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Oakland County Property Distribution LawyerMichigan is an equitable distribution (as opposed to community property) state. In a community property system, all marital property is divided right down the middle, regardless of contributions. Under equitable distribution, marital assets are divided up into just portions, taking many factors into consideration. This process includes a three-step process of identifying, valuing, and dividing the assets and liabilities.

Identification

The first step in division of assets in a divorce is identifying and classifying all the assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. This is not always as straightforward as it sounds. This includes not only tangible assets such as homes, cars, bank accounts, and retirement funds, but also intangible assets such as business goodwill and household services.

Once identified, the asset must be classified as either marital or nonmarital property. Although most assets acquired during the marriage will likely be deemed as marital, there are some exceptions:

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Novi Parenting Plan LawyerNovember ushers in the holiday season that continues right through to New Year’s Day. While it is often exciting to think about spending time with family and friends, the holiday season can also cause stress for parents who are divorced and trying to navigate through the holidays with the least amount of impact on their children possible. Michigan family courts understand that children need to spend time with both parents and that includes holidays. This is why it is important to have a parenting plan in place that not only sets a regular parenting time schedule throughout the year, but also addresses how parenting time will be divided during holidays and special occasions.

Arranging Holiday Parenting Time

Most schools close over the winter break, and many parents also get time off from work during this time. Trying to come up with an agreeable schedule for the holidays can sometimes be difficult. The following are some suggestions that can help make coming up with a holiday parenting time plan easier for divorced parents:

  • Work with your co-parent to alternate holidays every other year. The child can spend Thanksgiving with the mother on even years and the father on odd years.

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Protecting Your Assets in a Michigan Divorce

Posted on in Divorce

Oakland County Divorce LawyerOne of the biggest stresses when going through a divorce is what will the financial outcome be and how will that outcome affect your financial future. In Michigan, just like most states, marital assets are distributed using the equitable division standard. This does not mean the outcome is necessarily “equal” but that the division is done based on circumstances in the couple’s case in the most equitable way possible.

In many marriages, one spouse is usually more involved in handling the couple’s finances and this can mean that the other spouse may not be fully aware of the details of all of the marital assets and debts. In some cases, even the spouse who does oversee all the finances may not realize all the specific details of the martial estate. This is why no matter what your position is in your marriage, it is a good idea to create a property and asset division checklist in order to understand exactly which assets and debts qualify as marital and which ones qualify as separate.

Marital Assets

A property checklist can help identify all of the assets in your marriage and decide which category they should be in. It is not uncommon for each spouse’s property checklist to look different than the other spouse’s. This is where your divorce attorney can help ensure that your marital rights are protected, and you receive what you are entitled to in the final divorce settlement.

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Are Michigan Paternity Tests Accurate?

Posted on in Family Law

Oakland County Family Law AttorneyIt is estimated that there are approximately 300,000 paternity tests performed each year in this country to determine the identity of a child’s biological father. In order to make that determination, DNA tests are one of the most reliable and popular methods. Courts rely on DNA testing whenever there is any contesting of paternity, so it is critical for these tests to be accurate.

The DNA Testing Process

When a man is undergoing a paternity test, a small sample of their DNA is required, along with a DNA sample of the child. There are a number of different ways this DNA can be collected:

Oakland County Divorce LawyerWhen a married couple with a child decides to end their marriage, the courts must decide how parenting time and custody will be divided between the two parents. There is no difference in how these decisions are made based on whether the child is the couple’s biological child or was adopted. If you are considering or have decided to divorce and have any adopted children who are minors, it is important to consult with an Oakland County divorce attorney to find out what all your legal options and potential issues may be.

How Do Courts Decide Custody?

When a family court judge is determining a child custody case, that decision will always be made based on what is in the best interest of the child. The judge could decide the parents should both share joint legal custody or only one parent should have sole legal custody. Physical custody, or parenting time, could be shared 50/50 between both parents or the judge could decide the child will live primarily with one parent and have visitation with the other.

If the couple’s child was adopted, the court will still use the same set of criteria to decide custody. In most cases, family court judges believe that joint custody is in the child’s best interest. Having both parents play an integral role in their life leads to a decrease in the odds that a child will develop learning or behavioral issues. While this is usually true for all children (as long as both parents are deemed fit by the court), it can be especially crucial for adopted children who have higher risks of struggling with these issues even in two-parent homes.  

