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Novi family law attorneyIn Michigan, when a couple is married, the spouses are both accepted as being the legal parents of their child. This holds true for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. But what about when couples are not married? It can be quite difficult to figure out parental rights, such as child custody. If you are currently dealing with child custody issues, understanding your rights is key.

Unmarried Fathers in Michigan

Unmarried mothers are presumed to have primary custody of their children unless the biological father establishes paternity and attains a court order of custody rights. Unmarried fathers can establish paternity voluntarily with the agreement of the mother by signing an Affidavit of Parentage either at the hospital when the child is born or later on. If paternity is contested, a father can establish parentage through the court in a process that typically involves genetic testing to determine if there is a biological relationship.

After establishing paternity, a father will need to take additional legal action to pursue a new custody arrangement. Keep in mind, however, that under Michigan law, it can be very difficult for a biological father to establish paternity and get custody rights if the child’s mother is married to another man, as that man will already be presumed to be the child’s legal father.

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Novi MI divorce lawyerThe divorce process varies dramatically from couple to couple. A young couple who does not own significant assets and does not have children will typically have a much easier divorce than a couple with considerable property, complex assets, or contentious child-related issues. If you or your spouse owns a business or professional practice, significant retirement assets, real estate, or investments, or if your financial situation is otherwise complicated, you may want to consider a collaborative divorce.

Advantages of Using Collaborative Law to Resolve Divorce Issues

A collaborative divorce is one in which the couple agrees to work collaboratively with attorneys and other professionals to resolve divorce matters without going to trial. In a divorce utilizing collaborative law, each spouse hires an attorney sufficiently experienced in collaborative law. The spouses and their lawyers sign a “collaborative agreement” promising to:

  • Freely exchange necessary information and documentation, including financial documents

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Oakland County divorce attorneyIf you are getting divorced, you may be unsure of what to expect. After all, the average person has little to no experience with legal matters, especially those as personal in nature as a divorce. To get a divorce in Michigan, you and your spouse will need to address issues like the division of marital assetschild custody, and spousal support. If you cannot reach an agreement about these issues, your divorce case becomes a “contested divorce.” Read on to learn about how discovery works in a contested divorce case in Michigan.

Discovery in a Michigan Divorce Case

The term “discovery” refers to the phase of the divorce process when each party (and his or her attorney) are gathering relevant evidence and facts. The parties exchange information about finances, child-related concerns, and other issues relevant to the divorce case. Informal discovery involves a voluntary exchange of information. In a highly contested divorce, various legal tools are used to gather information through a formal discovery process.

What Should I Expect During Formal Discovery?

If either party is reluctant to provide the necessary information or a party has lied about information, formal discovery tools may be used to compel the exchange of information. Your lawyer may use discovery tools such as:

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Novi divorce attorneysIf you are in the middle of a divorce, you may wonder if you should get into a new relationship right away or wait until the divorce is finalized. While dating someone new may help heal your heart and reduce stress, you should put it on hold until your divorce is officially over. This may seem difficult right now, but waiting to start a new relationship will be beneficial to you in the long run.

Why to Consider Not Dating in the Middle of Your Divorce

Although there is no official law that forbids you from starting a new romantic relationship during your divorce, it may negatively impact the proceedings. There are several potential consequences of dating while going through a divorce.

Here are a few of them:

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Novi divorce attorney for military retirement benefitsWhen a member of the military or the spouse of a military member files for divorce, they face certain challenges and issues that other divorcing couples may not face. For example, one major issue that divorcing military spouses may need to address is determining how military retirement benefits are distributed between spouses. When a person joins the military, they receive various benefits, such as free or subsidized healthcare, access to various military bases, and generous retirement benefits when their time in the service is done. Those benefits could become an asset of interest during a divorce, which is why you should know how they are handled in the event you and your spouse disagree.

Divorce and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act

According to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), a person is only eligible to receive payments directly from the Department of Finance and Accounting (DFAS)  if they meet the requirements of the “10/10 rule.” This rule states that spouses must have been married for at least 10 years, and the service member must have served 10 years during the marriage. If the couple was not married for 10 years, or the serving spouse did not serve 10 years, then the other spouse is not eligible for payments directly from DFAS.

A Spouse May Still Receive Retirement Benefits Through Their Divorce Agreement

However, a person still may be able to receive a portion of their spouse’s military retirement pay if it is included in the divorce agreement. In addition to setting the 10/10 rule, the USFSPA allows each state to apply its own rules and include military retirement benefits in the property division process. In Michigan, courts try to distribute marital property in an equitable manner, meaning that it may not always be a 50/50 split. If a person is awarded a portion of their spouse’s military benefits in their divorce settlement, they may receive up to 50 percent of the total retirement award. 

