Elkouri Heath, PLC

248-344-9700

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

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Novi divorce attorneysJohn Gottman and his wife, Julie, are relationship researchers who have spent almost four decades trying to discover the secret sauce to making a marriage last. Along the way, they have studied thousands of couples and created a couple’s therapy program that proponents say is highly effective. Unfortunately, not every marriage is destined to last and during their research on the marriages that fail, the Gottmans discovered four communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship is near. If you recognize any of these styles in your marriage, it may be time to speak with a Michigan divorce attorney

Criticism

While even the most loving spouses must be open to receiving occasional criticism from each other as a way to grow and learn, the criticism the Gottmans identify as being existentially threatening to a relationship is the kind that targets a person’s innate character rather than a particular behavior. Pervasive criticism can be hard to stop and difficult to forgive, making the following behaviors more likely. 

Defensiveness

Every person who has ever been in a relationship is familiar with the behavior of preparing your rebuttal before the other person has a chance to finish what they are saying. This kind of defensiveness - seeking excuses, playing the victim, and ignoring a partner’s valid perspective - is counterproductive to genuine communication. Defensiveness seeks to place blame on the other partner rather than seeking understanding. 

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Oakland County divorce attorneysOne of the greatest factors that prevents people in unhappy marriages from leaving is the fear that they will not be able to afford a divorce. After all, the average cost of a divorce in 2020 was nearly $13,000 and nationwide inflation has increased the cost of goods and services substantially since then. 

However, there are ways to save money during divorce and knowing how the cost of divorce breaks down can help you know what to expect and look for places where you might be able to save money. Once you have read our list of the most common expenses in divorce, contact our Michigan divorce attorneys to get further answers to your questions. 

Your Lawyer

Unless you have a fairly straightforward divorce or you are the adventurous type who loves reading about complex new subjects, you will have an attorney to help you during your divorce. While divorce attorneys often get a bad rap, a good attorney can actually make your divorce go faster and cost less money by being responsive, accurate, and proactive. The time and complexity of divorces vary wildly and attorneys’ fees likewise vary, but you can talk to several attorneys to get ballpark estimates of how much you can expect to spend on legal representation. 

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Novi divorce lawyerDivorce is an incredibly stressful situation and it can be made even worse with a spouse who is determined not to follow the rules. Unfortunately, many people try to hide details to get a more favorable outcome in their Michigan divorce, making it difficult for judges to get an accurate picture of a couple’s life together in order to achieve a fair divorce decree. But lying under oath is illegal, and a spouse who does so can face serious consequences. Here are some tips about what to do if your spouse is lying in your divorce. 

What is Perjury? 

Courtroom dramas are famous for having scenes in which defendants agree to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But individuals, whether they are participating in a criminal or civil trial, are under a legal obligation to tell the truth as soon as they are involved in any legal proceedings. Doing otherwise is committing a crime known as perjury. For example, signing a financial affidavit that attests to containing a spouse’s full financial picture without disclosing a personal savings account would be considered lying under oath. Likewise, failing to answer a question honestly during a deposition could also be considered perjury. 

Civil judges in divorce cases can hold someone in contempt of court for lying under oath. Punishments generally include fines and, perhaps more seriously, skepticism on the part of the judge about a spouse’s claims in the future. When the perjury is serious enough, the judge may even refer the case to a prosecutor for criminal charges. 

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Novi family law attorneyOf all the difficult parts of a Michigan divorce, parental conflict has the greatest potential to hurt children. Unfortunately, due to the very nature of divorce, at least some parental conflict is all but inevitable. Even when parents feel as though they are working hard to shield their children from conflict, kids are adept at noticing when a parent is stressed and tend to take that stress upon themselves. In divorces involving underage children, a family therapist can be helpful for everyone involved. Here are three ways family counseling may benefit your family during divorce. 

Identifying Children’s Feelings

Children (and even adults) are often not very good at identifying and explaining their feelings. What is truly anger or sadness may manifest as depression or rebelliousness. Working through feelings can help children specify what they are feeling, as well as the causes behind their feelings, allowing them to communicate this to their parents and enabling everyone to find solutions. 

Helping Children Voice Their Feelings

Once children know what is bothering them, it can be helpful for a therapist to encourage the children to advocate for their needs and concerns. During a divorce, children are asked to make enormous changes, often with very little notice, and the people they depend on to support them are usually preoccupied and angry themselves. When parents can hear a child’s needs and concerns, finding effective solutions is much more likely. For example, a child may have a fear that they will move out of their neighborhood and never see their friends again. Parents who know this can reassure the child that they will do everything in their power to help a child stay connected to her friends, including planning visits far in advance. 

