Glossary of Terms

Family Glossary of Terms

  • Alimony in Michigan

    (see SPOUSAL SUPPORT).  People frequently ask me whether alimony was abolished in Michigan.  It's not: alimony is alive and well in Michigan. 

  • Arbitration

    ARBITRATION - submission of a dispute to a person chosen by the parties' agreement. Arbitration determinations are generally binding upon the parties.

  • Answer

    ANSWER - the defendant's first pleading in response to plaintiff's complaint. The answer can contain a denial, an admission, or state a lack of knowledge concerning plaintiff's allegation in the complaint.  A defendant has 21 days to file an answer (if personally served with the complaint) or 28 days (if served by mail or outside the State of Michigan).

  • Annulment

    ANNULMENT - a proceeding for dissolving a marriage that is void. Annulment, unlike divorce, invalidates all family ties between the parties as though they never existed. Grounds for annulment include marriages obtained via fraud or duress, bigamous marriages, marriages within prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity, marriages to people of insufficient age, marriages to the mentally incompetent, marriages to people who are sterile, or impotent, or have a venereal disease.

  • Best Interests of the Child

    BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD Michigan law requires judges to consider only "the best interests of the child" in deciding contested custody cases. MCL 722.23 defines "the best interests of the child" as the following 12 factors:(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or he...

  • Child Support in Michigan

    CHILD SUPPORT - is money to be paid by a parent for the care, custody, and maintenance of a child. Child support calculations must be based on the Michigan Child Support Formula.

  • Custody

    CUSTODY - the care and control of a minor child awarded by the court to a parent (or both parents for joint custody) in a case for divorce, separate maintenance, annulment, or paternity. Legal custody gives a parent the right of access to a child's medical and educational information, along with the right to make medical and educational decision regarding the child. Physical custody refers to who a child lives with.

  • Complaint

    COMPLAINT - the plaintiff's first pleading describing the claim for relief and the facts upon which the claim for relief is based.

  • Default

    DEFAULT - a notation on the court file allowing a party (generally the plaintiff) to proceed to judgment without the other party's (generally the defendant's) participation in the case. A party's default is entered when that party fails to make a required procedural action (such as filing an answer to a complaint).

  • Divorce

    DIVORCE - a legal proceeding to end a valid marriage. The only ground for divorce in Michigan is the no-fault ground, i.e., "there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved" MCL 552.6(1). Although proof of fault is not necessary to obtain a divorce, fault can be relevant in deciding custody, parenting time, property and debt division, and spousal s...

  • Domicile

    DOMICILE - the place where a person has a permanent home, to where, whenever absent the individual has the intention of returning.

  • Early Intervention Conference

    Early Intervention Conference - After a Complaint for Divorce is filed in Oakland County, the parties and their counsel are required to appear at an Early Intervention Conference (EIC). EICs are held at the Friend of the Court (FOC) office before the assigned FOC referee. The referee conducts a review of the case status, provides the parties information about the divorce process and FOC services, and schedules a coparenting class known as SMILE.

  • Established Custodial Environment

    ESTABLISHED CUSTODIAL ENVIRONMENT may not be disrupted absent clear and convincing evidence that it is in the child's best interests. A custodial environment is established if "over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the the necessities of life, and parental comfort. the age of the child, the physical environment, and the inclination of the custodian and the child as to permanency of the relationship shall also be consider...

  • Ex Parte Divorce

    Ex Parte - a judicial proceeding brought by one party without notice to the opposing party. Michigan law allows a party to a divorce (generally the plaintiff) to obtain ex parte relief in certain circumstances.

  • Friend of the Court (FOC)

    Friend of the Court (FOC) - is a branch of each the circuit court with Michigan. It's duties include enforcing custody, support, and parenting time orders, and conducting investigations and making recommendations to the court in custody, parenting time, and child support cases.

  • Judgment

    Judgment - a court order that contains the court's final determination of the parties' rights and responsibilities.

  • Jurisdiction

    Jurisdiction - the power of a court to hear a case. For a divorce or separate maintenance case, the plaintiff or the defendant must reside in Michigan for at least 180 days before filing, and in the county of filing for at least 10 days before filing. MCL 552.9(1).

  • Mediation

    Mediation - can be facilitative, or evaluative, or both. In facilitative mediation, a mediator encourages the parties settle issues such as property and debt division, spousal support, custody, parenting time, and child support. In evaluative mediation, the mediator provides a recommendation for use resolving unsettled issues.

  • Legal Seperation

    "Legal Separation" - is not recognized in Michigan but the law does recognize an action for separate maintenance.

  • Injunction

    Injunction - a court order that prevents a party from engaging in certain conduct, or requires a party to engage in certain conduct, or both.

  • Motion

    MOTION - a petition requesting that the court grant certain specific relief.

  • Parenting Time

    Parenting Time - the right of a parent of court-ordered access to minor a minor child. Courts are required to order a parenting time schedule that promotes a strong relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent. MCL 722.27a(1).

  • Paternity Action

    Paternity ACTION - a suit to determine or establish fatherhood of a child born out of wedlock and to provide for custody, parenting time, and child support once paternity is established. A father may file a notice of intent to claim paternity even before the child is born. MCL 710.33.

  • Prenuptial Agreement

    PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement is a contract entered into before marriage that limits property rights that would normally be acquired through marriage. Properly drafted prenuptial agreements are valid and enforceable in Michigan. Such agreements can limit or waive a spouse's rights to spousal support, to the estate of the other spouse, to remain in the marital home, or to dower, or to a homestead allowance, or to elect against a deceased spouse's will, etc.

  • Seperate Maintenance

    Separate Maintenance - is filed in the same way and for the same grounds as divorce. In both separate maintenance and divorce, the court will divide property and debts, award custody of children, and set child and spousal support. At the conclusion of a separate maintenance case, a judgment is entered but the parties are still married.

  • Shared Economic Responsibility Formula (SERF)

    Shared Economic Responsibility Formula (SERF) - when children spend substantial amounts of time with both parents, the Michigan Child Support Formula considers the child support recipient's expense savings. SERF may only be used if both parents annually care for the child a minimum of 128 overnights pursuant to the terms of a custody/parenting time order.Spousal Support (formerly alimony) is money to be paid in a divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment case by one spouse to the other for the...

  • SMILE

    SMILE - (Start Making It Livable For Everyone) is the Oakland County Friend of the Court's 2-hour educational program for divorcing parents with minor children. The program assists parents to better understand the effects of divorce, the needs of their children, and how to promote a conflict free zone. SMILE is a nationally recognized program that is sponsored by the Oakland County Circuit Court.

  • Spousal Support

    Spousal Support (formerly alimony) is money to be paid in a divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment case by one spouse to the other for the support of the recipient spouse. Under Michigan case law, the court must consider eleven factors in determining whether (and in what amount) spousal support is to be awarded:Past relations and conduct of the parties (fault).Length of the marriage.Ability of the parties to work and their respective incomes.Source and amount of property awarded to the part...

  • Summons

    Summons - a document notifying a defendant that he or she is being sued. The summons is issued by the court when the complaint is filed and it notifies defendant that an answer is required to avoid a default.

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