Deb Lynch specializes in divorce, custody, child support, spousal support, and parenting time. Lynch Law is committed to providing tough representation while finding fair and equitable solutions. Negotiation rather than litigation is always the desired goal. With more than 30 years of successfully helping clients through the entire divorce process we are confident that we can help.
In the accordion below you will find helpful infomation about the divorce process.
The following material is intended to answer some of your questions about divorce proceedings, generally. It is not intended to answer specific questions about your particular case, as each case is different.
The dissolution of a marriage may be a traumatic experience, and as your attorney, we are well aware of the emotional involvement of the parties. Though we are not behavioral specialists, our firm attempts to relieve your anxiety by attempting to assist in solving the problems which confront you during these proceedings.
In order to properly represent you, it is absolutely necessary for you not only to provide my office with all the facts concerning your matter, including your wishes, and we welcome your viewpoints. Withholding information from your lawyer may affect the outcome of your case, so we advise you to be completely candid. Remember, that a fiduciary relationship exists between attorney and client.
Please be fully advised that, though we will counsel and advise you throughout the entire proceedings, the final decisions regarding your case must be made by you. Our experience has shown that most divorce cases are settled, which means in those matters, the parties eventually, through their attorneys, reach an agreement which is placed upon the court's record. Never agree to something you do not understand nor something you feel you are being forced to agree. Your consent to an agreement must be voluntarily made, after consultation with your attorney. After an agreement is placed upon the record, it is extremely difficult to vacate or set aside. Finally, as your representative, I am here to advise and inform you, cite the options and alternatives available to you, process your divorce matter, assist you in decision-making, and cooperate with you in attempting to obtain the best possible results in your behalf.
Michigan is known as a "no-fault" divorce state; however, the words, "no-fault," may be misleading. If the parties reach a final settlement on all issues, fault is not a factor. If there is a dispute as to alimony, property, support, visitations or custody, fault may become an active ingredient in resolving these issues. That is the reason your attorney may go over with you a history of the indiscretions of the parties.
Basically, Michigan has a fact which must be established for the Court to grant divorce, which is as follows: "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 court, some judges require a detailed showing of the marital breakdown; i.e., that the matrimonial objects have been destroyed and there is not chance for reconciliation. Other judges require only one brief recitation of the facts or merely an assertion that your marriage is over, and you will never live with your spouse as Husband and Wife.)
In Michigan, we have provided also for Separate Maintenance actions which are seldom processed. The procedure is relatively the same as in a divorce matter, except that neither party may remarry. Further, the law provides that if one party institutes a Separate Maintenance suit, and the other party files for divorce, the court will only consider the case as a divorce matter and cannot enter Judgment of Separate Maintenance.
We also have annulment proceedings in Michigan, which invalidate a marriage. Marriages may be void from the inception, or may be voidable depending on the circumstances. The grounds include incapacity to marry such as insanity, bigamy, under age, or any type of fraud that goes to the heart of the marriage. Parties desiring an annulment must not cohabit, after having discovered the impediment to their marriage. If you have any questions about Separate Maintenance or annulment, please advise me of same, as the following material basically concerns divorce (though there may be similarities with Separate Maintenance and annulment actions).
This notifies the other spouse that a suit has been started and he or she has 21 days to respond or a default may be taken, after personal service has been accomplished.
This document states the names of the parties, where, when, and by whom you were married, names and birthdays of children (if any), wife's and husband's name before marriage, length of residence in county and state, date of separation, grounds for divorce, a statement as to property, and the relief requested (a party must reside in Michigan for one hundred eighty (180) days and in the county where suit is started for at least ten (10) days prior to filing the complaint).
Affidavit of Service and Return of Service is filed when personal service is made. This informs the court as to whether a previous action of divorce between the parties has been filed.
Statement to the Friend of the Court. This is to inform the Friend of the Court of the essential facts (not necessary in cases where Friend of the Court services are not required).
Affidavit concerning child's or children's living quarters during the past five years and, that no custody action is pending regarding child related issues (only needed where there are minors).
This is a statistical record required by the state.
Only requested where needed to restrain a spouse from committing certain acts.
This may be obtained (usually very difficult) for temporary custody, support, or other urgent matters). An objection timely filed to the Ex Parte Order will negate the effectiveness of the Order until a hearing on the matter is held.
Affidavit for Ex Parte Order. A sworn statement that the facts stated to be relied upon by the Court to obtain the Ex Parte Order are true. All statements must be true and accurate.
Up to an additional $80.00 is required if the Friend of the Court services are needed. There is also the cost of serving papers and entry of Judgment. Later on, there may be other costs for services such as services from appraisers, actuaries, accountants, depositions, etc. You will be advised before any of these expenses are incurred, so you may negate them.
Notice of Hearing, Praecipe, Motions, and $20.00 Motion Filing Fee for interim relief which requires a hearing
A motion is a plea to the court for some type of relief. A praecipe is merely a form requesting that the matter be set for hearing. Notice of hearing merely advises that a hearing will be held. Motions involving child related issues or Friend of the Court services require a $100.00 filing fee.
The Circuit Court has mandated e-filing of all documents in domestic relation cases effective November 1, 2012. Since this is compulsory we must charge you for this service.
In addition to the $150.00 filing fee and $20.00 motion filing fee, there is a "convenience" fee the court has imposed that our office must pay by credit card to get your case accepted by the clerk. This fee equals $8.00/bundle (every time we forward a document for you to the court). To cover our costs of credit card services and court imposed convenience fees, we now require an "out of pocket advance expense retainer" of $350.00. Please note this does not include mileage (.405/mile), photocopy charge (.25/page), postage, mediation fees, deposition costs and all other out of pocket expenses which will appear on your monthly invoice.