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Novi family law attorneyThe vast majority of people in Michigan will eventually get married, and, consequently, a significant number of these people will also get divorced. Because couples are now older before their first marriage, many are getting savvier about ways to protect themselves in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement is one of the best ways to do this - but before a prenup can be created and signed, a couple needs to know that they share priorities. Here are five important conversations to have before you create a prenup and get married in Michigan. 

Kids

Whether or not you want kids may not be foremost on your mind while you are wedding planning, but wanting children will change the way you plan for the future. How you manage your finances, the decisions you make about your career, and the places you choose to live are all influenced by this major decision. 

Finances

Couples often get divorced over their financial differences, which tend to be consistent throughout the course of a marriage. It is important to talk about your underlying values around money, such as whether you prefer to save or spend extra cash. This can influence your career discussions, too - whether you prioritize earning a higher income or having more free time can cause conflict between you and your spouse. 

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Novi divorce attorneyFor most parents who get divorced in Michigan and have children under the age of 18, finalizing the divorce is only the beginning of a serious amount of work regarding the children. While divorced parents no longer have to live in the same household and deal with each other’s idiosyncrasies on a day-to-day basis, they must still deal with each other as they transition children between households. This can present many opportunities for conflict for the parents and managing the transition between parents can be very difficult for children. If you are considering divorce or are going through a divorce already, here are three tips for helping your children adjust to living in two homes. 

Avoid Conflict

Because children have neither the experience nor the wisdom to understand adult conflict, fighting parents can put pressure on children to take a side or have an opinion about their parents’ fighting that interferes with the child’s emotional wellness. Take extra precautions to avoid conflict whenever your children might see or hear it. If you must discuss contentious topics, do it when the children are not present in either of your homes. Present a calm, peaceful demeanor when you interact in person during parenting time tradeoffs. 

Give the Kids Their Schedule Ahead of Time

Too many transitions happening at the same time can be very stressful, even for adults. For children, a constantly fluctuating schedule can be miserable. Give your children the information they need to anticipate what is happening next. A visible calendar, marked with easy-to-understand stickers or notes, can help even small children know when they will be with which parent. Try to avoid last-minute changes unless absolutely necessary. 

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Novi divorce attorneysThe vast majority of Michigan divorces are now settled outside of court. Trial litigation in a courtroom is reserved for the most difficult cases when couples absolutely cannot agree on important issues or when there is the presence of a serious problem like domestic violence or a spouse who lies on their financial disclosures. 

For all other cases, various alternative dispute resolution methods can be very helpful. One popular method is mediation, but arbitration is another viable strategy. Some couples include a mandate to resolve disputes using arbitration in their prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Other couples decide on arbitration when they begin talking about divorce, believing a neutral third party may make decisions better than they can. Whatever the method you eventually decide on for managing your divorce disagreements, knowing more about arbitration can help you determine whether it is right for you. 

How Does Arbitration Work? 

While arbitration shares a few similarities with mediation, the two are different in important ways. Arbitration actually functions more like a court hearing in front of a judge;  with the help of their attorneys, both spouses present their evidence and make their arguments to an arbitrator. Spouses may use expert testimony, cross-examine each other’s witnesses, and even make opening and closing statements. Like a trial judge, an arbitrator will make legally binding decisions, leaving spouses with far less flexibility to make decisions about their case than they have in mediation. For couples who struggle to compromise, this is not always a bad thing. 

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Novi child custody lawyerWhen a Michigan couple with minor children gets divorced, they must create an agreement about child support and child custody arrangements. While this sounds straightforward, in reality, issues regarding children are often the most challenging to address. Because each parent often feels as though they are the most qualified to care for the children, it is easy for parenting plan negotiations to devolve into power struggles that do not benefit anyone, least of all the children. 

But if parents can stay focused on the children’s best interests instead of their personal differences, they often find that there are many acceptable solutions that allow both parents to maximize parenting time with each child. One possible way to do this is by including a clause about a concept called the “right of first refusal.” To learn more about how this could benefit you, read on. 

What Does the Right of First Refusal Mean? 

When parents include the right of first refusal in their parenting plan, they obligate themselves to seek childcare from each other rather than third parties when they are unable to care for the children during their designated parenting time. Because the right of first refusal is not obligatory in Michigan parenting plans, parents can customize it however they want, coming up with specific details for how long each parent must be gone before the right of first refusal kicks in.

