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How Can Coronavirus Quarantines Lead to Divorce in Michigan?Millions of people around the world have been impacted by the novel (new) coronavirus, either by being infected or being ordered to stay home. In the U.S., states such as Michigan have temporarily closed schools, restaurants, and non-essential businesses. Depending on the industry, this has also led to many layoffs and citizens seeking unemployment benefits. Families are being told to stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. Parents are working from home if they can and children are participating in e-learning programs through their schools. There is no doubt these are stressful times. With families sequestered for an indefinite amount of time, can this lead to divorce

The Pros and Cons of Social Distancing/Isolation 

Many American cities and states are being told to “shelter in place,” which means they are allowed to leave their homes only for essential activities, such as going to the grocery store, bank, and gas station. Health and government officials are advising everyone to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Weddings, funerals, graduations, and sporting events have been canceled or postponed. People with elderly or sick family members who are in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are prohibited from visiting in an attempt to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.  

Social distancing is defined as a series of actions intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease or infection. Thanks to modern technology, many people can take part in “virtual visits” through FaceTime on their iPhones or programs such as Skype on their computers. However, being quarantined and isolated at home can lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, and fear among family members. Too much togetherness can sometimes make or break a relationship. With the absence of other distractions, a couple may have time to reflect on troubles from their past or recent transgressions. A job loss can significantly impact a family financially, leading to resentment and bitterness. 

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Mediation in a Michigan Divorce?With all the stress that already accompanies a divorce, the addition of painful, heated courtroom drama can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, mediation might be an appropriate option if you and your spouse are willing to work together to come to a more satisfactory settlement for both you and your children. Although the positive aspects of mediation are appealing at first, it is important to consider several factors before choosing to take this route over litigation. 

The Pros

First, consider everything good that can come from mediation. This process differs greatly from a court hearing in several ways as shown by the following scenarios:

  • A Collaborative Solution: If you and your spouse were to take your divorce to court, the terms of your separation would be subject to harsh legal interpretations of your relationship. This can affect the division of property and assets, child support, or parenting time and often leads to one or both parties unhappy with the result. If this is one of your primary concerns, mediate so that you can cooperate and compromise in a way that benefits you both.
  • Less Expensive: Mediation involves you, your spouse, and a mediator with the appropriate training from the state. Although this will still cost you, it will only be a fraction of what you would both end up paying in legal fees for your attorneys.
  • Neutrality: Per state law, the mediator is not allowed to pass judgments on either you or your spouse and cannot take sides in any way, allowing both of you to work out a solution as amicably as possible. With lawyers at play, the heated discussions could ruin the chances of you and your spouse maintaining any sort of positive relationship after the divorce proceedings.

The Cons

Although mediation can do a lot of good, it can pose a few risks in certain situations. Consider the following before you decide to begin your divorce with mediation:

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How Can I Enforce a Spousal Support Order in My Michigan Divorce?The thought of ending your marriage can be very intimidating in many ways. In some cases, you may be afraid to leave for financial reasons. Imagining how you will survive on one income may be daunting, especially if you stayed home to raise your children. However, you may be entitled to spousal support (alimony) if you get a divorce in Michigan. Each situation is unique, and the court will evaluate different factors when calculating this type of support. If you are awarded spousal support benefits, your ex-spouse is responsible for making these payments in a timely manner. However, things may not work as planned if your ex does not follow the rules. An experienced divorce attorney can assist you with enforcing spousal support or child support to ensure your financial security so you can move on with the rest of your life.   

Factors Considered by the Court 

According to Michigan divorce law, spousal support is not always awarded in a divorce case. If a couple cannot come to an agreement on how to divide assets or property and one spouse requests support, the court must determine if spousal support is appropriate. Below are a few of the relevant circumstances the court will review when making that decision:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Each party’s contributions to the marriage
  • Economic resources of each spouse
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Property received in the divorce settlement
  • Whether one spouse was financially dependent on the other 

Steps For Enforcing an Order 

If your ex-spouse is not making his or her legally required spousal support payments, you need to take decisive action to enforce the payments:

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How Is the Dissipation of Assets Handled in a Michigan Divorce?The end of a marriage can be difficult on many levels. The breakdown of a relationship can affect more than just spouses. If a couple had children together, they will likely be devastated to see their family unit split apart. In addition, breaking up can cause financial hardship for one or both parties. Michigan, like many other states, is an “equitable distribution” state when it comes to dividing assets or property in a divorce. This means any marital property will be divided in a fair way, but not necessarily 50/50. In some cases, one spouse may have made secret purchases with marital assets. The legal term for this deception is “dissipation of assets,” and an experienced divorce attorney can help discover it. 

