Divorce Articles Fundamentals of Divorce Law
Fundamentals of Divorce Law

Under MCL 552.6, a complaint for divorce may be filed in the circuit court upon the allegation 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. In the complaint the plaintiff shall make no other explanation of the grounds for divorce than by the use of the statutory language. The defendant, by answer, may either admit the grounds for divorce alleged or deny them without further explanation. An admission by the defendant of the grounds for divorce may be considered by the court but is not binding on the court's determination.

The court shall enter a judgment dissolving the bonds of matrimony if evidence is presented in open court that there has been a breakdown in 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. An action for separate maintenance may be filed in the circuit court in the same manner and on the same grounds as an action for divorce. In the complaint the plaintiff shall make no other explanation of the grounds for separate maintenance than by use of the statutory language.

The defendant, by answer, may either admit the grounds for separate maintenance alleged or deny them without further explanation. An admission by the defendant of the grounds for separate maintenance may be considered by the court but is not binding on the court's determination. The defendant may also file a counterclaim for divorce.

If the defendant files a counterclaim for divorce, the allegation contained in the plaintiff's complaint as to the grounds for separate maintenance may be considered by the court but is not binding on the court's determination. If evidence is presented in open court that there has been a breakdown in 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, the court shall enter:

  • A judgment of separate maintenance if a counterclaim for divorce has not been filed.
  • A judgment dissolving the bonds of matrimony if a counterclaim for divorce has been filed.

A judgment of divorce shall not be granted by a court in this state in an action for divorce unless the complainant or defendant has resided in this state for 180 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint and, except as otherwise provided in subsection (2), the complainant or defendant has resided in the county in which the complaint is filed for 10 days immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. A person may file a complaint for divorce in any county in the state without meeting the 10-day requirement set forth in subsection (1) if all of the following apply and are set forth in the complaint:

  • The defendant was born in, or is a citizen of, a country other than the United States of America.
  • The parties to the divorce action have a minor child or children.
  • There is information that would allow the court to reasonably conclude that the minor child or children are at risk of being taken out of the United States of America and retained in another country by the defendant.

Whenever the cause for divorce charged in the bill or petition has occurred out of this state, no decree of divorce shall be granted unless the complainant or defendant shall have resided in this state 1 year immediately preceding the filing of the bill of complaint for the divorce. Absence from this state for not to exceed 90 days shall not be construed as to interfere with the fulfillment of the 1-year residence requirement provided in the case of causes for divorce occurring without this state.

Under MCL 552.13, no proofs or testimony shall be taken in any case for divorce until the expiration of 60 days from the time of filing the bill of complaint, except where the cause for divorce is desertion, or when the testimony is taken conditionally for the purpose of perpetuating such testimony. In every case where there are dependent minor children under the age of 18 years, no proofs or testimony shall be taken in such cases for divorce until the expiration of 6 months from the day the bill of complaint is filed. In cases of unusual hardship or such compelling necessity as shall appeal to the conscience of the court, upon petition and proper showing, it may take testimony at any time after the expiration of 60 days from the time of filing the bill of complaint. Testimony may be taken conditionally at any time for the purpose of perpetuating such testimony. When the defendant in any case for divorce is not domiciled in this state at the time of commencing the suit or shall not have been domiciled herein at the time the cause for divorce arose, before any decree of divorce shall be granted the complainant must prove that the parties have actually lived and cohabited together as husband and wife within this state, or that the complainant has in good faith resided in this state for 1 year immediately preceding the filing of the bill of complaint for divorce.

In every action brought, either for a divorce or for a separation, the court may require either party to pay alimony for the suitable maintenance of the adverse party, to pay such sums as shall be deemed proper and necessary to conserve any real or personal property owned by the parties or either of them, and to pay any sums necessary to enable the adverse party to carry on or defend the action, during its pendency. It may award costs against either party and award execution for the same, or it may direct such costs to be paid out of any property sequestered, or in the power of the court, or in the hands of a receiver.

An award of alimony may be terminated by the court as of the date the party receiving alimony remarries unless a contrary agreement is specifically stated in the judgment of divorce. Termination of an award under this subsection shall not affect alimony payments which have accrued prior to that termination.

The court generally has no jurisdiction to modify a divorce judgment unless a party files a motion requesting the judgment be modified.  Petoskey v Kotas, 147 Mich App 487, 382 NW2d 804 (1985).  Either party may request modification of a divorce judgment.  The need for a separate motion may be waived if both parties offer evidence on the issue when it is raised as a defense in a support enforcement action. Once a postjudgment motion is filed, the parties may engage in discovery. MCL 552.607(1)(h), (5)

If the court had jurisdiction over a party in the original divorce proceeding, it generally has personal jurisdiction in a postjudgment proceeding, even if the responding party is not a resident when the motion is filed. Even if the parties and children move out of state, the court retains jurisdiction to modify the divorce judgment regarding issues pertaining to the dissolution of the marriage.  Note, however, that a Michigan court can lose continuing jurisdiction over certain issues.  For example, another state may become the child’s home state under the UCCJEA, MCL 722.1101 et seq.. See §§3.41–3.48. Similarly, a support order issued in Michigan may be registered and modified in another state. Dittenber v Rettelle, 162 Mich App 430, 413 NW2d 70 (1987) Michigan courts have jurisdiction to modify a nonfinal provision of a foreign (sister state or foreign country) divorce judgment only if a party proves that a change in circumstances necessitates a change. However, modification of nonfinal provisions may be subject to statutory restrictions. See the UCCJEA, MCL 722.1101 et seq.