Courts

 Michigan has three trial courts—Circuit, District, and Probate. 

 

Circuit Court

The circuit court is the trial court with the broadest powers in Michigan. In general, the circuit court handles all civil cases with claims of more than $25,000 and all felony criminal cases (cases where the accused, if found guilty, could be sent to prison). The family division of circuit court handles all cases regarding divorce, paternity, adoptions, personal protection actions, emancipation of minors, treatment and testing of infectious disease, safe delivery of newborns, name changes, juvenile offenses and delinquency, juvenile guardianship, and child abuse and neglect. In addition, the circuit court hears cases appealed from the other trial courts or from administrative agencies.  The friend of the court office is part of the family division of the circuit court and handles domestic relations cases where minor children are involved.

 

In addition, there is a Court of Claims for filing cases against the State of Michigan in which a claim for money damages is made. As of November 12, 2013, the Court of Claims is part of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Court of Claims is a specialized court that handles only claims over $1,000 filed against the State of Michigan or one of its departments.

 

There are 57 circuit courts in Michigan. Circuit court judges are elected for six-year terms.

 

District Court

  • The Criminal/Traffic Division handles violations of the State's Criminal Code and local ordinance violations.  It is responsible for scheduling all matters, opening and closing cases, communicating with the jail regarding sentencing inmates and notifying the Department of State  Police Records Division of case dispositions.  In addition, it is responsible for entering traffic tickets into the computer system, taking payments for both traffic and criminal cases, receiving and disbursing bonds and notifying the Secretary of State of case dispositions.  This division also handles weddings that are performed by the court.
  • The Civil Division processes all general civil, small claims and summary proceedings (landlord-tenant) cases.  It schedules civil hearings and trials, processes civil writs, garnishments and receives filing fees for cases filed.  The District Court has jurisdiction over disputes involving individuals and businesses where the amount in controversy is $25,000 or less.
  • The Probation Department performs two functions:  (1) meeting with criminal defendants and preparing pre-sentence reports for the judges for use at sentencing, and (2) supervising probationers.

There are approximately 100 district courts in Michigan. District court judges are elected for six-year terms.

 

Probate Court

The probate court handles wills, administers estates and trusts, appoints guardians and conservators, and orders treatment for mentally ill and developmentally disabled persons.

There are 78 probate courts in Michigan; probate judges are elected for six-year terms.

This page last updated on 3/1/2017.