I thought I’d be divorced in six months?

You file for divorce, your spouse files a response. Then what? Do you just sit around for six months and wait for a court to, well, “divorce” you? The Michigan law requiring divorcing parties with minor children to wait six months is often hard for unrepresented litigants to understand. The six-month waiting period, in the most simplest terms, means that the court cannot grant a divorce (cannot grant a final order on custody, cannot order the division of your “stuff”) until the expiration of 180 days from the date a case is started. However, this does not mean you will be divorced in six months. In order to finalize a divorce (so that you can … move on with your life!) the following must occur, in addition to the expiration of 180 days: you and your spouse reach an agreement and sign a judgment of divorce; the non-filing spouse does not respond and a court enters a default judgment; or you and your spouse cannot agree and need a judge to issue a ruling. If one of these three things has not happened, even though six months has expired … sorry, but you are you probably not divorced yet.

But I don’t want to wait six months—I want to be divorced NOW!

Although Michigan law requires divorcing parties with minor children to wait six months before they are actually divorced, there are exceptions. The court can waive the six-month waiting period “in cases of unusual hardship or such compelling necessity” after the expiration of 60 days. Often, parties strongly believe their children’s best interests would be served if a divorce could be final immediately. In other cases, one party is leaving the state or country, and entry of an immediate judgment is necessary. In many collaborative divorces—a team-centered approach whereby parties commit to keeping their divorce out of court—judges are inclined to waive the six month waiting period, recognizing that the parties have spent significant time in the collaborative process. If waiting six months may cause more harm than good, consult with an attorney.