Uncovering Hidden Expenditures

Dissipation is defined as spending marital money, or using any marital asset, for something that benefits only one spouse, not the marriage as a whole. Since funds are leaving the marital estate, the combined value of the assets being divided in the divorce settlement will be lower. Examples of dissipation can be gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, money spent on an extramarital affair, or any extravagant purchases made by one spouse.

It may be challenging to prove the dissipation of assets, but that is where a skilled attorney, as well as a forensic accountant, can help. They know where to look and how to reveal dissipated assets. Carefully reviewing financial records and documentation is essential in providing evidence that one party was siphoning off money for him or herself. In certain situations, one spouse could be guilty of filtering money or expenses through a business that they own.

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Tips for Divorcing a Narcissistic Spouse in MichiganIn some marriages, a spouse may be unhappy, but the thought of filing for a divorce can be intimidating. If a couple has children together, one parent may not want to break up the family unit. However, being married to a narcissist who is self-involved and arrogant can be damaging to the entire family. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a psychological disorder that manifests with the constant need for acknowledgment and a lack of caring for others. Getting out of this type of toxic relationship by filing for divorce may be in your best interest. Since a narcissist typically believes he or she is always right, this can cause a lot of disputes during the legal proceedings. The following are a few practical ways to minimize the conflict when legally ending your marriage to a narcissist. 

Ways to Reduce Conflict

A narcissist will do everything in his or her power to gain an advantage and win, especially regarding a divorce settlement. Although you may have been used to your spouse’s behavior while you were married, he or she may become even more contentious once the petition to dissolve the marriage is issued. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process smoothly: 

  • Set Realistic Expectations: Realizing that your spouse is not going to play fair will help prepare you if he or she contests any of the marital issues such as division of property, spousal support, or parenting time.  
  • Get Everything in Writing: A narcissist will often lie as a means of manipulating the situation to his or her liking. Document what your spouse says by keeping records of any conversations via email, voicemail, or text messages. 
  • Understand Your Finances: Getting a clear picture of your marital estate is crucial to receiving what is rightfully yours. In some cases, a narcissistic spouse may have hidden assets or even dissipated them through extravagant spending.  
  • Control Your Emotions: You may not be able to control how your spouse reacts to things, but you can manage your feelings. It is best not to engage your spouse because it will likely enrage him or her. Joining a divorce support group or seeking counseling may help you emotionally. 

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means a couple can get divorced regardless of who is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. This is why it is imperative to hire an experienced attorney who understands the complications that can arise when negotiating with a narcissistic spouse. 

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Three Steps to Protect Your Finances During DivorceDivorce is stressful for a number of reasons, and adding financial struggles on top of everything can set people over the edge. Before couples begin the divorce process, they often expect things to be cordial and expedient. Things can quickly get ugly when the possibility of divorce becomes a reality. The division of marital properties and assets can bring out the worst in individuals with some spouses going so far as hiding assets or lying about their financial stability. Whether or not your spouse is involved in foul play, it is important to take additional measures to protect your finances during your divorce to avoid paying for it later.

Gather Your Records

Some divorcing spouses will take advantage of their joint financial accounts right before the divorce becomes official by buying expensive things or making large purchases, draining the account to keep the money away from their ex’s pockets. Obtaining documentation of the amount within all of your accounts before the divorce is a good way to protect your joint and individual accounts from these sort of actions. With the proper evidence, you can prove that your spouse’s spending habits have changed drastically throughout the divorce, jeopardizing your financial stability in the future.

Create Your Own Accounts

Many couples share all of their financial accounts, especially females or stay-at-home parents. While this connection may not seem problematic throughout your marriage, once divorce becomes a possibility, it can leave you reliant on your soon-to-be ex-spouse. One of the first actions that divorcing couples should take is to open their own bank account and get their own credit card. Not only will they begin building up their own credit, but they will also have sole control over the finances. Many divorcing couples will close their joint accounts at the beginning of the divorce process to avoid unfair spending or foul play.

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Can A Child Custody Ruling Be Modified in Michigan?When parents choose to end their marriage, the most important factor that should be considered for the future is the safety and wellbeing of their children. While Michigan law encourages both caregivers to create a custody agreement that is in the best interest of the children, this may not always be possible. Depending on the reasons behind the divorce, parents may have a difficult time coming together to construct an agreed-upon parenting plan. As time progresses and situations change, however, modifications may be made to a child custody arrangement if there is a proper cause and the involved children would benefit. If you wish to alter your current court-ordered parental agreement, a knowledgeable child custody lawyer can help. 

Joint or Sole Custody

Once parents choose to end their marriage, the decision of custody must be determined. If for any reason the parents cannot agree on a living situation for their children, the court system will become involved. If joint custody is decided, that means that both parents will share the responsibility of raising their children. Topics such as education, religion, medical care, and the decision of extracurricular activities will have to be agreed upon by both spouses. Before a ruling is made, the judge must determine whether or not the parents will be able to agree on the aforementioned topics. Joint custody may be considered by the court without a request from either parent. 

