Deadlines, Deadlines

Many clients are aware that there exist statutory waiting periods from the time a complaint for divorce is filed until it may be granted by the court. Under Michigan law, two important waiting periods apply. Essentially, there is a certain minimum waiting period which always applies. There is also a longer waiting period that applies in cases involving child custody - and that waiting period may be shortened when warranted by important circumstances.

For divorce cases where no minor children are involved, it is possible to obtain a judgment of divorce in 60 days. MCL 552.9f For divorces in which the parties have minor children, usually a divorce may not be granted until 6 month after the filing of the complaint. Id. It only makes sense: divorce affects the most important aspects of the lives of couples and families. Especially where there are minor children involved, sound policy considerations support providing divorcing parties with a period of time in which to adjust and reflect upon the issues surrounding the sensitive changes affecting their children and their futures.

Increasingly, couples are choosing not to initiate divorce proceedings in court until after they first have settled their case in advance. In these instances, the court system is not being used to resolve a "dispute" but, instead, is simply serving to oversee and facilitate the entry of the final consent judgment. Couples who have put a great deal of time and effort into reaching a thoughtful settlement agreement before even filing for divorce, usually are not well-served by waiting an additional 6 months in order to make their agreement effective. Sometimes the 6-month statutory waiting period may conflict with other important goals - such as moving into a new house prior to a school year or some other important time-sensitive goal, such as accepting a new job. When compelling reasons are present, courts may decrease the statutory waiting period for cases involving children from 6 months to as little as 60 days. An order of the court typically must be obtained to reduce the waiting period.

When couples take a proactive, cooperative approach to divorce, typically they lay the foundation for the best possible outcome for their children. In making sound decisions from the outset, those same couples may experience far less waiting, and expense, in navigating the court system.