Torree J. Breen, Divorce and Family Law

A Better Divorce Process: It Is Possible

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So either you or your spouse has decided to obtain a divorce. What important issues should you consider before filing for divorce?

A majority of divorces are amicable and do not require a local judge to hold a trial to determine the outcome of the divorce. Most divorces result in the parties planning together how the parenting time of the minor children will be scheduled, how the assets will be divided, how the debts will be divided, how a family business will be handled, etc.  However, what do you do if you do not have all of the answers or cannot orchestrate a plan? 

Before Contacting An Attorney

There are various options available to you if you cannot agree on every detail or if you need advice in regard to resolving the issues. Before meeting with an attorney, you might want to sit down and try to discuss what you and your spouse believe to be the best resolution for your family. A meeting could help bring to light the issues for which there are no disputes and allow for you to recognize what issues are contentious.   If a meeting as a couple alone seems awkward or has just not been successful, you can try to seek the assistance of a therapist to help you communicate with each other. Therapists will sometimes agree to act as mediators in efforts to try to resolve family problems in a non-confrontational manner.

When You Cannot Agree

If the idea of a meeting with your spouse just seems too difficult or the meeting has not resolved your issues, you may want to consider consulting with an attorney to find out how the law applies to your case.

If you were able to have the meeting and narrowed the issues, the attorney will be able to focus on those issues and hopefully assist you in resolving them. Most attorneys will provide free consultations or charge a nominal fee for their consultation. If your goals are to resolve your problems quickly and in a cost-effective manner, do not be afraid to ask the attorney how they plan to proceed and what they think is the best course to narrow the issues in order to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. If you disagree with their plan, you need to fully communicate your expectations and how you wish your  divorce to be handled.

Parenting Time

If you and your spouse cannot decide parenting time, the court will order you to appear at conciliation. Typically, the court will automatically schedule a hearing with a conciliator within a few weeks after the divorce papers are filed. A conciliator is a non-attorney court professional who will meet with you and your spouse to try to work out a temporary order that dictates the custody of your children and child support obligations pending the resolution of the divorce. The conciliator tries to work with you and your spouse to come to a settlement agreement in regard to the parenting time.

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, the conciliator will determine a parenting time schedule based on their interview with you and your spouse assessing the 11 “best interest of the child” factors pursuant to Michigan statute. The conciliator will make their determination based on past factors of prior responsibilities of the parent before the divorce was filed.

If a parent is displeased with the recommendations of the conciliator, that parent will have a certain number of days to object to the conciliator’s findings. If an objection is filed, the matter will be scheduled for an evidentiary hearing before a referee or the judge. The referee or judge will actually conduct a hearing in which witnesses will be called by both sides to testify. The referee and judge will also evaluate the 11 “best interest of the child” factors when receiving evidence from the parties.  The referee or judge will then make a decision to either affirm the conciliator’s recommendations or decide to vacate the recommendations of the conciliator and enter a temporary order of their own. If a referee was assigned to this evidentiary hearing, the parties will have the right to object to the referee’s recommendations as well and go before the judge for a de novo hearing.

At the de novo hearing the judge may revisit the custody issue but will likely only consider evidence that was not available at the time of the evidentiary hearing. At the time of the divorce, a final order will be entered reflecting the parenting time schedule determined to be in the best interest of the children.


In regard to the property, you should gather all account statements showing the value of your assets, as well as debts, to provide to the court or your attorney. You might even have to hire experts to evaluate property, such as businesses, homes, pension plans, etc. The court has the obligation to split the assets and debts in an equitable manner between the parties.  If you cannot agree on a division, the court will often order the parties to appear at facilitative mediation. The mediator is a neutral attorney who will act in an effort to help resolve any property disputes. You will need all of the paperwork showing the value of the assets and debts for the mediator. You will also need any reports from experts who have evaluated your property so that the mediator can adequately perform their job.

In short, when considering divorce, assess the degree to which you can amicably work with your spouse. If that is not feasible, an attorney (in conjunction with a judge and conciliator) will assist you with parenting time and property issues.


The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.