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General Court Process for Civil and Domestic Relations Cases


Starting an Action

Filing and Serving a Complaint: A lawsuit begins when a plaintiff files a complaint with the proper court. The complaint identifies the parties involved in the case and describes the nature of the grievance and the remedy that is being sought.  The court issues a summons, and a copy of the complaint and summons is served on the defendant. The summons states that the defendant must respond to the complaint within 21 days.


Filing a Jury Demand:  a jury demand can be filed at the time of filing your answer.  There is a fee for filing a jury demand.  See MCR 2.508 and 2.509 for additional information.

Answering a Complaint: The defendant responds to the complaint by filing an answer in the same court, within the required time. If the defendant does not file an answer or other responsive pleading within the required time, the court may enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. See Responding to a Civil Complaint.


Michigan Court Rules for starting a case are MCR 2.101 through 2.227.



Discovery involves various procedures for discovering facts. It allows all the parties to get all the relevant facts in the lawsuit. Most discovery includes asking questions of parties and witnesses through written questions (interrogatories) or through oral questions under oath (depositions), and reviewing documents acquired through an order to produce (subpoena) or a request for production of records. Michigan Court Rules on discovery are MCR 2.301 through 2.316.


Pretrial Procedures

Pretrial procedures are events designed to conclude or settle a lawsuit without going to trial. These events include various conferences, case evaluation, and mediation. Michigan Court Rules for pretrial procedures are MCR 2.401 through 2.420.


Trial Procedures

Depending on the type of action, a case may be tried before a judge or before a jury. If a party wants a jury trial, a demand for jury must be filed within a certain time and a fee must be paid. If the trial is by jury, there are a number of procedures for selecting and impaneling a jury as well as for instructing the jury about their responsibilities in the case.


At the trial, opening statements are made by each party to the judge or the jury explaining the nature of the case, what evidence is going to be presented, and what facts are going to proven. After the opening statements, the parties present their case, call their witnesses, and provide their evidence. The plaintiff always goes first, followed by the defendant. After presenting evidence and witnesses, the parties have additional opportunities to examine and cross-examine one another's evidence or witnesses. The trial is often concluded by a final argument from each party.


After the trial, the jury or judge will arrive at a verdict. In a jury trial, the jurors will go to a separate room to discuss the case in order to arrive at a verdict (this is called jury deliberations). In a bench trial, the judge may leave the bench for a short time to consider the evidence before making a verdict.


Michigan Court Rules dealing with trials are MCR 2.501 through 2.518



Once a settlement is reached, a verdict is entered, or a default is entered (if the defendant did not answer the complaint), a judgment must be prepared. In most cases, the judgment is prepared by the prevailing party (the person who "won" the case) and entered by the court. Depending on the type of case and how the judgment was arrived at, a hearing may be necessary to enter the order. All judgments must be signed by the judge and dated with the date they are signed. To be effective, a judgment must be filed with the clerk of the court, and the prevailing party must serve a copy on the other party. Michigan Court Rules on judgments are MCR 2.601 through 2.613.


Postjudgment Procedures

Postjudgment procedures provide the parties with the means to enforce a judgment or to appeal a judgment and to assess costs associated with the case. Michigan Court Rules for postjudgment proceedings are MCR 2.614 through 2.630.​​​​​​​​