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Michigan divorce lawyerThe idea of a union between two people coming to an end has existed for as long as couples have formally paired together in front of friends and family. But, certain parts of divorce are in constant flux; Michigan state law can change, social mores can change, and even the types of property spouses accrue together can change. 

Cryptocurrency is a recent example of an asset that is so new, poorly understood, and minimally regulated that dividing it in a divorce can be quite complicated. Because more and more people are buying cryptocurrency every day, understanding how it is handled in a divorce may be essential for protecting your financial interests.

Understanding Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is digital currency secured by cryptography. Unlike dollar bills, which can be replicated and counterfeited, each cryptocurrency “coin” is verified with its own unique identification. Cryptocurrency is “mined” using blockchain technology on many computers, and because coins are not owned or created by just one person or organization, one of the attractive features of cryptocurrency is that it is not currently subject to governmental interference. 

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Novi divorce mediation lawyer Divorce is almost guaranteed to be a difficult process, but in recent years a highly effective method that helps ensure conflict between divorcing couples does not get out of hand has become popular. Divorce mediation has helped millions of divorcing couples all over the United States meet their priorities in their divorce, feel seen and heard, and still manage to effectively compromise. If you are interested in getting divorced in Michigan while minimizing conflict, saving money, and avoiding a long court battle, read on. 

What is a Mediator? 

A mediator is a trained third party who does not have any kind of relationship with you, your spouse, or your attorneys that could bias the mediator in any way. Mediators must remain neutral to be effective, so they cannot be your friend or neighbor, even if that person is a trained mediator. Michigan has rigorous training requirements for mediators, and they are often also attorneys with specific knowledge of and experience in Michigan divorce law. 

What Does a Mediator Do? 

A mediator works with spouses, on their schedule, to help them negotiate important issues in their divorce. Mediation meetings are solution-focused, meaning that while each spouse will get a chance to voice their concerns and express their priorities, the ultimate goal of mediation is to find a solution to the issues present in divorce. These includes, but are not limited to: 

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Michigan adoption lawyerFor many years, only married adults in heterosexual relationships could adopt in Michigan. To the tremendous benefit of children and adoptive parents alike, society’s notions of what constitutes a family have expanded significantly in recent years, along with legal protections that enshrine those notions. For single adults living in Michigan who are looking to adopt, the good news is that you can qualify to adopt just as a married couple could. However, it is important to consider whether you meet the criteria to adopt and how adoption and parenthood could change your life forever. 

What Do I Need to Do Before I Adopt a Child?  

The individual needs of each child will differ as they grow and develop, but certain criteria must be met before an adult can adopt a child of any age. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Completing an adoption licensing application
  • Completing background checks for yourself and any other adult who lives in your home
  • Providing medical statements for yourself and any other household member 
  • Passing an environmental inspection and on-site visits by a social worker
  • Providing three references 
  • Having adequate bedroom space, which can change depending on the age of the child 

Can I Adopt if I Am an Unmarried Parent? 

More and more, unmarried individuals who cannot or prefer not to seek a spouse are choosing to raise children on their own. For children without parents, this expanding conception of what family can look like means an increase in adoptions and placement in a forever home. Unmarried men and women who are already parents can add to the love in their homes by adopting another child. 

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Novi child custody lawyerMany Michigan couples get divorced because they have a significant difference in their parenting styles. These differences may not become apparent until a couple has been married for many years and already shares several children, and while these differences can be significant enough to trigger a divorce, getting divorced does not make them go away. Divorced parents must continue to co-parent as effectively as they can while navigating parenting styles that are often not only different but mutually incompatible. 

One way that these differences can manifest is through a parent’s levels of discipline or permissiveness. Some parents insist that their children eat well, exercise, and limit screen time. Other parents are very lax about some or all of these areas. While there is no magic formula to determine exactly how much junk food a kid can eat, there is no question that a regular diet of sugar and fast food can negatively impact a child’s development. This begs the question - if you are sharing custody of your child in Michigan, and your ex only feeds your child junk food, can you do anything about it? 

How Does Shared Custody Work? 

Joint legal custody is when both parents are responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the child. This includes the child’s healthcare and general welfare and parents who share legal custody need to consult with each other before making non-routine decisions. Physical custody, or parenting time, is the time that a child spends with each parent. Decisions about legal and physical custody are made according to the parents’ agreement and the best interests of the child.

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Michigan high conflict divorce lawyerResearch has consistently shown that certain types of personalities are prone to behaviors that contribute to high levels of conflict. While conflict is almost never driven by just one spouse, a high-conflict person can make life very difficult by having extreme behaviors, black-and-white thinking, and unpredictable emotions. 

