During such an emotionally difficult time, you deserve to have an experienced Novi divorce lawyer by your side. Our personal experiences drive us toward our mission of changing how people see divorce. Supporting and educating our clients is a critical step in working cooperatively to achieve their goals.
We take the time to understand our clients’ unique situations and work with them to determine the best path forward. Our firm believes it is critical to keep our clients informed at every step of the way. We treat our clients with respect, dignity, and empathy during what is often the most challenging times in their life.
A divorce is a formal process to legally dissolve a marriage. Unlike legal separation, or “separate maintenance,” as it is known in Michigan, the marriage is officially terminated, which carries significant legal consequences. Divorce usually entails recognizing the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, then reorganizing and canceling those duties and responsibilities. If there are minor children, the issues become exponentially more complex. Assets and debts must be fairly divided, spousal support determined, custody and visitation set and child support determined during a divorce. Divorce leaves both parents free to remarry.
To file for divorce in Michigan, at least one of the spouses in a marriage must have lived in Michigan for at least six months, and the divorce must be filed in a county where either spouse lives. In Michigan, divorce requires a complaint to be filed with the family court in their county. The spouse initiating the divorce must serve the papers on the other spouse. The other spouse may either file an answer to the complaint, or agree to all the terms, thereby making the divorce uncontested.
A judge may issue a Temporary Order, which will lay out the temporary arrangement on such issues as child custody and financial obligations. The divorce process usually involves extensive negotiations as to the division of assets and responsibilities relating to minor children. We strive to reach mutually-agreed-upon settlements between our clients and their spouses, but sometimes, when we cannot reach a settlement, the case must proceed to trial. Our experienced Novi divorce attorneys know the nuances of this process and may help ensure that spouses seeking divorce do so as efficiently as possible.
In some states, a spouse must cite reasons for seeking a divorce, such as adultery or abandonment. Michigan, however, is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means a spouse who is filing for divorce needs no reason other than the marriage is beyond repair. Although there does not need to be a formal cause for divorce, the spouses’ conduct during the marriage may become a factor. For example, if a spouse is found to have abandoned the other, a judge may consider that parent unfit during a custody dispute.
It is worth noting that an uncontested divorce is not the same as a no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce refers to the fact that spouses are no longer required to accuse the other spouse of a fault (like desertion, alcoholism, or adultery) in order to get divorced. An uncontested divorce means both parties are in total agreement regarding the terms of the divorce. This means there are no arguments or disagreements regarding asset division, child custody, spousal support, or child support. Most divorces are, eventually, uncontested which simply means they don’t go to trial where the judge makes all the decisions. Far fewer divorces are uncontested from the start. Most couples will have some disagreements, but will be able to work through those disagreements and reach a mutual agreement.
How much your divorce will cost depends on many different issues that are specific to your divorce. The level of assets you and your spouse have, whether one spouse will seek spousal support, whether you have children, whether you own a home, and whether you have significant marital debt will all play a part in how much your divorce will cost. More importantly, whether your divorce will be relatively amicable, or hotly contested will also determine how much it will cost. A contested divorce where neither party will budge not only takes much longer than a divorce where the parties are in agreement—it also costs significantly more.
The filing fee in Michigan for a divorce with minor children is $230. If you have no minor children, your filing fee will be $150. If you were never married to your child’s other parent and you are facing a custody action, the filing fee is $150. Attorney fees will vary with how successful negotiations are and how complex your divorce will be. The “average” for a very simple divorce with few complexities is around $2,500–$5,000. A divorce that involves high net worth or one that is hotly contested, could easily cost from $25,000 to $50,000—or more.
Whether your divorce ends up in court has a significant bearing on how much your case will cost, as a full day in court could run from $1,000-$3,000. The best way to determine how much your divorce will cost is to contact an experienced Novi divorce lawyer from Melissa Pearce & Associates, PLC. Attorney Melissa Pearce offers a “pre-engagement” meeting where she will listen to your goals for the divorce, then determine whether she can assist you or whether you would do better with another firm.