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Posted on in Divorce

Oakland County divorce lawyersDivorce can change many aspects of your life, including your finances. Without a second income to depend on anymore, your entire financial situation may look different once your divorce is finalized. However, if you enlist the help of a Michigan divorce lawyer and financial advisor, you can get control of your finances.

Things to Do and Not to Do

There is no question that divorce can be extremely difficult. Things get much harder, however, when you are feeling like you do not have control of your finances. The good news is that with a little organization, you can easily put yourself in a much better position--and probably much more quickly than you might have thought possible. 

Here are a few financial do’s and don’ts of divorce to consider.

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Oakland County divorce lawyersNot all marriages have a happy ending. While most people go into a marriage thinking it will last for the rest of their lives, some marriages do end in divorce. Divorce is not uncommon in the United States; depending on the source that is consulted, anywhere from 35 to 50 percent of couples who get married will eventually end up getting a divorce at some point. For many couples who have children, one of the biggest uncertainties that they must deal with is wondering how the divorce will affect their children.

Divorce May Not Be as Harmful as You Think

Many people believe that divorce is one of the worst things that you could subject your children to. While it would be a lie to say that divorce does not affect children, it is not always as harmful as parents fear. In fact, there have been multiple studies conducted that have found that it is not divorce, specifically, that has a negative effect on children — it is conflict. When parents subject their children to constant conflict is when their children can suffer from various negative effects, such as behavioral issues and trouble with future romantic relationships.

Signs to Watch For

Even during the most amicable of divorces, children can be affected by their parents’ split. If you feel overwhelmed, your children likely feel even more overwhelmed than you. Here are a few signs that your child may be struggling with your divorce:

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Farmington Hills family law attorney, parenting plan, uncontested divorce, child support, child support payments

Originally published: March 2018 -- Updated: May 2021

Laws are constantly changing in order to provide better services and protections to people in the community. Recently, child support laws in Michigan have been updated to contain information about what to do when a parent is incapacitated. In many cases, when someone becomes incapacitated because of a disease, illness or injury, it may not be certain when they will recover and begin earning income again. The section added to the Michigan child support manual addresses these types of situations and provides information on what to do in those situations.

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novi divorce lawyerGetting a divorce can be financially disastrous. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, a divorce can cost anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. Getting a divorce when you are close to retirement can be especially devastating. In many cases, retirement accounts are considered to be marital property and are subject to division during the property division phase of your divorce. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows individuals to collect Social Security benefits through their ex-spouse’s benefit to help supplement their income during retirement.

Qualifying for Benefits Through Your Ex-Spouse

In order to claim benefits through your ex-spouse’s work record, there are certain criteria that you must meet. You can claim up to half of the amount of your ex-spouse’s benefit even if they have remarried, however, all of the following must be true to be eligible to claim this benefit:

  • Your marriage lasted for at least 10 years.

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novi adoption lawyerMost people who have grown their family through adoption will agree that it is a fulfilling experience. Many children in the foster care system are available for adoption and are waiting for forever families, but before they can find a family, that family must meet specific requirements. One of the biggest requirements is the successful completion of a home study. Home studies are meant to ensure that the adoptive family is suitable for a child, but the process can be extensive. If you are considering adoption, you should be aware of the requirements to adopt and be prepared for your home study. 

Elements of a Home Study

Every person who wants to be a foster parent or adopt a child in Michigan must complete a home study. The home study is typically done by your adoption worker, who is a licensed social worker. The home study is conducted through a series of meetings between you and your adoption worker, at least one of which must be at your home so the worker can observe where a child would be living. During the home study process, the adoption worker will gather information about: 

  • Your family’s personal history. The adoption worker will conduct interviews with everyone in the household, including any other children you already have. Your personal history is meant to provide the adoption worker a snapshot of what kind of family you are and what kind of child may do well in your household. The adoption worker will compile your family history into a report that will be used during the placement process.

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oakland county divorce lawyerMost divorcing couples know that taking their divorce case to trial should be used as a last resort. In many cases, a trial takes away the freedom of decision for many couples, leaving that decision to be made by the judge presiding over the case. Michigan encourages couples to try to work things out amongst themselves before seeking help. If a couple is unable to cooperate to make decisions pertaining to the divorce, the judge will likely order the couple to attend mediation services before they can proceed to trial. Mediation can be a beneficial tool for many couples who experience adversity from one another, but there are also other ways you can proceed with divorce in Michigan, including arbitration.

Understanding Divorce Mediation

Unlike other states, Michigan does not require couples to attend mediation before they can take their case to trial. Either spouse can ask the judge to order mediation or the judge can independently order a couple to attend mediation to settle their differences. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that may help couples come to an agreement about divorce terms. During mediation, the mediator conducts the session by helping couples stay on topic during conversation and by suggesting solutions when necessary. Mediators, however, cannot make any final decisions for the couple. Mediation itself is also not a legal process and is sometimes used in conjunction with litigation.