In the event that sole custody is granted, the care and decision-making responsibilities will be designated to one parent. When determining which outcome will be enforced, a judge will consider:

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Oakland County spousal support attorney

The playing field of divorce may have leveled out over the past several years, but some women are still at a financial disadvantage when their marriage ends. In particular, women who left the workforce or sacrificed their education to raise a family or promote their spouse’s career may face some financial surprises with devastating consequences when they embark on a divorce. It is essential to learn the Michigan divorce laws to be prepared for this next chapter of your life.  

1. Needing to Return to the Workforce

If you stepped back from your career to raise a family or further your spouse’s career, entered into retirement, or suffer a disability that limits your ability to work, you may be eligible for spousal support (alimony). Awards do not last forever, however, so it is recommended that you plan for re-entry into the workforce sooner rather than later. If you cannot work, strive to find a viable alternative, such as Disability or your spouse’s Social Security. 

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How Is Real Estate Property Divided in a Michigan Divorce?No one really enters into a marriage thinking they are going to get divorced. Sadly, many couples do end their legal unions for various reasons. In some cases, an extramarital affair or an addiction problem may have caused the relationship to sour. Once a couple decides to part ways, they will have to make many decisions, including how to divide their assets and property. The division of real estate properties can be one of the most contested aspects of a divorce. Spouses often argue over who gets to stay in the marital home or who can keep the lake house. Under Michigan law, a judge is required to distribute marital property fairly. This typically means that each spouse receives approximately half of everything. However, the property may be divided unequally if one party is considered to be more responsible for the marriage ending or if one party proves a significant need for more assets. 

Separate Versus Marital Property

If either spouse owns his or her own property prior to the marriage, it is classified as separate property. In addition, gifts or any type of inheritance received during the marriage are referred to as separate property. If a spouse owns separate property such as another home, jewelry, or artwork and it appreciates in value on its own, the increase in value is still separate.

The majority of assets or property that spouses accumulated throughout their marriage is marital property. Regardless of whose name is on a title or deed, it is still marital property unless it was given to or inherited by one spouse. Marital property means that it is owned by both spouses. Typical examples include houses, vehicles, furniture, artwork, retirement plans, pensions, bank accounts, CDs, or any other assets or investments earned or acquired during the marriage. 

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Differentiating Between Separate and Marital Property During a Michigan DivorceOften, one of the most contentious issues during a divorce is asset division. When two people marry, they join their lives not only personally, but also financially. Undoing the intertwining of two people’s finances can quickly become complicated – especially if the couple owns complex assets such as a family business, stock options, retirement accounts, or investment real estate. If you plan to divorce and you live in Michigan, a qualified family law attorney can help you understand your options for property division under Michigan law.

Marital Property Is Property Accumulated During the Marriage

Before the marital estate can be divided during a divorce, courts must determine what property is separate and what property is marital. Generally, separate or non-marital properties include funds or assets which a spouse acquired before getting married. For example, if a wife collected an assortment of fine art before she married her husband, it would likely be considered separate property and not subject to division during divorce. Marital property, on the other hand, typically includes any assets accumulated during the marriage. However, there are exceptions to these general rules. According to Michigan case law, assets accumulated while the couple was living together but not formally married may be considered separate property or part of the marital estate depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

Michigan Courts Must Divide the Marital Estate “Fairly”

Unlike some other states, Michigan does not simply divide marital property exactly in half during a divorce. Instead, courts consider a variety of factors in order to reach a property division scenario which is equitable, or fair, for both parties. Michigan law asserts that marital property does not need to be divided in such a way that each spouse receives exactly 50 percent of the marital estate. However, the courts do have an obligation to explain any “significant departures from congruence” with regard to the distribution of the marital estate. The length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and overall financial circumstances, the health and needs of each spouse, and other factors may influence the distribution of marital property during divorce.

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How to Behave in Court During a Divorce or Family Law CaseDivorce can be a stressful time for almost everyone. Sometimes people act out irrationally due to the high stress and tense situations. However, those actions can have a huge impact on the outcome of your divorce if you are not careful. By working with an experienced attorney, you can be prepared to address the legal concerns in a divorce or family law case. Here are three tips for how you should prepare and behave during this crucial time:

  1. Dress Appropriately for Court: The court is a formal setting and first impressions matter. You want to dress in a clean, respectful way that showcases your responsibility and maturity. Wearing professional-looking clothing to court is your way of showing respect for the judge and the legal system. Besides wearing conservative clothing, make sure you are showered and look clean. 
  2. Stay Alcohol and Drug-Free: Substance abuse is a serious problem, especially when children are involved. Judges will always err on the side of caution and demand the person be drug-tested if they suspect a parent is abusing drugs or alcohol. The best way to avoid this suspicion is to remain sober, especially during all court appearances. If you give the judge a hint of doubt you about your ability to be a good provider, you could risk losing custody of your children.
  3. Do Not Talk Poorly of Your Ex to Your Children: It is important not to talk poorly about your ex to your children since they need to think of both of their parents in a positive and safe light. This applies especially to cases in family court. The judge is also the jury and will look down on you if she or he hears you are bad-mouthing the other parent. According to the Children’s Bill of Rights, children do not need to be subjected to negative talk about the other parent.

