In most counties in Michigan, the filing fee for a petition requesting a divorce is $150. An extra $80 fee will probably be charged if any children are involved.
The simplest, least expensive kinds of divorces are those in which the other spouse waives their right to contest the separation and both parties can submit a written agreement regarding issues such as:
• Discharging debts
• Shared health insurance
• Child custody arrangements
• Visitation rights
• Child support payments
• Alimony payments
• Division of shared property
If a couple can agree to terms privately, it is relatively simple to complete the petition for a divorce, acting in a “pro se” capacity as your own legal counsel. In this case, a lawyer’s expenses will not add to the cost, nor will the expense of filing an official response to the divorce petition.
In some cases, a couple may wish to separate without technically divorcing on religious grounds or to continue sharing health insurance. A legally binding “legal separation” agreement can be arranged by a lawyer resolving all the issues handled in a divorce. This procedure is generally less expensive than a divorce.
If no arrangement can be agreed upon, it may still be possible to avoid the expense of hiring a lawyer to represent you in court. The couple may agree to share the expense for hiring a lawyer specializing in mediation, who will attempt to help the couple resolve their differences. The expense of arriving at an agreement can be worthwhile if both parties are confident they can act in good faith.
If no agreement can be reached, both parties will prepare for their appearance before a family court judge. At this time, one or both spouses may decide that they may need a lawyer to help them with technicalities or to present the strongest possible case. Keep in mind that attorneys of this kind can generally be expected to charge at least $150 per hour in return for their services. These fees can add up if your case drags on. During your first meeting with any divorce lawyer, obtain a detailed estimate of the number of hours of work your case will take and what you can expect to pay for these services.
When no agreement can be reached about child support payments, a judge will issue a ruling based on state guidelines. One or both parents may argue that the fee being charged is too heavy to sustain or otherwise unreasonable. All payments must be processed by the Michigan Friend of the Court Bureau.
The court has a great deal of discretion in deciding how much alimony, if any, to award to the petitioning spouse. The judge will take into account any requested payments which could be injurious to the person paying, the resources of both spouses and whether any children are involved. Alimony payments can take the form of either money or real estate.