Unfortunately, one risk of divorcing someone with a high-risk personality is that these behaviors tend to escalate during the loss of an intimate relationship. While divorce is never easy, this can make the divorce process much more difficult. If you anticipate a high-conflict divorce, hire a great Michigan divorce attorney and follow these four tips. 

Create a Safe Exit Strategy

Spouses who engage in emotional, physical, or financial abuse during a marriage are likely to be increasingly abusive when you try to leave. Before you tell your partner that you are ending the relationship, make sure you have an exit strategy that gives you somewhere safe to stay. If your spouse is financially abusive, you will want to make sure that you have savings or access to a line of credit if your spouse cuts you off financially. 

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Oakland County child custody attorneyMuch of the stigma surrounding mental illness has disappeared in recent years, thanks in large part to better education, greater awareness, and improved treatment options. Most mental illnesses can be managed with medication and therapy well enough that people can enjoy normal and productive lives. 

Mental illness, however, can still be a major challenge in a marriage, and someone with mental illness may fear that their condition could make it difficult for them to get custody of their children in a divorce. Fortunately, mental illness alone cannot prevent a parent from caring for their children; however, failing to treat a mental illness can lead to behaviors that may jeopardize custody arrangements. 

Does a Court Have to Know About My Mental Illness? 

If a spouse’s mental illness has caused problems in a marriage, it is likely to come up during divorce proceedings. Trying to hide mental illness, especially by avoiding treatment, is not a good idea and may lead a judge to worry that the spouse who suffers from mental illness is not taking it seriously. Judges are generally reluctant to deprive a parent of total contact with a child unless that parent presents a clear danger to the child; unfortunately, certain mental illnesses that are left untreated do have the potential to put a child in danger. 

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Michigan asset division attorneyMarried government employees in Michigan who are nearing or have reached retirement age often face a difficult question when confronting the prospect of divorce: What happens to pension benefits in a divorce? Pensions are earned after long years of difficult work and beneficiaries may understandably be reluctant to see their retirement divided as part of a divorce. 

However, pension funds that are earned over the course of a marriage are considered marital property and must be divided in a divorce. If you are considering divorce and want to know what Michigan divorce laws mean for your retirement funds, consider getting help from a skilled Michigan divorce attorney. 

Is My Entire Pension Marital Property?

If you started working at your job before you got married, any portion of your pension that you earned before getting married is not considered marital property. From the date of your marriage onward, however, all retirement funds are community property. Determining exactly how much of a pension is marital property can be tricky; you will likely need help from an attorney or accountant to determine what your pension balance was when you got married so you can estimate exactly how much of the pension is marital property. 

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Oakland County parenting plan lawyerCreating an agreement about parenting time is a difficult but important part of a Michigan divorce involving minor children. While trying to negotiate and compromise with an ex can bring up old resentments and personal differences, working hard to create a great parenting plan during divorce can pay off by exposing parents and children to significantly less conflict in the future. Many different factors will influence how parents create their parenting time plan and it can be difficult to think of or keep track of them all. Here are seven things to consider while making your Michigan parenting time plan. 

Factors Affecting a Michigan Parenting Time Plan

  • Your child’s friends - How a parenting time plan affects your child’s ability to see their friends can greatly affect the child’s happiness and willingness to visit one parent or another. If a child feels isolated from their friend group when they are with one parent, they may be more reluctant to spend time together. 
  • Your child’s extracurricular activities - Getting a child to and from extracurricular activities can present a challenge, especially when both parents are working. Although extracurricular schedules can vary from semester to semester or year to year, try to create a flexible plan that allows your child to pursue their interests from both parents’ households. 
  • Your ability to provide care - While your first instinct may be to get as much parenting time as possible, remember that single parenthood is a lot of work. Be realistic about your schedule, abilities, and patience, and try not to overcommit yourself. 
  • Grandparents - Grandparents can play a major role in a child’s life. A great parenting plan will ensure a child does not lose access to their grandparents and may even allow the grandparents to provide much-needed childcare. 
  • Transportation concerns - Getting a child between two households can be a lot of work. Try to plan around busy commute times, work schedules, and your child’s school in such a way that transportation is not a constant headache. 
  • Siblings - Siblings will not necessarily share parenting time schedules, so consider how having older or younger siblings in different households could affect each child’s happiness and wellbeing. 
  • Breastfeeding - Try to be flexible and understand that your child’s other parent needs to bond with the infant as much as you do, and that the parenting time schedule may need to be updated from time to time as the child grows. 

