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MI custody lawyerTraditionally, when a couple got divorced, the child was thought to be better off living with its mother for the majority of the time, rather than with its father. Because of that, sole custody was typically granted to the mother and the father was allowed visitation rights. In today’s age, it’s generally thought that joint custody is the ideal situation for children. The Michigan Child Custody Act states that it is important for a child to have a relationship with both of his or her parents, if possible. Child custody can be a hot topic when it comes to divorce, but custody arrangements are always determined with the child’s best interests in mind.

Deciding Factors for Custody Arrangements

Parents are urged to come to a custody agreement on their own, but in the event that they cannot agree, the court must step in and determine the arrangement that is in the child’s best interest. Michigan courts consider the following factors when determining a child’s best interest in custody cases:

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Posted on in Divorce

MI divorce lawyerWe all know what happens in a traditional divorce - the husband and wife spend months on end arguing about who gets the house, where the kids will live and how their property will be split between the two. A litigated divorce can be stressful for you, hard on your wallet and traumatizing to the kids. It is important to understand that you do have other options. Divorce mediation is one of those options and has become an increasingly popular route for many divorcing couples because of the multitude of benefits it offers.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Many people do not actually know what divorce mediation is and therefore, do not know of its benefits. Divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that involves a neutral, third-party - often a lawyer - who helps the couple make decisions about their own divorce. Unlike divorce litigation, there is only one mediator for both spouses, but the key to mediation is that the mediator is not able to advocate for one party over the other. The mediator is simply there to bring light to issues that need to be settled and guide conversations to keep them civil and productive.

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MI custody lawyerGenerally speaking, Michigan law holds that it is in a child’s best interest to maintain continuous relationships with both parents after a divorce. But what if you suspect that your ex is using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol or prescription medications? For example, your ex might appear drunk or high when the children are picked up or dropped off, or the children might tell you that they have seen drug use or excessive drinking.

When the safety of your children is at risk, and you are unable to work out a satisfactory solution with your ex directly, you may need to take legal action. Your attorney can file a motion with the family court requesting specific actions or changes to your parenting time arrangements to protect the best interests of the children. Here are some of your options.

Request Testing and/or Investigation for Substance Abuse

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MI divorce lawyerWhen one or both parties to a divorce suffer from alcohol use disorder (the latest medical term for alcoholism) or drug addiction, the divorce process can become significantly more complicated.

For one thing, settlement discussions can be much more difficult. Long-term drug use or alcohol abuse can actually cause brain damage, reducing a person’s ability to think logically, make decisions, and control their behavior. There are emotional effects as well: an estimated 30-40 percent of alcoholics also suffer from some type of depression. Bottom line, it is likely to take longer to reach a settlement and get the divorce finalized when you or your spouse abuses drugs or alcohol.

From a strictly legal point of view, a spouse’s drug or alcohol use can impact decisions regarding the division of assets, spousal support, child custody, and parenting time.

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MI family attorneyWhen two adults divorce, you have to make a lot of changes in a relatively short period of time: where you live, who you live with, how you manage your money, who your friends are, and so on. As hard as it is to deal with all of these changes as an adult, imagine how much more difficult it can be for a child who has no control over custody and parenting time decisions.

What can you do to keep your children healthy and happy despite the divorce? Here is some simple advice compiled by the Oakland County Friend of the Court agency with input from professionals who have helped hundreds of divorcing families.

1. Stick to a routine.

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MI divorce lawyerWith our lives running on Internet time — in minutes, not months — you may well wonder why there is a two- to six-month minimum waiting period between the initial filing and the finalization of a Michigan divorce.

Here are four good reasons the law requires these waiting periods and how they can actually benefit you.

1. Opportunity for Reconciliation

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Farmington Hills divorce attorney property divisionThe wedding ring handed down from your husband’s grandmother. The antiques from your wife’s family that were inherited during your marriage. Expensive purses and jewelry given by a husband’s mother to his wife as Christmas gifts. These are all examples of items that have both sentimental and financial value which can become bones of contention during a divorce. How do Michigan courts typically divide such items?

