Elkouri Heath, PLC

248-344-9700

39555 Orchard Hill Place, Suite 215, Novi, MI 48375

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Oakland County LBGTQ adoption lawyerSame-sex couples looking to adopt a child in Michigan have reason to celebrate. Recently, the state recognized its commitment to federally mandated nondiscriminatory provisions in its foster care and adoption agency contracts. 

In March 2019, the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel settled a lawsuit by same-sex couples who argued they were turned away as adoption candidates by faith-based adoption centers based on sexual orientation. Now, faith-based adoption agencies that benefit from state funding are no longer allowed to turn away LGBTQ candidates based on religious reasons. Nessel stated that a 2015 law that allowed state-contracted adoption centers to refuse adoptions based on religious premises violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

In accordance with this policy, the Michigan Department of Human Services must abide by federal nondiscriminatory policies in it's foster care and adoption agencies. If adoption centers are not following these federal policies, their funding will be cut.

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Novi MI adoption lawyerAdoption can be a long and difficult process, but it is one that can lead to great excitement and a new family. For this reason, people do not enter into the adoption process lightly. Even after an adoption is complete, there are still legal issues that will need to be addressed. One such issue pertains to the birth certificate of adopted children, which will always have special conditions. 

Adopted Children Have Two Birth Certificates

Adopted children have an original birth certificate from their birth parents and a new one from when their new parents finalize the adoption. Many adopted children want to know more information about their birth parents once they learn that they were adopted. The date, time, and place of birth are the same on both certificates. The original birth certificate contains the birth mother’s name and the given name of the child. It is often the case that the birth certificate will not contain the birth father’s name, as it is not necessary for a birth certificate. Not having the father’s name on the birth certificate will make it difficult if the child wants to track down his birth father in the future. The new birth certificate has the name of the adoptive parents and the new name given to the child (if there is one).   

Limited Access to Original Birth Certificate 

The original birth certificate is sealed by the state registrar after the adoption is complete. In 25 states, the birth certificate can be obtained by consent of all three parties (child, adoptive parents, and the birth parent). In the remaining states, a court order is required. Obtaining the original birth certificate is a lot easier if the adoption is an open adoption. Open adoption means there is an agreement that allows the birth parent to be a part of the adopted child’s life. Over 90 percent of adoptions are open adoptions. Open adoptions will allow adopted children better access to the medical history and original birth certificate.

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Novi MI alimony lawyer“Manimony” is a play on the term alimony that describes the court-ordered amount a divorced woman pays to her ex-husband each month. If a woman makes significantly more money than her husband, she may be subject to paying him alimony post-divorce. According to the 2010 census, 3 percent of alimony recipients were men but that number has risen. 

How Alimony is Determined

There are many factors that will determine if alimony will be awarded, in what amounts, and under what duration. Two key factors are the length of the marriage and the difference between spouses’ incomes. The larger the income differential is and a longer length of your relationship can result in a higher alimony award. 

Other factors include: the past relations and conduct of the spouses, the abilities of the spouses to work, the source and amount of property awarded to the spouses in the property settlement of the divorce, the parties’ ages and health, a spouse’s fault in causing the divorce, and overall fairness.

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Oakland County adoption lawyerIt is always exciting when a couple decides to pursue adoption. It is an important and big decision that involves undertaking a complex legal process. However, when an adoption is executed properly, it can yield great rewards. If you are considering adoption, it is important to find a reputable adoption lawyer to handle your case. To prepare for the adoption process, let’s go through some important points to consider.  

Hire the Right Professional

To reiterate, it is important to hire an adoption attorney to handle your case. If you try to google “adoption process” on your own, the information can be very overwhelming. There are businesses who call themselves “adoption facilitators” who act as a third-party between you and the adoption agency. Adoption facilitators are not a requirement for the adoption process and are actually illegal in 15 states. If you are approached by a third-party vendor (not an attorney or agency) who claims they can help you find a birth mother, it is wise to turn the other way. Unfortunately, parents seeking adoption are easily scammed due to their vulnerable position.

Know Your Costs

The average adoption costs $40,000. If a third-party vendor offers a much lower rate, it is important to be very suspicious. If you hire an agency for a lower rate, it is important to vet and fact-check all details. Is the agency including travel costs for the birth mother or are there other hidden charges? If costs are rising, it is important to make educated choices rather than emotional ones.

