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Will I Have to Wait Six Months After the Collaborative Process to Finalize my Divorce?

In Michigan, there are two waiting periods. If there are no children there is a sixty-day waiting period from the date the complaint is filed until the judgment can be entered. (The date the other party receives notice of the divorce (i.e. service) is not relevant to the waiting period.)

This sixty-day waiting period is mandatory for every divorce in Michigan. If the Judgment is entered in less than sixty days the divorce is probably not valid.

Normally there is a six-month waiting period if the divorce involves minor children. The courts in Michigan are under a great deal of pressure to conclude their divorces within one year from the date of filing. The “standard” waiting period for a divorce with children is six months from the date the case starts ( i.e. the complaint is filed). Most litigated cases with minor children take longer than six months but are usually done in less than a year.

There are exceptions to the six-month waiting period. The law in Michigan permits a judge to waive the 6 month waiting period, but never the sixty-day waiting period. The six month waiting period can be shortened (but never less than sixty-days) in cases of “unusual hardship or such compelling necessity as shall appeal to the conscious of the court….” this would seem to indicate a very high bar. However, in reality most of the judges, at least in Kent and Ottawa County, will waive the six-month waiting period if there is a reason to do so and they are made aware that it is a Collaborative case.

Another factor to consider is that in a litigation case while there is a minimum of six months, it is unusual for a case to be finalized shortly after the six-month waiting period has expired.

These are fairly limited exceptions; however, we have found that if there are sufficient reasons a number of judges will allow a waiver of the six-month waiting period in a collaborative case. Judges seem to understand that if a couple starts a collaborative process that is essentially equivalent to filing a complaint. There is no guarantee a judge will waive the six months. It may take six months for the filing of the complaint to finalize the divorce. We also find that emotionally people are divorced when they signed the agreement so usually the tension decrease once the issues are resolved even if the legal case has not been concluded.

By Randall L. Velzen
Velzen, Johnsen & Wikander P.C.