Engagement Rings

Michigan courts have ruled that if a couple breaks off their engagement prior to the wedding ceremony, the giver (purchaser) gets the ring back. Fault is not a factor here; that is, it does not matter who broke off the engagement or if one person was more to blame than the other.

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Novi contested divorce attorneyMost people, once they have concluded that divorce is inevitable, want the whole process to be over and done with as quickly as possible. But what happens if one spouse tries to unreasonably delay the legal process? 

One spouse can definitely drag out divorce proceedings by contesting the divorce and endlessly dickering over settlement terms. But ultimately, they cannot stop a Michigan divorce from happening.  

Why a Spouse Might Try to Delay Divorce Proceedings

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Farmington Hills stepparent adoption lawyerIf you have been helping to raise your spouse’s children for some time now, you probably consider them “your” children already, even if they are not “yours” biologically and legally. Obviously, you cannot do anything about the biological part. But have you thought about legally adopting your stepchildren

Benefits of Stepparent Adoption

You might choose to adopt your spouse’s child for any or all of these reasons:

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Novi, MI divorce attorneyAre you thinking about a divorce, but are unsure if you want to be the one to actually start the legal process? This might tip you into action: The spouse who files for divorce first has several advantages over the other spouse.

1. Choosing the Court Location

When you file for divorce, you must do it in the state and county where you currently live. Suppose that you currently live in Oakland County, Michigan, and the person you are divorcing has recently moved to Illinois. If you file first, your divorce will be handled in the Oakland County court. But if your spouse files first, your divorce will be handled by a court in Illinois, which could prove very inconvenient for you. 

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Farmington Hills divorce process attorneyIn the rom-com movie “Sweet Home Alabama,” Melanie (played by Reese Witherspoon) wants a divorce, but Jake (Josh Lucas) has refused to sign the papers for seven years. While Hollywood movies are not always known for their realism, this particular plot point may leave many wondering: could a resistant spouse really hold up a divorce proceeding for that long, just by refusing to sign a piece of paper?

In Michigan, you may be relieved to know, the short answer is “no.” If one spouse wants a divorce, the other spouse cannot prevent it. If your spouse refuses to participate in the process, your divorce can be finalized within a matter of months. 

Signatures Required for a Michigan Divorce

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Novi, MI divorce lawyer answering divorce summonsMost married people naturally assume that they will have some warning of marital problems--a discussion about marriage counseling, perhaps, or mention of a trial separation--before anyone actually takes legal action. Yet quite a few people are completely surprised when they are served with divorce papers. 

What should you do if your spouse files for divorce unexpectedly? Here are three things you can do after being served with Michigan divorce papers:

1. Give Yourself a Little Breathing Space

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Novi, MI collaborative law attorneyThe vast majority of divorcing and divorced spouses do not want to fight. However, a dynamic of disagreeableness, once started, can be very tough to change. If you are in this situation, what can you do? We have two suggestions for you.

First, consider working with an attorney who practices collaborative law. This practice was developed to help couples resolve highly contentious issues in a divorce without having to resort to litigation, where key decisions about the couple’s future get made by a judge. 

Collaborative Divorce Starts With an Agreement, or Contract

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Oakland County grandparents' rights attorneyLike a rock thrown into a lake, divorce has a ripple effect. It starts with the spouses, of course, who must work through both the emotional and legal process of separating from someone to whom they had pledged their whole heart for their whole life. 

Then, the expanding circle of disturbance touches the children, who have to re-imagine their life split between two parents in two separate houses. And then it ripples out to the extended family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

Grandparents and grandchildren, in particular, have a special familial bond. Grandparents, particularly those on the non-custodial parent’s side and those who live far away, may worry about losing touch with their beloved grandkids following a divorce.

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Farmington Hills divorce lawyer, retirement account division, property division, retirement savings, divorce and financesMost Americans can expect to live for about 15 to 20 years after their retirement. But are we saving enough to live comfortably in retirement? Among families with income in the 50th percentile and above, over 80 percent at least have some type of retirement account, such as an IRA, 401(k), or defined-benefit pension plan. That is a good start, but most are not saving enough.