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Oakland County divorce attorneyDivorce can be a difficult process, but it can be even more difficult when you don’t have a qualified divorce lawyer. An unqualified divorce lawyer can not only make the process more stressful for you but will cost you assets and child custody in the long run. There are many ways to be certain that you are hiring an experienced divorce lawyer.  One of the most important ways to do this is by doing your own research. Every case is different, and every lawyer is different. Below find some important tips to keep in mind when you are choosing a divorce lawyer so you can be sure that your case will be treated properly.

Important Questions to Consider

Before taking your first meeting with a divorce lawyer, it is important to be prepared. Your situation is sensitive, and you will want the best person to represent you. Here is a set of questions that should be considered by the client and attorney at the outset of any divorce:

  • What is unique to your case? 
  • What does your lawyer need to know for your case?
  • What is the process for handling a case like yours?
  • Has the lawyer handled cases like yours?
  • Does this firm practice family law?
  • How does the firm handle billing?
  • How long will your case last?
  • Which lawyer in a firm be handling your case?

Next Steps

Now that you’ve asked all your questions, it is time to move on to the next step of hiring a lawyer. Remember each time you talk to a divorce lawyer, it is an interview for them to represent you. Once you feel comfortable finding a lawyer who answered the questions to your liking, it is your next move to hire them and meet in person. Record them on your phone (with permission) or take notes so you can remember everything your lawyer tells you. As he or she guides you through the process, you want to be as prepared as possible that you don’t forget any information or assignments your divorce lawyer tells you. By understanding what is expected of you, you can minimize attorney’s fees.

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Oakland County asset division lawyerOnce a couple decides to get a divorce, it is important each party do what they can to protect his or her assets in a mutual and respectable way. That may not happen on its own, but a good divorce lawyer can help. A lawyer can help you navigate the best way to untangle your finances so you can leave your marriage on the right financial track. 

In the context of divorce, finances exist well beyond the bank account: 401ks, life insurance, stocks, and others are examples of financial products that need to be divided. Below, we’ll discuss social security benefits and what steps to take to make sure you are getting your maximum benefits.

Under Certain Conditions, You Can Still Collect Spousal Benefits

You are still able to receive your ex-partner’s social security benefits even if your ex is remarried if the following conditions are met:

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Posted on in Divorce

Oakland County Divorce lawyer .jpgDeciding to get a divorce can be one of the hardest decisions you have to make. Equally as hard is the fallout from that decision. An amicable divorce process is possible, but not everyone can be so lucky. Whether the breakup was on mutual or harsh terms, it is imperative for both parties to begin to separate their property. Your tech life can hurt or help the divorce process. so it is important to comb through your online presence in order to make sure it is in your favor. Here are some tips to help.

Reset Your Passwords

This may come as an obvious answer, but once you’ve decided to go through with your divorce, it is important to change all the passwords on the accounts you want to keep for yourself. Your partner most likely knows most of your account passwords whether that be for bills, bank accounts, or simple streaming devices. If the break-up is ugly, it is crucial to change these passwords immediately so that no damage can be done. A key to a strong password is to use a password generator, which will be completely random. This will prevent your ex by guessing your password based on personal information (birthday, anniversary date, etc)

Backup What You Want to Keep

It is common in most households for families to share electronic devices such as a tablet or expensive computer. When splitting assets, you might not get to keep all the electronics. Make sure you backup everything on a hard drive you want to keep like documents, photos and tax info. Afterward, restore the settings to factory settings so your ex can’t take any of your files for personal use.

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Posted on in Divorce

Novi MI divorce lawyerWhen a couple decides to get a divorce, each individual processes it differently. However, the first step for everyone should be to hire a good divorce lawyer. From there, it is important to work on your physical and mental health as you begin a new chapter of your life. If you are a father going through a divorce, this step is especially important as new studies show that divorced fathers are more prone to depression and suicide. Here are a couple of reasons to explain this outcome.

Married Men Live Longer

In traditional families, the wife was most commonly in charge of doctor’s appointments.  If a divorced man is not used to making his regular doctor appointments, he may not remember to schedule them. Thus, he can miss check-ups for melanoma or prostate exams, check-ups that are necessary to detect fixable problems before they turn into cancerous diseases. According to one study, 42 percent of divorced men don’t have a regular physician. Moreover, men who have never been married have a 70 percent higher death rate than married men. Of course, a tumultuous marriage can raise blood pressure and stress, but overall, married men are healthier. 