Contact an Oakland County Attorney

Whatever the situation, it is helpful to learn how to remain calm and collected. Besides a clear mental state, you also need qualified legal advice. If you are experiencing a divorce, you need the best representation to help you reach a settlement or argue your case in court. Our reputable Oakland County divorce lawyers at Elkouri Heath, PLC, can advocate on your behalf in order to protect your interests during your divorce or family law case. Contact us at 248-344-9700 today to schedule an appointment.

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Posted on in Divorce

Comparing Divorce Rates From Around the WorldOver the past four decades, divorce rates around the world have more than doubled. A recent study conducted by Cheng-Tong Lir Wang and Evan Schofer (sociologists at UC Irvine) compiled more than 40 years of data to look at how divorce rates have changed from a global perspective. Below, we will take a closer look at their results and identify trends. There are many factors for this growth in divorce. However, no matter what the factors are, it is important to find a reputable divorce lawyer.

Highest and Lowest Divorce Rates Around the World

The average rate of divorce amongst all of the nations and territories studied was 4.08 divorces for every 1,000 married people:

  • The countries and territories with the highest divorce rate are Kazakhstan (19.01), Russia (11.49), Cuba (11.03), and Puerto Rico (9.43); and
  • The countries with the lowest divorce rate are Brazil (1.27), Tajikistan (1.21), China (1.13), Chile (.91), Peru (.46), and Sri Lanka (.45). 

The United States was not included in this study because the sociologists considered it too extreme of an outlier. According to a different study, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Arkansas are the states with the highest divorce rate.

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Novi, MI divorce lawyerDivorce is a major change to your lifestyle. Even though separating yourself from a negative relationship with your ex-partner is for the best, unexpected events can come up that may affect you emotionally. During your divorce, working with a qualified lawyer can help you reach a positive outcome to your case. An experienced divorce attorney will make sure your life post-divorce is as fair as possible in terms of alimony, child custody agreements, and division of assets. After your divorce, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and vacations will all be different. Here are some tips to experience them in a positive way as you begin a new chapter of your life:

Take it Easy

Divorce is hard on everyone. You ended a relationship where you once vowed to stay committed for the rest of your life. During this time, it is understandable to feel a mix of emotions such as anger, sadness, and even rage. You do not have to engage in old family traditions if they bring up painful memories for you. If you and your ex used to take vacations together to a certain destination every summer, you should not feel that you need to continue to travel there on your own or with a new partner. Start making new traditions for yourself to help you move on.

You do not have to try and make holidays or vacations exactly the same as they were pre-divorce. If you used to get together for a big family barbecue, and you do not feel that you are not up to it this year, cut yourself some slack. Divorce has a major impact on your life, and as you pivot to this new stage of your life, expect some things to change--including how you spend holidays and vacations.

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MI mediation lawyerMany couples still think that the only way they can get a divorce is by going the traditional way of litigating the divorce. Traditional divorce involves both spouses getting their own attorneys who argue for them on their behalf about various topics like child support, property division and even who gets to keep the dog. This can cause much stress for both spouses and their kids, which is why many couples have been looking at forms of alternative dispute resolution, one of them being mediation. Because it is a fairly new and accepted practice in the legal community, people still have their misconceptions about the divorce mediation process. Here are three common myths about divorce mediation and the truths behind them.

Mediation Does Not Work if You Both Cannot Get Along

Divorce mediation can actually help couples who are combative. The mediator is there to help keep you and your soon-to-be ex on track when you are discussing and making decisions about important issues. It is the mediator’s job to steer you and your ex in the right direction when conversing - rather than letting you and your ex hash it out, they will make suggestions on possible solutions for your arguments.

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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 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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Oakland County divorce attorney, asset valuation, marital assets, tax consequences, high asset divorceIf you are a member of a high net worth family and accustomed to a certain standard of living, a divorce can post a significant threat to your assets and lifestyle. To protect your best interests, you should understand the unique risks and challenges you may face in a high asset divorce.

Take the Time and Get the Advice to Do It Right

You may want to get your divorce over with as quickly as possible, so you can move on to the next phase of your life. You may not want to devote a lot of time to the process, as you may run a business that requires most of your attention or have a job that requires a lot of time away from home.

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