Michigan law provides that, after a divorce action is filed, the spouses must wait a minimum of 60 days (or 180 days if there are minor children involved) before the court can finalize the divorce. This is true even if the parties file for divorce together and agree on all of the terms ahead of time. MCL 552.9f provides the following:
- “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.”
Why is there a waiting period to get divorce? Why does the Legislature and the court want people to remain in toxic relationships ant longer than they have to? There are a number of considerations that include, but are not limited to, the following:
- COOLING OFF PERIOD FOR POSSIBLE RECONCILIATION: A divorce filing can sometimes follow an explosive argument and is done out of haste and anger. A waiting period provides a period of time for hostile spouses to cool off and reconsider if this is what they really want. Once a divorce complaint is filed and served, then the reality hits and couples will often take a hard look at the problems in their marriage in a new way. Many divorce filings do not result in finalization and a fair number end up reconciling with the action being dismissed.
- PREPARATIONS FOR CO-PARENTING WITH MINOR CHILDREN: Married couples with children have to wait six months before they can finalize a divorce because parents need to have time to figure out a schedule or custodial arrangement that will work for the family and is in the best interest of the children. New living arrangements require new considerations for daycare, school districts and visitation. Again, parents may decide in the course of learning to co-parent in separate households that they would prefer to reconcile and give it a second chance instead of terminating the marriage.
- FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS: Very few people come out of a divorce better off financially than if they were to remain married. One household becomes two households so the expenses nearly double for the couple as opposed to when they were living together. In addition, the existing marital estate will have to be divided so financial information will have to be marshalled, appraisals will have to be done, and debts or bank accounts will need to be divided. This will take time to accomplish, and this may also result in time for the parties to reconsider the decision to divorce.
Public policy supports people taking time to cool off and reconsider before finalizing divorce and possibly reconciling for the benefit of the family.
Trial courts do not have any authority to waive the 60-day statutory waiting period unless the purpose is to preserve testimony. Alexander v Alexander, 103 Mich App 263, 265; 303 NW2d 202 (1981). However, some judges are willing to waive the balance of the 180-day waiting period for divorces with minor children if the parties have reached agreement, resolved all issues, and finalizing the divorce early is in the best interests of the minor children. However, no amount of the first 60 days can be waived. Some judges may be willing to grant a divorce before 180-days are up, and some are not.
Divorce is a serious matter and it is not advisable to make rash decisions towards finalization without the benefit of legal counsel. You only get one opportunity to do your divorce right because you will have to live with the results no matter what. The stakes are too high to not have a good lawyer in your corner.
If you or a loved one have any further questions or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.