Divorced Dads Are More Careless With Their Health

The first thing divorced fathers abandon is their personal health. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have someone checking up on them or perhaps it’s depression, but divorced fathers are more likely to eat fewer fruits and vegetables, not use protection during sex, and become riskier drivers. 

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Oakland County divorce lawyerUsing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the 10 cities in Michigan with the highest divorce rates have been identified. The city with the highest divorce rate is Ishpeming, a community in the Upper Peninsula. 

The population of Ishpeming is around 6,500 residents, and roughly 20.3% of those residents (aged 15 and up) are divorced. Note that the census defines a divorced individual as someone whose divorce has been finalized and who has not remarried. According to the Community Survey, the overall divorce rate in Michigan is 11.5%, which is higher than the national divorce rate of 10.9%.

Here is the list of the 10 cities in Michigan with the highest divorce rate:

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Novi MI parenting plan lawyerDivorce affects your family in many ways, but children are often the most affected by divorce. Children benefit from having both parents in their lives, even if their parents are not together anymore, so it is beneficial to develop a co-parenting plan with your ex. 

A co-parenting plan will expressly state a few key things about the development of your child or children, and it is always a good idea to have it in writing so you can refer back to it later. After the divorce, you may not want to keep in contact with your ex, but it will help your children if you can be civil with each other. A parenting plan will help everyone stay on the same page about child custody matters.

Areas To Focus On In Your Plan

Your parenting plan will be your guide for what you and your ex-spouse will handle parenting decisions as your child grows. It is important to have some main focus areas, which can vary depending on your situation, but generally, there are five key areas to focus on. 

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Novi MI divorce lawyerDivorce changes the lives of many people in numerous ways. Determining child support, dividing assets, and setting child custody schedules are all normal parts of the divorce process. When you have children, you will also need to consider how to handle the changes your divorce causes with regard to your taxes. There are a few things you have to keep in mind when filing your taxes after a divorce, including what to do about claiming a child as a dependent and your filing status. 

Custodial vs. Noncustodial

The custodial parent is the parent the child spends the greatest portion of time with during the year, and the noncustodial parent is the parent the child spends the lesser amount of time with. The custodial or noncustodial status will most likely affect how you file your taxes after the divorce. The most common practice is for the custodial parent to claim the child as a dependent on their taxes, but it is possible for the noncustodial parent to claim a child as a dependent. The custodial parent needs to sign a form that they will not claim the child as a dependent, and the noncustodial parent also has to fill out a form. Both parents cannot claim the child as a dependent for the same year. 

Filing Status

If you and your spouse are going to get divorced but have not actually divorced before the year ends, it is possible to file a joint tax return, but you can also file with the status, “married filing separately.” Once you are no longer married you will need to choose either single or head of household as a filing status. In order to file as a head of household, you must be unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the final day of the tax year, pay more than half the expenses of a home for that year, and have a “qualifying person” live in your home for greater than half of the year. If those requirements are not applicable to you, then your filing status will be single after the divorce. 

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Novi MI child custody attorneyDivorce is an issue that many people will have in their lives and talking about it is not an easy task, especially when you have to tell your children about it. Handling the stress and emotions in your divorce may be worsened by apprehension about how you are going to tell your children and what their reaction will be to the news. However, you can make the conversation as easy as possible by following these simple tips to make the conversation as smooth as possible in the circumstances. 

Tell the Children Together

It will be easiest to tell all the children together and tell them with your significant other. Telling all the children the news while they are in the same room will let you and your significant other answer any questions the children may have where they can hear your answers to questions their siblings are asking. It is also best to tell them with your significant other and frame the divorce as something you both decided would be best. If you tell them alone and blame your significant other, you are poisoning them against their parent, which is not a good thing. Even if you can not stand your significant other, having two parents in their lives and working together to raise them will help your children greatly. 

Try to Emphasize Consistency

The divorce process often causes a lot of change in every family’s life, and your children may be worried about all the changes. Emphasizing that you and your spouse will keep loving them and will do your best to make sure their lives are affected as little as possible will give them the confidence that you are both well-meaning. 

