Ninth Judicial Circuit Court
FRIEND OF THE COURT HANDBOOK - PROCEDURES OF THE COURT
To start a domestic relations matter, a person must file the correct papers in the circuit court according to specific rules (Michigan Court Rules). There may be many complicated issues or rules involved in a domestic relations case. Although the court cannot require a party to use an attorney to start or respond to an action, it is usually advisable to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about specific statutes and court rules file the correct papers.
Every case begins with the Plaintiff (also called a "party"), filing a complaint or petition that asks the court to grant an order. For example, a complaint may ask the court to grant a divorce, order child support or spousal support (alimony), start an out-of-state support collection effort, or grant an order for custody of a child. The Defendant is a party against whom the complaint is filed. Once a person is designated as Plaintiff or Defendant, the designation does not change. The designation of Plaintiff and Defendant does not imply that one party is right and the other is wrong. It simply tells the court who it was that started the case.
Michigan Court Rules provide that the Defendant be served with a copy of the complaint and summons and if child support or spousal support is requested, a copy of this handbook. The summons is a document that legally requires the Defendant to answer the complaint. The summons and complaint must be delivered to the Defendant so that he or she has notice that a case has been filed. Normally it is the Plaintiff's responsibility to serve the required documents on the other party. This service requirement also applies to other matters that you may bring before the court after the divorce is completed.
Defendant's Answer to Complaint
If the Defendant does not file an answer to the complaint within the time permitted (usually 21 days), the Defendant may be determined to be in "default." This means that the Defendant could lose the right to have his or her concerns heard by the court, and could result in the court entering an order giving the Plaintiff everything requested in the complaint.
Hearings before a Domestic Relations Referee are held at the Gull Road Justice Complex located at 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI. Hearings before a judge will generally be held in the Gull Road Justice Complex, but some may be held at the Michigan Avenue Courthouse at 227 W. Michigan, Kalamazoo, MI. Be sure to carefully read your notice or order for the correct time, date and location of the hearing you are to attend. If you have questions, contact your attorney or the court that issued the notice or order (see also Rights and Responsibilities section).