Call a Novi Parenting Time Attorney

At Elkouri Heath, PLC, we have helped many parents work through even the most difficult divorce scenarios to create parenting time plans that meet their family’s unique needs. If you are getting divorced and want help from an experienced Oakland County parenting time lawyer, schedule a free, confidential consultation with our team. Call us now at 248-344-9700 to learn more about how we may be able to help. 

 

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Novi divorce lawyersEven in the best of circumstances, divorce is a very challenging experience. Michigan spouses often have feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, and anger - and they are often left to work through these feelings without the person they relied upon for companionship for many years. The stress and conflict of divorce can lead spouses to do and say things they later regret, or - even worse - which cause serious damage and resentment for years and even decades to come. If you are considering a divorce in Michigan, here are four mistakes to avoid. 

Acting Out of Anger

While anger is a natural response to many of the issues spouses encounter in their divorce, decisions made in an angry moment are often unwise or even malicious. Wait to make any decisions until you are no longer angry. You may even want to resolve to never contact your spouse directly unless you are not upset. Try to avoid falling into cycles of past conflict and allow your attorneys to engage in communication related to the divorce. 

Settling Too Early

Most people getting a divorce hope for the end to come as soon as possible. While this makes sense, pushing a divorce to a conclusion when you have not navigated an equitable settlement can cause years of problems later on. Take the time to ensure your interests are protected and your needs are met before making the final decision. Once signed, many parts of a divorce decree are permanent. 

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Novi divorce lawyerA divorce will likely have a major impact on many areas of your life. One of the most important and complex of these areas is your finances. While certain expenses cannot be avoided, failing to act carefully during your divorce can wreak havoc on your finances not only while the divorce is ongoing, but far into the future as well. With the help of an experienced Michigan divorce attorney, you can get advice and perspective to guide you so you can avoid common mistakes and remember important details. Here are three important financial considerations to remember during your divorce. 

Remember Your Taxes 

Certain financial arrangements that seem beneficial on their face may look very different when the tax implications are accounted for. For example, many spouses - particularly women with young children - are often hesitant to move the children out of the marital home and will trade other assets to keep ownership. But while a mortgage may initially seem affordable, annual property taxes can cost thousands of dollars more every year. Keep taxes in mind when you divide marital property, allocate retirement funds, and determine who will claim your children on their tax returns. 

Make a Comprehensive Picture of Your Assets and Debt 

It is common for one spouse to manage a family’s finances, and while this can be an effective strategy during a marriage, it can make for complications during divorce. Before you start negotiating a marital property settlement, you need to make sure that you are aware of your complete financial picture. No guesstimates about investment balances or ignoring bills - you need statements, balances, and password and username information so you can log in and access all of your accounts. While this can be a headache, it can also be financially empowering.

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Novi child support lawyersThe prospect of paying court-ordered child support for many years can be daunting, especially if you have ever been unemployed through no fault of your own. Parents who are self-employed, contract workers, or whose income largely depends on tips, bonuses, or commissions may also suffer from a fear of not being able to make child support payments. 

While Michigan does take the obligation of a parent to financially support their child seriously, jail time is usually a last resort for a parent who has failed to make child support payments. If you are worried you may not be able to afford your payments, do not panic - seek the help of an experienced child support attorney who can help you understand your options. 

What Should I Do if I Cannot Make Child Support Payments? 

If you expect your income to change only temporarily and you have a good relationship with your child’s other parent, you may be able to work out an arrangement until you get back on your feet. But if you lose your job or experience a significant income reduction, let the court know as soon as possible. If you anticipate that you will be making less money for a long time, or if your income will be unpredictable moving forward, you may be able to successfully petition for a modification to your child support payments. 

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Michigan property division lawyerOne of the most important, and often most contentious, issues in a Michigan divorce is the process of separating a couple’s property into personal and marital property and then reaching a fair property division. While Michigan law discusses what constitutes personal and marital property, in practice assessing which is which can become quite complicated. In this blog, we offer an overview of marital and non-marital property and the overall goal of an equitable property division. Keep in mind that this is not intended to be legal advice and that a Michigan divorce attorney is the best person to answer any questions you may have. 

Marital Vs. Non-Marital Property 

As soon as a couple gets married, the income each couple earns and any assets or debt they acquire are considered marital property. This includes savings accounts, bonuses, cars, real estate, business profits, and more. While couples can protect certain belongings with a prenuptial agreement - for example, a prenup might state that all business gains and losses accrue exclusively to one partner - in general, anything acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. 

Non-marital property generally falls into one of the following categories: 

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