Elkouri Heath, PLC

248-344-9700

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

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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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Michigan postnuptial agreement lawyerOnce the excitement of a wedding has worn off, married couples in Michigan must begin the difficult process of successfully building a life together. While a prenuptial agreement may have been overlooked or deemed unnecessary before a wedding, the idea of a legal agreement that protects spouses in the event of separation, divorce, or death may become more appealing once the marriage has already begun. 

If a couple is already married, it is too late to sign a prenuptial agreement. But there is another option that may be just as useful - a postnuptial agreement. Just like a prenup, a postnup can protect a couple from conflict when major marital disagreements arise. And, like a prenup, a postnup requires transparency, fairness, and a willingness to look out for your partner’s wellbeing into the future. If you have already gotten married and are interested in learning more about a postnuptial agreement, a Michigan family law attorney may be able to help. 

Postnuptial Agreements in Michigan

In the past, there has been some concern that postnuptial agreement may fail to protect the sanctity of marriage by allowing a married couple to divide their debts and assets after they have already gotten married. In this way, it may make the decision to get divorced easier. 

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Novi prenup lawyerA contentious Michigan 2017 divorce case allowed a wife to successfully receive property from her husband that had been previously protected under their prenuptial agreement, causing concern to many couples who were creating or had already entered into prenuptial agreements. In Allard v. Allard, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled a divorce court could award marital and personal property to a spouse if he or she would be unfairly disadvantaged after the divorce, even if spouses had signed a prenuptial agreement preventing such distribution. 

This decision upended much of what was understood about Michigan’s prenuptial agreement law and shed light on how important it is to craft an agreement that is enforceable. If you are getting married and want a prenup, an attorney with experience in family law can help you avoid issues that may invalidate your agreement. Here are four common issues that could cause a prenup to be thrown out. 

Fraud or Deceit

If one spouse hides assets or debts from the other when they are signing the prenup, the spouse from whom the information was hidden does not have the information he or she needs to fully consent to signing such an important document. 

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Michigan business valuation attorneyAt the heart of every Michigan community are dozens of small businesses run by hard-working business owners. In fact, most small businesses in Michigan have less than 20 employees, making this not only one of the most common types of business but also a very common community asset in a Michigan divorce. Whether a small business is full-time, part-time, or just a minor side hustle, it is generally considered marital property and must be divided in a divorce—even if the business was started before the marriage began. 

Ensuring you get a fair division of marital property is an essential part of any good divorce settlement. To do this, small business owners must ensure their business is valued correctly. In this blog, we will discuss three of the most common methods of valuing small businesses in Oakland County divorces. 

Market Valuation Method

Many business valuation experts believe that the market valuation method is the most subjectively accurate method for determining a business’s value. This is because the market valuation method looks at the recent sales of similar businesses in the area to estimate what a particular business would sell for now. You can think of this method as being somewhat similar to how home values are assessed. Market valuation methods are not always helpful because there may be no similar businesses that have sold recently enough to be relevant. 

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Michigan business owner divorce lawyerSmall business owners in Michigan spend many years of never-ending work to get their business running successfully, often taking great risks in the hope they will pay off. For business owners, the specter of divorce threatens not only their personal lives and family stability, but their business’s future as well. 

Small business owners are understandably concerned about how to keep their business intact during divorce. Because businesses are often run with the help of a spouse and profits occur during the marriage, at least part of the business is likely to be considered marital property. If you are considering divorce and want to protect your business, here are three tips that may be useful. 

Sign a Prenuptial Agreement

The best option for protecting a business in a divorce is a prenuptial agreement. While business owners who are already married cannot make a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement contains many of the same protections as a prenuptial agreement. Spouses can determine how to handle the business during divorce while minimizing negotiations and conflict by thinking ahead and protecting themselves with a post-marital contract. 

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shutterstock_1413111914.jpgWhen two people who have children together get a divorce, one of the many aspects of the divorce proceedings is the determination of child custody. In Michigan, the Michigan Child Custody Act was established with the understanding that, in most cases, a child custody arrangement that is in a child's best interest will permit the child to maintain a relationship with each parent. 

Sometimes, parents can come to an agreement regarding child custody without the court’s intervention. With the guidance and assistance of their respective family law attorneys, both parents can seek to establish a custody agreement that they each deem fair, both to themselves and their child. 

However, there are some cases in which parents cannot come to an agreement on the custody of their child. When this happens, a trial may eventually be held, at which point a judge will make a determination on child custody concerns. There are typically three potential outcomes of a situation in which custody is decided on by a judge, those being joint custody, sole custody, and parenting time. 

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