Michigan Courts Overview
It helps to understand how the Michigan state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Michigan trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, District Courts, Probate Courts, Municipal Courts, Concurrent Jurisdiction and Unified Trial Courts, and Court of Claims.
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all cases, but usually only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. District Courts, Probate Courts and Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases. The Court of Claims has limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil cases against the State of Michigan or one of its departments.
If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Michigan courts by county.
Michigan Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but usually handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.
Criminal cases heard by the Circuit Courts include felonies, lesser-included offenses, and juvenile delinquency.
Civil cases heard by Circuit Courts include general civil cases with more than $25,000 in dispute, equity cases, appeals of administrative agency decisions, domestic relations, and juvenile cases.
Each Circuit Court has a Family Division that hears domestic relations and juvenile cases. Cases heard by the Family Division include divorce, paternity, adoption, name changes, abuse prevention, child protection, and juvenile delinquency. Family Divisions have a Friend of the Court office that assists the court and parties with custody, support, and parenting issues in divorce cases involving minor children.
Some juvenile, adoption, and name change cases were formerly under the jurisdiction of Probate Courts. In some counties, files for these case types are still maintained in the Probate Court office. In some counties a Probate department of Family Division - separate from the Probate Court proper - handles these case types.
Michigan District CourtsDistrict Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Criminal cases heard by District Courts include misdemeanors, preliminary hearings for felonies, and most traffic violations.
Civil cases heard by District Courts include general civil cases with less than $25,000 in dispute, and most landlord-tenant cases.
Each District Court has a Small Claims Division that is available for most general civil cases involving claims of $5000 or less, if the parties agree to use its simplified procedure.
Michigan Probate CourtsProbate Courts have limited jurisdiction over probate cases and some juvenile matters.
Cases heard by Probate Courts include the probate of wills, administration of estates and trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, adoptions, name changes, and the care and protection of people with mental or physical impairment.
Some juvenile, adoption, and name change cases were formerly under the jurisdiction of Probate Court, but are now under the jurisdiction for Circuit Court Family Division. In some counties, files for these case types are still maintained in the Probate Court office. In some counties a Probate department of Family Division - separate from the Probate Court proper - handles these case types.
Michigan Municipal CourtsMunicipal Courts exist only in Wayne County, and have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Criminal cases heard by Municipal Courts include misdemeanor criminal cases, some traffic and ordinance violations, and preliminary hearings for felony criminal cases.
Municipal Courts handle some general civil cases with up to $3,000 in dispute, and some landlord-tenant cases.
Michigan Concurrent Jurisdiction and Unified Trial CourtsIn some counties with plans for concurrent jurisdiction, Circuit Courts may share their jurisdiction with District and Probate Courts. Some rural counties have a single judge, who exercises the powers of all three court types.
Berrien, Iron, Isabella, Lake, and Washtenaw Counties have Unified Trial Courts in which a single Trial Court is made up of Divisions; these Divisions may retain the names and jurisdictions of the traditional county court structures (Circuit, District, and Probate Divisions in Iron County), or may be based on case types (Civil, Criminal, and Family Divisions in Berrien County).
Michigan Court of ClaimsThe Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over civil cases against the State of Michigan or one of its departments, if the amount in dispute is more than $1000 and if a Circuit Court does not otherwise have jurisdiction.
The Court of Claims handles cases for the entire state but operates out of the 30th Circuit Court in Ingham County.
The State Administrative Board handles cases involving disputes for less than $1000 against the State of Michigan or one of its departments.
Michigan Native American Tribal CourtsSeveral Native American tribes in Michigan operate their own independent Tribal Courts. Tribal Courts have some reciprocal civil and criminal jurisdiction, and their judgments may be enforced by the State of Michigan.
Where to Find Court Cases in Michigan
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Michigan court.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|