn how to do this. Print and fill out this form instead of using the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change or Get Child Support. Instructions for filling out the form will also print. You can find further instructions here.

    If my spouse or I have children from a previous relationship, do they get included in our divorce?

    Children who are included in your divorce are:

    • Minor children you and your spouse have together
    • Minor stepchildren who were legally adopted by the other spouse
    • Minor children born or conceived during your marriage who have a different father, unless the judge revokes the husband's paternity

    In Michigan, a husband is the legal father of any child conceived or born during the marriage. When a child has a different biological father, the husband and wife may agree that they want the husband to continue as the legal father after their divorce. However, one or both spouses may want to ask the judge to revoke (undo) the husband's paternity so he is no longer the legal father.

    To learn more about revoking paternity, use the toolkit I Need to Revoke (Undo) My Husband's Paternity or the toolkit I Need to Revoke (Undo) My Paternity of My Wife's Child.

    Can a child custody order be changed?

    Yes. A child custody order is not set in stone. If you want to change your custody order, you can file a Motion Regarding Custody.

    Changing a custody order can be harder than getting the first custody order. The parent asking for the change must prove that there is a proper cause or change in circumstances for the judge to reconsider custody. Then, that parent must convince the judge that it is in the best interests of the child to change custody. To learn more, read Changing a Custody Order.

    Convincing the judge to change custody can be hard to do, so you may want to talk to a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to look for a lawyer or legal services near you. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help.

    How do I ask the court to change parenting time?

    If you want to ask the court to change parenting time, you can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Parenting Time to create the forms you need.

    Parenting time can be changed if there is a change in circumstances or proper cause for the judge to reconsider parenting time, and if it is in the best interests of the child to change parenting time.

    If you are really trying to change custody instead of parenting time, it will be harder to prove proper cause or a change in circumstances. If you want a significant change in parenting time, you may need to file a motion to change custody instead. 

    To learn more, go to the toolkit I Need to Change Parenting Time.

    Do I need the judge’s permission to move my child’s residence after there is a custody order for my child?

    Yes, if you are moving out of Michigan. You also need the judge’s permission to move your child’s residence more than 100 miles from where the other parent lived at the start of your custody case, unless:

    • You have sole legal custody;

    • The other parent agrees to the move;

    • You and the other parent already lived more than 100 miles apart when the case started; or

    • Your proposed move will actually bring your home closer to where the other parent lives.

    Does my child’s other parent need the judge’s permission to move after there is a custody order for my child?

    After there is a custody order, your child can’t be moved out of Michigan without the judge’s permission. A parent also needs the judge’s permission to move more than 100 miles from where the other parent lived at the start of the custody case, unless:

    • The moving parent has sole legal custody;

    • You agree to the move;

    • You and the other parent already live more than 100 miles apart; or

    • The proposed move would bring your homes closer together.

    The parent who wants to move the child’s residence must ask the judge’s permission before moving. This is true unless a parent needs to move to a safe place to get away from domestic violence. If that happens, the moving parent must get the judge’s permission for the move, but it can be done after moving.

    Does my child’s other parent need the judge’s permission to move if there is no custody order for my child yet?

    No. If there is no custody order and you are worried the other parent may be planning to move, you should consider talking to a lawyer. You may want to consider getting a custody order so your ability to see your child doesn’t change. Also, your family law case may be more complicated if your child is moved from Michigan before it is finished.

    What can I do if I am pregnant and my husband is not the father?

    When your child is born, you can file a Motion or Complaint to Determine Child Born Out of Wedlock. To ask the judge to revoke (undo) your husband’s status as legal father, either you, your husband, or the biological father must file this motion or complaint. Otherwise, your husband will be your child’s legal father, and the biological father will not have any parental rights or responsibilities.

    You can use the Do-It-Yourself Revoke Paternity Established by Marriage to prepare the forms you need to ask the judge to revoke your husband's paternity.

    What can I do if someone other than my husband is the father of my child?

    If someone other than your husband is the father of your child, you may want to file a Motion or Complaint to Determine Child Born Out of Wedlock. To ask the judge to revoke (undo) your husband’s status as legal father, either you, your husband, or the biological father must file this motion or complaint. Otherwise, your husband will continue to be your child’s legal father, and the biological father will not have any parental rights or responsibilities.

    You can use the Do-It-Yourself Revoke Paternity Established by Marriage to prepare the forms you need to ask the judge to revoke your husband's paternity

    Questions about Domestic Violence and Divorce

    What if my spouse has abused me or my children?