Arbitration is an Option

Arbitration is similar to litigation, as the process during litigation is typically very similar to a court hearing, though it does not usually take place in a courtroom. During arbitration, both spouses attend, ideally with their attorneys, and hash out issues through a process similar to that used in court. Each side will get the chance to present evidence, call witnesses and convey arguments in a less formal setting than in court. Arbitration provides less flexibility for couples when deciding issues, as the arbitrator will have the power to make decisions for the couple and those decisions will be legally binding.

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Novi legal and physical child custody attorneyChild custody is one of the most important and consequential legal issues that families may need to address. During the divorce process, parents will need to determine how they will share custody of their children. Unmarried couples may also need to address this issue and ensure that both parents will be able to maintain a close, ongoing relationship with their children. When determining how to handle custody-related matters, it is important for parents to understand the different types of custody and how these cases are handled in Michigan’s family courts.

Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

Child custody issues generally fall into two categories. The first category, which is commonly known as “legal custody,” involves the authority to make important decisions affecting the welfare of the child. Legal custody generally involves the right to make major decisions about how children will be raised. This may include medical decisions such as which doctors children will visit and what treatments they will receive or educational decisions such as where they will go to school. Legal custody may also address decisions about children’s practice of religion or what activities they will participate in.

The second category is commonly known as “physical custody,” and it is referred to as parenting time in Michigan. This refers to the time that children will spend with each parent, including the days that they will live in each parent’s home during the school year and during holidays and school vacations, as well as any other times they will be in the care of a parent.

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Oakland County separate maintenance lawyerThere are a variety of reasons why marriages break down or fail, leading couples to pursue a divorce. However, this will legally terminate a couple’s marriage, which is an irrevocable step that some couples may not be ready to take. In many cases, couples choose to have a trial separation while they determine whether they can repair their relationship, or they may wish to remain married for religious or cultural reasons. 

Those who want to begin separating from their spouse but do not yet want to get divorced may be considering a legal separation. The laws in Michigan refer to this type of situation as “separate maintenance,” and couples will need to understand the procedures followed in these cases and the legal issues that may affect them.

Understanding Separate Maintenance

If a person is looking to separate from their partner while remaining legally married, they can file a complaint for separate maintenance. This complaint is similar to a petition for divorce, and as with a divorce petition, it will state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. After being served with a complaint for separate maintenance, the other spouse can admit or deny the grounds cited, or they can file a counterclaim for divorce and begin the process of legally ending their marriage.

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Novi, MI divorce lawyer for affairs and infidelityThere are many reasons that married couples choose to get divorced, and infidelity is one of the most common issues that can lead to the breakdown of a relationship. Because the actions of a spouse who had an affair may be the primary reason for the end of the couple’s marriage, many people assume that this will play a role in the divorce process. However, this is not always the case, and in many divorces, infidelity does not affect the decisions made. If adultery is a reason that you are getting divorced, you will want to understand how it may be addressed during your case.

Grounds for Divorce

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. This means that when you or your spouse file a divorce petition, you will not need to give a reason for why your marriage is ending. The only legal grounds for divorce that are recognized is “irreconcilable differences.” Your divorce petition will simply make the claim that your marital relationship has broken down beyond repair, and there is no reasonable likelihood that you will be able to preserve the relationship.

Property Division, Spousal Support, and Child Custody

Infidelity may or may not be a factor in the decisions made during your divorce, and in many cases, this issue will only be raised if it has had a significant impact on your finances or your ability to care for your children. When determining how to divide your marital property, these decisions will be based on what is fair and equitable, and most of the time, a person cannot be denied an equitable share of their marital estate as punishment for having an affair. However, if a spouse dissipated marital assets during their marriage, such as by spending money to buy gifts for a lover, this issue may be addressed by awarding the other spouse a greater share of the marital property.

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Farmington Hills divorce attorney for family businesses and professional practicesEnding your marriage through divorce will involve multiple types of financial considerations. Determining how to divide your marital assets can often be a complex process, and this is especially true if you are a business owner. A family business or professional practice may be one of your most valuable assets, and it may also be your primary source of income. Ensuring that you can continue to own and operate your business will likely be one of your most important goals during your divorce, so you will want to make sure you understand how to approach this issue.

Is a Family Business Considered Marital Property?

Before determining how ownership of business assets will be handled, you will need to understand whether your business or practice is considered marital property. In general, if the business was founded during your marriage, it will be considered a marital asset, but if you owned the business before getting married, it will be considered separate property. However, even if your business is not a marital asset, you may need to address any increase in value of the business during your marriage. If your spouse contributed to the business, such as by helping manage operations or by investing marital funds in the company, you may be required to reimburse your spouse for these contributions.