The length of time your divorce will take has much in common with how much your divorce will cost. While divorce is an emotional process—and one you likely want to put behind you as quickly as possible—you may encounter many unexpected challenges along the way. The state of Michigan also has a mandatory waiting period connected to divorce. Once the complaint is filed, spouses with no children will wait a minimum of 60 days before the divorce is finalized, while couples with minor children will wait a minimum of 180 days.
This means that even if your divorce is fairly amicable with no disagreements regarding asset division or spousal support, the judge cannot sign off on your divorce before the 60 days have passed. If you have children, then even if you and your spouse agree on custody and child support, the judge will not sign off on your divorce prior to 180 days after the complaint is filed.
Only in cases where “unusual hardship or such compelling necessity” can be proven will this waiting period be waived—and it is relatively rare that this would happen.
The purpose of the waiting period is to allow tempers to cool so that frustration and anger do not guide the decisions made during the divorce process. Aside from the waiting period, the level of assets and debts, how contentious asset division and child custody are, and certain other issues will determine how long it takes for your divorce to be finalized. High net worth divorces will take longer for the division of assets to be completed, and when there are radically different ideas of custody and visitation, it could take many months to come to an agreement.
In theory, if you and your spouse agree on every part of your divorce and have no children, then your divorce could be completed in two to three months. Those with children could be looking at six months to a year on average, and those with significant assets and no agreement on anything could see their divorce take two years, or even longer.
Finding the best Novi divorce lawyer near you can seem overwhelming at a time when you are trying to deal with the many issues associated with divorce. Some people ask friends, relatives, or co-workers for a referral, while others look online until they find an attorney that looks like a good fit for their situation. Melissa Pearce & Associates offers a pre-engagement meeting where we will take the time to get a good sense of your goals and outcomes.
We will then determine whether we are the right firm for you and your divorce. If you are set on a divorce that is contentious, and you have no interest in coming to agreements that are best for your child, then we may not be the right law firm for you. We believe that children should never be used as pawns in a divorce and that parents should take care not to discuss the divorce or custody issues in front of the children.
Our firm is particularly sensitive to the experiences of children of divorce. Children rely on consistency, but divorce can create a rapid series of changes in a child’s life. Their daily routine, where they live, and which school they attend are all subject to change. It can also be traumatizing for children to see their parents in an emotionally-charged state.
We strive to keep children out of the middle of a divorce. As much as possible we try to shield children from seeing the difficult conversations and proceedings involved in a divorce. Our divorce attorneys are highly empathetic to the messages children need to hear during a divorce. We are happy to counsel you on ways to communicate with your child keeping their interests in mind.
Divorce often involves many other legal considerations. A divorce requires the couple to divide their property and assets equitably. The lower-earning spouse may ask for spousal support, or alimony, in order to maintain their standard of living without the additional income. For couples with minor children, divorce requires parents to settle issues regarding child custody, parenting time, and support.
Similarly, divorces rarely end at the judgment stage. Even after a divorce is formally complete, people’s circumstances change post-judgment, which may alter our clients’ divorce agreements. Our lawyers have represented enough clients to know what pitfalls to look out for. Clients facing divorce are often overwhelmed and emotionally drained, so it is in their best interest to speak with a Novi divorce lawyer to ensure their rights are being protected.
The team at Melissa Pearce & Associates has represented clients across southeast Michigan. We understand that divorce is rarely a simple process. It requires a series of difficult, sometimes heated, conversations. Our attorneys provide a steadying presence during negotiations to ensure our clients are making the most informed decisions possible. If you are considering filing for divorce, contact the Novi divorce lawyers at Melissa Pearce & Associates to schedule a pre-engagement meeting. We take pride in working side-by-side with our clients to pursue the fairest, most equitable, and most amicable divorce possible.