Court proceedings follow rigid deadlines and procedures and if not met, will result in an automatic judgment for the other party. In the case of divorce if the defendant does not respond to the divorce complaint, the plaintiff automatically receives a default judgment.
Cornell University Law School defines a default judgment as a ruling made by the court when one side involved in the case does not complete a court-ordered task, which results in keeping the matter from being fully considered by the court and results in the court ruling against the side at fault.
Starting Divorce Proceedings
To start a divorce case in Michigan, a divorce complaint and summons must be submitted to the court, along with a $150 filing fee (and additional $80 Friend of the Court fee if minor children are involved). Upon filing, copies of the divorce complaint and summons must be provided to the defendant through certified mail or a process server. In consensual divorce cases, the defendant also can sign the back of the summons to acknowledge receipt of the documents.
After receiving the documents, the defendant receives a limited amount of time to respond to the complaint. If a process server delivered the divorce complaint and summons to the defendant, the answer period is three weeks (21 days); if delivered via certified mailed, the time frame for response is four weeks (28 days).
If after the appropriate amount of time has passed and the defendant, or his representative, has not responded to the divorce complain, Michigan law and its courts will grant a default judgment for the plaintiff. If this happens, the case is closed and the plaintiff "wins" the case.
Even if granted a default judgment in a Michigan divorce, the effect will not be immediate, as there is always a waiting period. However, the waiting period will begin the day the default judgment is entered, so this can speed it up a little.
The waiting period for a divorce to be final in Michigan depends on whether or not the couple has minor children together. If children are involved with the divorce, the court requires both parties to wait six months (180 days) before a judgment of divorce can be granted; however, if children are not present in the relationship, or if they are not minors, the waiting period is two months (60 days). In certain circumstances these waiting periods can be waived by the judge, but this is highly unlikely.