A divorce is a legal action which is filed to terminate a marriage. A complaint for divorce is filed in the circuit court for the county where either of the parties resides at the time of filing but there must be continuous residence for at least 10 days prior to the filing. Additionally, to file in Michigan, you must reside in the state for at least 180 days immediately prior to filing the action. The party who files is the plaintiff and the responding party is the defendant.

At the time the complaint for divorce is filed, a summons is issued which directs the defendant to respond in writing within a certain time: 21 days, if personally served and 28 days, if served by certified mail. Failure to respond results in the default of the non-responding party and results in their subsequent inability to actively participate in the action, unless the court sets the default aside. By timely responding to the complaint, the matter is considered to be contested and is placed on the court’s trial docket.

While the case is pending, the attorneys for the parties will engage in “discovery,” a process to find out the parties’ incomes, assets and liabilities and to answer other issues that are relevant to the particular case. This permits each party to prepare their side of the case for eventual mediation and trial or arbitration, with full knowledge of the facts. An intentional non-disclosure by one party to the inquiring party can result in the non-disclosing party forfeiting the later discovered asset, even if the asset is discovered after a judgment has been entered.