Thursday, July 15, 2010

Michigan Launches New Pilot Program: Lawyer-Free Divorces

The Michigan Supreme Court has authorized the launch of a new pilot program in Clinton and Gratiot County for an Informal Divorce proceeding for couples divorcing who cannot afford attorneys.

Judge Michelle Rick of Clinton County Circuit Court obtained approval for the pilot program, and will launch this new program for 3 years in both Clinton and Gratiot County. The program was developed in response to a growing number of individuals who were filing for divorce without attorneys, had very simple or uncomplicated issues to resolve in their divorce, and also significantly lacked funds to hire an attorney because they had no or low income. The majority of these couples did not own any property together, they did not have any pensions or retirement accounts, nor was there any domestic violence in their relationship. The majority of these couples had children, debt, and they completely lacked the financial means to hire an attorney because they were unemployed or at the poverty level.

The Informal Divorce pilot program will be an option for couples in Clinton and Gratiot County as long as they meet the criteria, which means that they have no income or very low income, they do not have any property together, they have minor children and there is no domestic violence. The couple getting divorced can elect to proceed under this new option, which includes meeting personally with the Judge in order to work out the issues in the divorce. The parties can opt out of this program at any time, or can be removed from the program if the program does not benefit their case.

The pilot program for Lawyer-Free Divorces was implemented to address the extreme financial distress of some couples filing for divorce, so that those couples are not lost in the system because they cannot afford legal counsel. The pilot program clearly recognizes the importance of having good legal counsel while going through a divorce, especially with minor children.

The Informal Divorce pilot program is anticipated to begin in Gratiot and Clinton County around September 1, 2010.

You can read the Detroit Free Press article here: 2 Michigan Counties will Test Informal Divorces

If you are interested in learning more about divorce or family law, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at

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