What’s involved with starting divorce? What can you expect at the beginning of a divorce case.  You should first look at what your objectives and your goals are.  So obviously divorce means you’re going to go your separate ways, so you should give that some thought.  Look at your options, if you have children, consider what you want to see happen as far as custody and parenting time.  Give some thought to assets and liabilities and what you think will be other financial considerations in your divorce such as the cost of an attorney, and child support as well as spousal support.

Your second step is to get some preliminary advice, it’s good to talk to an attorney early on. If you’re not ready for that yet, then do some research, read some things on the internet, that’s always a good start. You want to prepare, so what goes on at the beginning of a divorce? You’d want to contact an attorney, ideally, you would hire an attorney, but either way you’re going to be drafting a divorce complaint, there’s not really a “form.” You write up a divorce complaint, and then you file. With the divorce complaint are other documents that are required for filing the case: there’s going to be a summons, depending on what county you’re in. In Wayne County for example, they prepare the summons on your behalf, in other counties you prepare your own summons. If there’s children there are other forms that are filed at the beginning of your divorce case, like a verified statement and some other documents that are required. In some counties there’s a record of divorce form that’s filed, either at the beginning or at the end, so it depends on your specific county. One of the reasons why there’s advantages to filing first is you can also do court orders.

So it will be possible at the beginning of a divorce to request temporary court orders be signed without a hearing that can affect custody, parenting time, child support, restraining orders on property, affect living arrangements and payment of bills, for example.  So to say that you fill out some forms and get started, that is not accurate, there is way more to this process than just some forms.

Once you have all these documents, then you need to file them in the county where you live, so you file them in the circuit court for your county. It’s not the local court like a traffic ticket, it’s the county. So if you live in Farmington Hills, your divorce case gets filed in Pontiac, at the oakland county circuit court.  Everyone in that county gets filed in the same building.  In wayne county the circuit court is in Detroit, in Macomb it’s Mt. Clemens, for some other examples. In some counties in Michigan you file online, but either way you pay a filing fee of $175 if there’s no minor children, or $255 if there are minor children. If it’s in person, you get the documents stamped, filed, they assign a case number, they randomly assign it to a judge, and then you’re up and running, now you have a divorce case filed. Now you have a lawsuit filed, if it’s online you need to wait to get a response. But either way, at this beginning stage you have now started a lawsuit, which is what a divorce is.

Your next step is to get your wife served with papers, and you have 90 days to get her served. You don’t have to do it right away, the timing on that of course is up to you, and by having her served, what we’re talking about is called “service of process,” so she’s required to be given notice of your divorce case to go forward.  All lawsuits start this way, with a requirement that the defendant, the person being sued, has to be given a copy of the paperwork. Once you have her served, which involves someone handing it to her, then the person who gives her the papers, called the process server, can then sign the back of the summons, which is called the “return of service.” This document says that this person is verifying that they served her. You could have anyone serve her over so long as they are at least 18 years old and a competent adult.  The only adult who cannot serve her with papers is you, because you’re a party to the lawsuit. There are other ways to have her served as well, you could have her sign for it, or send it restricted delivery mail.

Once she’s been served, then there is a waiting period. Your wife then has 21 days (or 28 days, depending how she was served) to respond, and at the end of that time frame she’s required to file an answer. One thing to point out with divorce cases is there is a requirement of 28 days after the answer is filed that both of you are required to do a verified financial information form, so you’re both required to fill out a form under oath that is a full disclosure of your assets and liabilities. You describe what assets you own (house, bank accounts, savings, retirement,) whatever it is you have, and then whatever debts (mortgage, car loan, credit card, student loans,) you owe.   Or, as the saying goes, what you owe and what you own. You then send this completed and signed form to your wife, and then your wife is required to fill out the same form and exchange that information with you. After that you are on your way, and there are many other steps to completing your divorce, but that is a start.