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Farmington Hills child custody attorneyIf you have children and are considering divorce, you may wonder what will happen if you decide to move away from the child’s home. Relocation is sometimes necessary after a divorce, but it should only be done after careful consideration because it can affect the parenting plan for children. Traditionally, visitation after divorce has been in-person visitation, but recently, the increase in the availability of technology has made it possible to have virtual visitation with children as a substitute. 

What Is Virtual Visitation?

Virtual visitation is the practice of using technology-related means to have contact with your child or children. The most common way of doing this is usually considered to be a phone call, but virtual visitation is not limited to a phone call. Emails, text messages, and video chats are all different forms of virtual visitation that can be implemented to allow parents to stay in touch with their children after the divorce. 

Only a few states have laws with specific language regarding virtual visitation, but Michigan courts have ruled that it is allowable to use technology for parents to have visitation with their children on a case by case basis. Courts will review the circumstances surrounding each case to determine if virtual visitation is an acceptable substitute for in-person visitation. 

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Novi MI divorce lawyerMany people who get divorced are very much used to being married. They are used to having a partner to share their life with, and they are used to being in a relationship, rather than being alone. It makes sense then that those going through divorce can be scared to be alone. 

It helps to view a divorce as a turning point in your life, a decision you made because not being married was a better option than being married. Instead of being afraid of being alone, you should learn to cherish and be comfortable with being alone. After your divorce, you should seek to enjoy life. Here are 4 tips you can use to help you do that:

1. Be Social

The easiest way to make sure you are happy and healthy after your divorce is by making sure you are keeping yourself surrounded by friends and family. These people are your support team, and it is important that you do not try to withdraw yourself socially. Say yes when your friends ask you to go out to dinner and take your kids to your parents’ house for visits often. Keeping yourself surrounded by love and happiness is key.

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Novi MI divorce attorneyGetting a divorce can be financially costly. With court costs, filing fees and attorney’s fees, the expenses can add up quickly. These are in addition to any other financial issues you may be facing as a result of the divorce, like the monetary impact of going from two incomes to one and selling your shared home. 

Divorce can put a financial strain on even the most affluent couples, and it is not uncommon for people to come out of a divorce with debt or damaged credit. Having good credit is key for obtaining loans for things such as homes or cars, so having a good credit score is pretty important after you are divorced. 

Here are a few tips to help you rebuild your credit after your divorce:

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Posted on in Divorce

Farmington Hills divorce mediation lawyer In many cases, the decision to get married is an easy and simple one. The decision to get a divorce, however, does not come that easily. Sometimes it can take months and even years for you to finally come to the decision that you are ready to end your marriage. Marriages do not just break -- they slowly erode and deteriorate over time, often giving off many warning signs that it is time to call it quits. Many times couples make the decision to divorce after years of unhappiness, resulting in heated and highly-contested divorces. 

Here are four warning signs that you may want to consider a divorce:

1. Your Needs Are Not Being Met

A successful marriage is one in which both partners’ needs are being met. Each partner should be doing his or her best to meet the physical and emotional needs of the other. If you notice that you and your spouse are not meeting each other’s needs or that the relationship has become rather one-sided, it may be a sign that your marriage is deteriorating.

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Novi MI paternity lawyerThe only way a child’s paternity is automatically established in Michigan is if the mother was married at the time the child was conceived or born. The man the woman was or is married to is automatically presumed by the state of Michigan to be the child’s legal father. If the mother was unmarried when the child was conceived or born, then the parents of the child must take extra steps to establish a legal father for the child. This process can be wrought with confusion and stress, but it is necessary to ensure that your child has the resources he or she needs to thrive.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

There are many reasons why people work to establish the paternity of their children. Without established paternity, there is no legal tie between a father and his child, even if it is truly his biological child. Other benefits of establishing paternity include:

  • A sense of identity. It is always good for children to know who their parents are. This allows the child to have a sense of identity and paves the way to allow the child to have a sense of belonging.
  • Ties to extended family. Having established paternity also allows the child to know his or her extended family. It is important that children grow up knowing their family members as it allows the child to develop a sense of family and belonging.
  • Financial support. One of the main reasons people seek to establish paternity is for financial support. You cannot get child support from a man if you do not have him established as the child’s legal father. 
  • Being eligible for certain benefits. Children have the right to certain benefits that their parents can provide. By establishing paternity, a child has the right to his or her father’s health and life insurance, Social Security, pensions, veteran’s benefits and inheritance.
  • Knowing the child’s family medical history. This can be especially beneficial for the child down the road if they need to know their parents’ medical history. If the child’s legal father has not been established, the child has no right to access his or her father’s medical records, which can be lifesaving in some cases.