Asset Division and Business Interests

If your business is a marital asset, it will need to be considered during the division of marital property. In some cases, spouses choose to sell a family business during their divorce and divide the profits earned. However, this may not be an option for you, so you may need to make other arrangements as you determine how to divide this and other marital assets.

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Farmington Hills divorce attorney mediation

If you are considering divorce or are in the midst of the divorce process, you may be worried about how you will deal with your spouse as you work to legally dissolve your marriage. Since your relationship has broken down beyond repair, it is understandable if the two of you have trouble getting along, but you may want to try to avoid serious conflict and resolve matters as peaceably as possible. Fortunately, your divorce does not have to be an extended legal battle in the courtroom, and you may be able to get through the process more easily by using mediation.

Reducing Conflict Through the Mediation Process

When you use mediation, you and your spouse will meet together with a mediator, who will act as a neutral third party who will help you work together to reach a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. The mediation sessions will consist of informal meetings where the two of you can identify the issues that need to be resolved, discuss your concerns, and reach compromises that you will both be satisfied with. The mediator does not make any decisions but instead will guide you toward compromises while making sure you understand how the law applies to your situation.

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Oakland County divorce attorney parental relocation

After completing your divorce, it is likely that your life will change at some point. If you are looking to pursue job opportunities or live closer to your family members, you may be considering moving to a home in a new city. However, if you share custody of your children with your ex-spouse, you will need to understand how Michigan’s parental relocation laws will apply to your situation. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to receive approval from either your ex or the court where your divorce case was heard before you can relocate.

Parental Relocation in Michigan

If you have sole legal custody of your child, you usually will not need to seek approval for relocation, although you may need to get court approval if you will be moving outside the state of Michigan. However, if you share legal custody with your child’s other parent, you will need to receive approval if you will be moving at least 100 miles away from your current home or to another state. If you already live more than 100 miles away from the other parent, or if your planned move will place you closer to the other parent’s home, you will not need to receive approval for relocation.

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Oakland County divorce attorney asset division

When you get divorced, you and your spouse will need to divide your property and assets. During the property division process, you will need to identify all of your assets, determine their value, and reach a fair and equitable agreement for how these assets should be distributed between the two of you. Unfortunately, this process can become more difficult if one party tries to unfairly influence the results by hiding or concealing assets. If you suspect that your spouse has hidden assets from you, you will want to understand how you can uncover this activity and the steps you can take to ensure that your property is divided fairly and equitably.

Methods of Hiding Assets

There are a variety of ways that spouses may attempt to conceal assets that they do not want to divide with their spouse, including:

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Novi contested divorce attorneyUPDATE: The information below continues to apply to many divorcing spouses. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional delays in divorce cases. Spouses who are going through the divorce process should be aware that since the beginning of the health crisis, many courts have closed or have restricted the types of cases that are handled through in-person court appearances. In many cases, courts will only hold in-person hearings to address emergency matters. Spouses should check with their attorney and their local court if they need to address these types of emergencies, which may include petitions for orders of protection in situations involving domestic violence or requests for emergency child custody or parenting time orders that address children's safety and well-being. For non-emergency matters, courts may hold virtual hearings or conferences, allowing spouses to address other divorce-related issues without unreasonable delays. As more people become vaccinated, and the risks of infection decrease, courts will likely begin reopening for in-person proceedings, and spouses can work with their attorneys to determine the best ways to approach their case and address any delays.


Most 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.  

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Oakland County divorce attorney spousal support

If you have not worked outside of the home in some time and you are considering divorce, you may have concerns about how you will make ends meet without your spouse’s financial contributions. The prospect of reentering the workforce after being a homemaker or stay-at-home parent for many years can be daunting. You may worry that you do not have the job skills or education needed to gain suitable employment. You may also worry about being forced to place your children in childcare when you would rather stay home and raise them yourself. Alimony, or spousal support, may offer financial assistance for divorcing spouses who are not the primary wage-earner, but alimony is not awarded in every Michigan divorce.

When Is Alimony Awarded in Michigan?

There are several avenues through which alimony is awarded in Michigan. You may be entitled to alimony if you and your spouse signed a valid prenuptial agreement or other marital agreement that gives you the right to alimony. You may also receive alimony if you and your spouse can agree to a spousal support arrangement and the court approves of your agreement. Your lawyer may be able to help you negotiate a spousal support agreement or you may reach an agreement through an alternative resolution method like mediation or collaborative law. Unfortunately, many spouses find that getting the other spouse to agree to reasonable spousal support terms is nearly impossible. In this case, you would need to petition the court for a spousal support order.

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