The Plaintiff is the party who starts the lawsuit and the Defendant is the person against whom the suit is filed. All proceedings in the divorce matter are finally resolved by the Circuit Court in which the case is started. The Friend of the Court is an arm of the court which is used to assist the court. They usually make recommendations as to spousal support, child support, custody, and parenting time. They also collect and distribute spousal support and child support payments. They also may seek enforcement of court orders dealing with support, parenting time rights, and alimony. The court may use the Friend of the Court for other miscellaneous duties.
After the Complaint and Summons is served, the Defendant may file an answer to the Complaint which is, in effect, a paragraph by paragraph response to the Complaint. Once the answer is filed, the case is contested (in some jurisdictions a praecipe must be filed with the answer). If no action is taken by the Defendant, an order of default enters, indicating the Defendant's lack of response, and the matter becomes an uncontested divorce case. The Defendant may desire not only to answer the Complaint, but desire to file his or her own Complaint. This is known as a Counter-Claim and this must be answered by the Plaintiff.
A divorce cannot be granted in less than sixty (60) days. Where there are minor children the parties must wait 6 months. However, the six (6) month period may be waived upon a proper showing of extraordinary circumstances, warranting the same. No divorce is granted without a court hearing as to the truth of the statements made in the Complaint. A witness is not necessary if the matter is uncontested when heard by the court.
Temporary orders for custody, support, alimony, mortgage payments, medical payments, parenting time, injunctions, and other relief may be requested at any time during the time you start your case and before a Judgment of Divorce is entered. A temporary injunction restrains a party from doing something. Personal Protection Orders are not a part of your divorce proceedings.
Temporary orders of support may be based on a recommended chart. Generally, alimony and support are based on needs and ability to pay. The lifestyle of the parties is also taken into consideration. In regard to child custody disputes, you will be advised to study the fourteen (14) factors listed in the child custody act (ask your attorney for a copy). The procedures and preparations of such a case are much too involved for this discussion, and must be left for further references are with your attorney.
The court may also award temporary attorney fees to assist a party with his or her costs of obtaining counsel. This is usually performed the same way as any other motion and may be a part of a motion requesting other relief.
This period is usually spent in defining the issues and trying to resolve them. We also attempt to find the net worth of the parties and the general financial status of the family. Interrogatories may be sent out requiring answers under oath from the recipient, which may, in part, request complete financial data. Depositions may be taken (with the consent of the client), to obtain further information from the other spouse or those that have the needed information. Appraisers, actuaries, (if pensions are involved), accountants or behavioral experts may be used (with the client's prior consent). You and your attorney, after the discovery work has been completed, will set the goals you wish to obtain. This will not be done hastily, but you will be given the opportunity to study the proposed settlement. The attorney will advise you as to the likelihood of acceptance of your proposals and of what a court may do.
If settlement is not reached at this point, the court will order mediation to help resolve the matter or, the parties may agree to a mediation settlement agreement. If no agreement is reached, the mediator makes no recommendation to the court.
The attorney may call a meeting, with both parties present, and try to resolve as many issues as possible. This is a voluntary process, and either party may decline to attend.
If settlement is reached, the parties will be asked to sign a Property Settlement Agreement containing all the provisions of the settlement; or, they may be asked to approve the final Judgment. Further, the parties will be required to approve the settlement in court, before the judge, as it is placed on the record.
The Judgment of Divorce is the most important document you will receive. After a settlement is reached and/or the case is tried, the Judgment of Divorce will be entered by the court, as your final decree, granting you a divorce. It will also contain clauses dealing with such matters as spousal support, custody, child support, parenting time, insurance, dower rights, property settlement, retirement investments, pension division, debt allocation, name restoration (if you wish) and other miscellaneous clauses. If a settlement has been reached, you must carefully read and examine this Judgment, and have your attorney explain it to you before you approve it. Sometimes, to protect your privacy, a property settlement agreement can be entered into which is kept from the public and not filed with the court. This is an enforceable agreement and is incorporated into your judgment of divorce.
ONCE THE JUDGMENT OF DIVORCE HAS BEEN SIGNED BY A JUDGE AND ENTERED WITH THE COURT IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO MODIFY. ABSENT A DEMONSTRATION OF FRAUD, DURESS, MUTUAL MISTAKE OR AN UNCONSCIENCABLE RESULT, COURTS ARE EXTREMELY RELUCTANT TO CHANGE THE PROVISIONS.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT YOU READ AND REVIEW EVERY PROVISION WITH YOUR ATTORNEY. DO NOT SIGN SOMETHING YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THROROUGHLY.
Many divorce cases end in a reconciliation of the parties. If there is viability in your marriage and a chance to save it, we will be pleased to recommend marriage counselors to you and assist you in every possible way to affect this reconciliation. If, on the other hand, you believe the marriage is over, we will do our utmost to obtain a Judgment of Divorce that is satisfactory to you. As divorce proceedings today are difficult, and extensive work may be necessary, we use a team effort: appraisers and accountants are very helpful in structuring complex resolutions. As your attorney, I have had substantial experience and expertise in the field of family law, and I am aware of the pressures and the personal difficulties faced by a person involved in the divorce process. I will attempt to ease and hopefully eliminate the cause of some of these problems. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call or arrange for an appointment.