Michigan Trial Courts
Michigan has three trial courts - circuit, district, and probate. See Administration for information about the operations, policy, and procedures of the trial courts.
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. The Court of Claims is part of the 30th Circuit Court and is located in Ingham County. 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.
The district court is often called the people's court. More people have contact with the district court than any other court. The district court handles most traffic violations, all civil cases with claims up to $25,000, landlord-tenant matters, most traffic tickets, and all misdemeanor criminal cases (generally, cases where the accused, if found guilty, cannot be sentenced to more than one year in jail). In addition, small claims cases are heard by a division of the district court. In Michigan, a few municipalities have chosen to retain a municipal court rather than create a district court. The municipal courts have limited powers and are located in Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, and Grosse Point Shores/Grosse Pointe Woods.
There are approximately 100 district courts in Michigan. District court judges are elected for six-year terms.
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.