    Domestic violence is serious and can impact the issues in your divorce. If your spouse has been verbally, emotionally or physically abusive, you should consider talking to a lawyer. If you are low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you are low-income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    You can also read the Domestic Violence and Divorce Toolkit to:

    • Learn more about domestic violence; and
    • Find helpful organizations in your area
    Can I get temporary custody of my children as part of my PPO?

    No. A PPO can’t be used to award custody of children. In some situations your PPO can limit or prohibit contact between the abuser and your children. The judge may order this if he or she thinks it is important for your safety or your children’s safety.

    The abuser has threatened to kidnap our children. Do I have to allow parenting time?

    If the abuser has a court order allowing parenting time, you must follow the order. You must do this unless:

    • The judge changes the order; or
    • Another court order prohibits parenting time (such as a PPO)
    Will the judge consider domestic violence when making custody and parenting time decisions in my case?

    Yes. Domestic violence is serious. It is one of 12 factors the judge must consider when making custody and parenting time decisions. However, the judge might not give special weight to the domestic violence factor.

    If your child's other parent has abused you, it may be a good idea to hire a lawyer. You may qualify for free legal services. To find a lawyer in your area, use Find a Lawyer.

    The other parent has never injured my children, so will the violence be considered by the judge?

    Yes. Domestic violence is one of 12 factors the court must consider when making custody and parenting time decisions. This is true even if:

    • The violence was not directed at the children; and
    • The children did not witness the abuse

    Children can be harmed by domestic violence even if it’s not directed against them.

    What if my children didn’t see the violence?

    The court can consider domestic violence even if your children didn’t witness it.

    Can the judge award joint custody if the other parent has abused me?

    It is possible for the judge to award joint custody if the other parent abused you. The judge must consider joint custody if either parent asks for it. There are 12 factors the judge must look at to decide what custody arrangement is in your child's best interests. Domestic violence is just one of those factors.

    The judge must also decide whether you and the other parent can make parenting decisions together. If your spouse has been abusive, this may be harder to do.

    If the other parent abused you, it may be a good idea to get help from a lawyer. You may qualify for free legal services. If you need to find a lawyer in your area, use the Guide to Legal Help.

    If my children are not afraid of their other parent, is it okay for them to have unsupervised visitation?

    Your children most likely have a bond with their other parent. This may be true even if he or she has been violent towards you. Think about what type of parenting time is best under all of the circumstances. Not just based on how your children feel.

    If there is a court order for unsupervised parenting time you must follow it. You must do this unless the judge changes it or another court order prohibits it. If you think unsupervised visitation isn’t safe, consider talking to a lawyer.

    If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to look for legal help in your area. Your local domestic violence shelter may also be able to help you find a lawyer.

    What are the safest parenting time arrangements?

    It depends. If you feel safe working out the parenting time schedule with the other parent, it’s probably okay to have a flexible schedule. Otherwise, you may need a specific schedule.

    Consider asking for supervised parenting time if:

    • You're worried about your safety;
    • You're worried about your children’s safety; or
    • The other parent has threatened to keep your children from you

    The court will appoint the supervisor, but you may want to provide ideas for possible supervisors. Examples include:

    • A visitation center
    • A domestic violence agency
    • A grandparent
    • Another relative
    • A friend
    • A court-appointed person

    Parenting time may also be safer for you if you exchange your children in a public place.

    Can I be charged with parental kidnapping if I take my child with me to a domestic violence shelter or other safe place?

    Under Michigan law parental kidnapping is a felony. But, it only applies to a parent who takes or keeps his or her child from the other parent in violation of a valid custody or parenting time order. It is not parental kidnapping for you to take your child and hide in a domestic violence shelter if there is no custody order.

    Even if there is a custody order, you can move to a safe place with your child to get away from the threat of domestic violence. However, you may need to get the court's approval to change your child's residence. For more information, read the Articles and Common Questions in the I Need to Move with My Children toolkit.

    Will domestic violence affect the property division in my divorce?

    It could. Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state, which means you don’t have to prove your spouse did something wrong to get a divorce. But the judge can consider fault to decide how to divide your property and debt.

    Will domestic violence affect whether I get spousal support?

    It could. Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state, which means you don’t have to prove your spouse did something wrong to get a divorce. But the judge can consider fault to decide whether to award spousal support.

    Should I agree to mediation if my spouse or partner has been abusive?

    Mediation can be helpful when the parties have equal power. Both parties must be able to say what they want, without being afraid or pressured.

    Threats and control are common in relationships where one person is abusive. If the abuser is used to being in charge and making all the decisions, mediation probably won’t work well.

    Mediation may be even more of a problem if the other party abused you and you don’t have a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to look for legal help in your area.