An Oakland County Paternity Attorney Can Help

The easiest way to establish a child’s paternity is by having both the mother and the father sign an Affidavit of Parentage form. Unfortunately, not all fathers will voluntarily step up to take care of their parental responsibilities. In that situation, you can file a paternity case to have your child’s paternity established. These can be long and tedious, but at Elkouri Heath, PLC, we can guide you throughout the process. Our skilled Novi MI paternity lawyers can help you with all of the paperwork and legalities involved in establishing paternity. Call our office today at 248-344-9700 to schedule a free consultation.

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Farmington Hills divorce lawyerThe first worry on many parents’ minds when they decide they will get a divorce is how that will affect their children. Divorce can be hard for everyone in the family, but it can be especially hard on children. Depending on your child’s age, they may not understand what a divorce means and what it means for them. Each child is different, so it is hard to predict a child’s reaction to divorce, but much of their reaction depends on how you, as a parent, communicate and nurture your child during this trying time. Here are a few ways you can help ease your children into the change that a divorce brings:

1. Break the News in an Appropriate Way

When initially telling your children about your divorce, it is important that you keep things simple. Your 6-year-old child does not need to know that you are getting a divorce because your spouse has a habit of lying. Keep things simple by phrasing things like “Mommy and daddy are just not happy anymore, but a divorce will make mommy, daddy and you happier.” Older children may require a bit more detail, but the sentiment should be the same.

2. Encourage Your Child to Talk About His or Her Feelings

This is important because you can count on the fact that your children will have feelings about your divorce. Many times, not letting these feelings out manifests as misbehavior or acting out from your children. Let your children know that whatever they are feeling is OK and natural, but that it is important that they talk about their feelings.

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Posted on in Divorce

Oakland County collaborative divorce attorneyWhen you think about a divorce, you probably think of long, drawn out processes, yelling matches in the courtroom and ultimately being unhappy with the outcome. While Hollywood does a good job of painting a dramatic and intriguing picture of divorce, it is rarely like it is in the movies. The truth is, there is more than one way to get a divorce and not all of them are litigated in a courtroom as television shows would have you to believe. Two of the alternative forms of divorce -- mediation and collaborative divorce -- offer unique methods to part ways with your spouse. Collaborative divorce, in particular, offers many benefits over the traditional litigated divorce. Here are a few ways a collaborative divorce can benefit you and your family:

1. It Can Save You Money

One of the big benefits of a collaborative divorce is the financial aspect of it. Many people are drawn to collaborative divorce because you usually spend about half as much as a litigated divorce and about a quarter of what you would pay if your divorce went to trial. Collaborative divorces save you from an abundance of lawyer’s fees, court costs, discovery fees and other hidden costs of divorce.

2. You Can Complete the Divorce on Your Own Timeline

Another benefit of a collaborative divorce is that you can take the process as slowly or as quickly as you would like to. Obviously, the longer you take to settle your divorce, the more you will end up paying. But you have the ability to focus more time on topics you find to be more serious, rather than having to make a rash decision because you were rushed. On average, collaborative divorces take about 18 weeks to finalize, which is about a fourth of the time it usually takes to complete a traditional divorce.

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Farmington Hills asset division lawyerOne of the most common things that married -- and divorcing -- couples argue about is their finances. When you get married, you often combine your two separate financial situations into one. This can make things easier on you when you are married, but it can spell disaster if you are attempting to separate finances because of a divorce. 

While a divorce is a normal time to stress about money and your other finances, some stress can be avoided with preparation. If you properly prepare your finances for your divorce, you will come out on the other side not feeling like you lost everything. Here are a couple tips to use when financially preparing for divorce:

Make Sure You Have All of Your Financial Documents

Before you can begin to prepare your finances, you must know what you are working with. This is why you should gather any and all documents pertaining to any part of your finances. Try to make sure you have documents such as:

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