divorce and child custody      

Navigating family issues such as divorce or annulment, alimony, child custody or adoption is never an easy situation.

David Bittner has years of experience working with families to sort out sensitive cases such as these and he will clearly explain the best options to make sure you receive a fair and honest outcome.

David Bittner is exceptionally familiar with the procedures, practices, judges and prosecutors in Livingston County so you can take comfort in knowing your situation will be handled by an experienced professional.


Prior to filing for divorce there are some basic legal requirements that must be met. First you must be a resident of the county you file in for at least 10 days and be a resident of Michigan for 180 days. There are two judges that handle all of the divorce cases where children under the age of 18 are involved which are Judge David Reader and Judge Carol Hackett-Garagiola. There are three additional judges that handle divorce cases where children under the age of 18 are not involved. Each judge handles their divorce docket in a similar manner, but there are several distinctions that you should be aware of when contemplating a divorce in Livingston County. Our office has handled hundreds of divorces and will be able to sit down and discuss your legal options and how divorces are generally handled in this county. A divorce is normally a heart wrenching and complicated event in your life. No divorce is simple and there are several areas and nuances that our office will assist you with.

The following is a brief synopsis of some of the major legal steps taken in a divorce action:

Filing a Complaint

The first step in obtaining a divorce is filing a formal Complaint with the local court. The Complaint consists of the basic facts about the parties and their marriage. It sets forth the legal and factual basis for obtaining the divorce. Our office will meet with you and go over the basic information that is needed to assist you in the divorce proceeding and gather the necessary information to draft the formal Complaint. After the Complaint is drafted by our office we will courier the document to the Court Clerk's office to assure proper filing to begin the formal divorce process.

Conciliation Hearing

A Conciliation hearing is conducted only upon the request of a party. It is usually held within the first 2 weeks to resolve issues of custody, parenting time and support immediately before things get out of hand. The FOC employs a Conciliator who is an experienced and knowledgeable divorce practitioner to listen to both sides briefly in an attempt to settle issues early in the case. A Conciliation Report can be adopted by the Court as the law of your case while the matter is pending. Proper preparation can provide an advantage not only while the case is pending, but on the permanent side as well.

Pretrial/Scheduling Conference

The Court will set dates for one or more Pretrial Conferences. Dates will be set to assure that the case moves along adequately. Interim issues can be addressed by the Court or Friend of the Court to assure a level playing field while the case is pending. Any unique issues may be brought to the court's attention at that time.

Discovery of Assets

While the business of a family's assets may sound simple, there can be complex issues that need to be considered. Determining the value of a pension, inheritance or the marital home can be a tricky process. Assets may have been hidden, sold or transferred in contemplation of divorce. Bank statements may need to be obtained by Subpoena for examination. All of the parties' assets, as well as liabilities need to be thoughtfully considered and dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.


Mediation is required by the Court to assist in resolving disputes where assets and debts are concerned. A neutral mediator is appointed by the Court to spend several hours with the parties and their attorneys attempting to resolve property settlement issues. Knowing the mediator and the process through previous experience can be a valuable advantage.

Friend of the Court

The FOC will assign a Caseworker to your divorce file. This person can be contacted for questions regarding the status of your case. An Investigator will be appointed if necessary to make recommendations in the areas of support, custody and parenting time. A Referee may conduct a hearing to take testimony if necessary regarding troublesome issues. The FOC makes recommendations to the Court that weigh very heavily on the Court's decisions. Proper preparation at every level is essential to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Your children's well being is at stake and may very well depend on your level of preparedness at this point in your case.

Statutory Proofs

The presiding judge in any divorce proceeding has to ask you several questions so that a determination can be made that the divorce is proper. These are basic questions that you will need to answer to formally state the marriage is over and for the judge to grant the divorce. These questions that are asked are frequently called "Statutory Proofs". Here are some of the questions the judge will ask you:

  • 1. Have you lived in the state for 180 days?
  • 2. Have you lived in the county for 10 days?
  • 3. Are you or your spouse currently pregnant?
  • 4. How many children were born during this marriage?
  • 5. Has there been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved?

Divorce Judgment

The divorce judgment is the legal document that outlines the overall disbursement of all assets and liabilities as well as custody, child support and parenting time issues. This is the final document that divides the marital estate and it cannot be altered except for claims based on fraud or deceit once it is signed by the parties and the presiding judge. Once the divorce judgment is signed by the judge and the statutory proofs have been taken you will be formally divorced. This process of obtaining a judgment is normally complicated and can be very time consuming.

Spousal Support/ Alimony

There are no formal statutory requirements for a party to receive spousal support. There is a computer program that is used to assist the court and attorneys. However, it is not the law or mandatory. Some of the major variables that go into the spousal support calculations are salary, education levels, the length of marriage, and several other factors that we can discuss at the initial meeting. Sometimes spousal support can be for a number of years or it can be perpetual depending on the situations of the parties. Again it is wise to consult an attorney so that they can accurately go over the factors and the numbers so that you have an idea what you may be receiving or paying on a monthly basis.