A recent survey found that just 40 percent of those aged 35-54 and just 50 percent of those age 55+ have over $100,000 in retirement savings. By most accounts, this is not nearly enough, even considering the addition of Social Security payments. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, a median income worker can only expect their Social Security payments (after Medicare premiums) to equal 29 percent of pre-retirement income.

Hence, it is important to highlight the need to make sure retirement accounts are equitably divided in a divorce. It is all too easy to focus on pressing issues like child support and what happens to your house, and possibly miss out on what is due to you from a spouse’s employer-held 401(k) or pension plan.

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Farmington Hills divorce lawyer, Michigan divorce, business and divorce, parenting time agreements, estate planning and divorceFirst marriages tend to be colored by the innocent blush of first love and all the fun of planning a big wedding and choosing cakes, dresses, dinner menus, and flowers. Second marriages, on the other hand, are often shaded with more doubts and concerns, particularly on the financial front. Consider the following issues that second-marriage partners should discuss, sooner rather than later.

Obligations Related to Prior Marriages

It is not uncommon for one or both partners in a second-marriage situation to have debts, child support, and/or spousal support obligations from a prior marriage. Remarriage may also be a reason to revisit and possibly modify modify support obligations and parenting time agreements, particularly if the remarriage also involves a change of residence and/or job.

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marriage and divorce, gray divorces, Oakland County divorce lawyer, divorce statistics, remarriageIs it still true that “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage?” According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, love and marriage do not go together as much as they once did.

What Percentage of Americans Are Married?

U.S. Census data shows that the percentage of Americans over age 15 living in matrimony has declined over the past 20 years, from 56 percent in 1997 to 52 percent in 2017. Even if you only count adults age 20-64, you still get a 52 percent married rate.

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Farmington Hills divorce lawyer, Michigan divorce, pets and divorce, Michigan divorce law, pet custodyHow deep is the relationship between people and their pets? Just consider some of the terms you hear these days: Pet parents, dog mom, even grand-dog. Additionally, most of us have seen at least one car window with a sticker saying “Fur Babies on Board” or “My dog is smarter than your honor student.” 

National statistics back up the bumper stickers. A 2016 survey reported that 68 percent of U.S. households have at least one pet (a figure which has been trending upward for over two decades), and 84 percent of pet owners now think of themselves as pet parents rather than pet owners. 

Therefore, not surprisingly, “Who gets the pets?” has become an increasingly contentious issue in divorces, as emotions over pets can run high, even in an otherwise uncontested divorce. Devoted pet parents may be shocked to learn that virtually all state divorce laws still treat pets as mere property to be divided, like a TV and the lawn mower. However, this is beginning to change.

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Farmington Hills family law attorney, parenting time orders, child support payments, Michigan child support, income withholding orderWhen one parent fails to pay child support or cooperate with the court-ordered parenting time schedule, it creates a sad situation for the child as well as conflict between the parents. For the benefit of all, it is best to address non-compliance issues quickly and not let them drag on. In Michigan, the Friend of the Court (FOC) office of your local circuit court has primary responsibility for enforcement of child-related court orders.

Failure to Pay Child Support in Michigan

To help ensure accurate and consistent records, Michigan handles child support payments electronically, with all payments made to and disbursed by the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MisDU). In most cases, the court that handles your divorce will issue an income withholding order. This requires the payer’s employer to withhold (and forward to MisDU) the required amount of child support from the person’s paycheck. Self-employed payers will make payments directly to MiSDU.

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Michigan child support, parenting time, Farmington Hills family law attorney, parental relocation, parenting time orderFor a divorcing couple with minor children, the process of developing financial support and co-parenting agreements that meet the needs of the whole family can be both complicated and exhausting. 

Once it is done, you hope the original agreement will work until the children reach majority, but then fate intervenes. Parents may relocate, change jobs, have their working hours modified, have a significant change in income, or be stricken by a serious illness. Children may change schools, have ever-changing extracurricular activity schedules, or develop new medical issues. These are just a few of the many reasons that may necessitate a revision of your existing child-care agreement.

How Child Care Agreements are Documented in a Divorce

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