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Farmington Hills Family Law AttorneyAlthough the goal may be to have the divorce process go smoothly and end with the desired outcome, the reality is that very few do, especially if there are children involved. Child custody is one of the most serious and emotional issues that a couple must address in their divorce and whatever the court’s final decision is will affect the child and parents for the rest of their lives.

Navigating Through the Court’s Decision

Many couples who have reached the point of ending their marriage are usually dealing with a severely deteriorated relationship. The ability to communicate with each other peacefully may be poor, while contention between the two may be high. Child custody and parenting time forces a couple to have to come together and reach a mutual understanding and be able to cooperate with each other to effectively co-parent. The irony is that these are often things that the couple were unable to do while married and this is why the relationship crumbled.

In some cases, one parent may feel the other parent is unfit and it is unsafe for the child to be in the parent’s care, regardless of what the court order says. The parent may wonder if they are able to refuse to allow any visitation between the child and the other parent. If you find yourself in this situation, it is critical to speak with your child custody attorney before you take these drastic steps. Your attorney can provide legal advice on whether there may be grounds to request the court modify custody or parenting time.

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Novi Child Custody AttorneyThe month of October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Domestic violence is defined as the “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.” More than 10 million adults experience domestic violence each year. On a typical day, local domestic violence hotlines receive approximately more than 19,000 calls. This comes out to 13 calls per minute. Here in Michigan, it is estimated more than 35 percent of women and 25 percent of men will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. When it comes to domestic violence, it is not only the adult who is the victim, but any children who live in the home are also victimized. 

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The above statistics show just what a common issue domestic violence is for families across the country. Not only does the violence affect the victim, but it also has a harmful impact on children who witness the abuse. It is estimated that children witness 70 to 80 percent of all domestic violence assaults that occur.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to domestic violence suffer great emotional harm. They often suffer excessive sadness or worry, and fear of abandonment or harm. Many children lose their ability to have empathy for others and/or they may feel socially isolated.

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Oakland County Divorce LawyerThere is no denying the impact that a divorce has on a person’s life. Even if they are the spouse who wants to end the marriage, there could still be effects on their family and social relationships that they may find jarring. There is also the financial impact a divorce has. Many people find that after a divorce, their credit score has gone down. It is not the act of divorcing that can cause this decrease, but rather the financial obligations and standing that happens during and after the divorce process. The following are some steps you can take to help minimize that impact.

Protecting Credit Scores

Surveys have found that approximately 55 percent of women and 40 percent of men find that their divorce creates a negative impact on their credit score. While women experience the higher impact, they also report higher incidents of their former spouse ruining their credit – 50 percent – compared to only 37 percent of men who face the same consequences because of their former spouse.

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Farmington Hills Divorce LawyerThe breakdown of a marriage can be difficult for both spouses, and in some cases, marital issues may become public knowledge due to details that a couple, their children, or other family members or friends share on social media. Since so many people are used to sharing information about themselves when they use Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or other social networks, they may expect that they can continue to discuss their lives online during the divorce process. However, it is important to understand what types of information should or should not be shared and how posts on social media may play a role in a couple’s divorce.

Social Media Posts as Evidence in a Divorce Case

Information posted online, such as photos or status updates, is generally available to the public. This means that anything posted to social media could potentially be raised during the divorce process. Even posts that a person believes are private could be uncovered by the other spouse or their attorney. Because of this, it is important to treat everything posted on social media as something that could potentially be raised in divorce court.

However, social media posts will only play a role in divorce if they are relevant to the legal proceedings. For example, a person may have found posts that indicate that their spouse is having an affair, and they may believe that this information could be used to show that the other party is responsible for their divorce. However, Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, and a divorce petition will not include any fault-based grounds for divorce or state that either spouse is to blame for the end of their marriage. This evidence would not be relevant when filing for divorce, but it could potentially be raised later in the divorce process if it affects decisions about issues such as the division of marital property.

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Novi Adoption LawyersCountless studies show that children thrive with the love and support of two parents. However, sometimes, those parents are not related to the child by blood. Stepparents often play a crucial role in a child’s life. However, stepparents do not have the same legal rights and protections as biological parents unless they legally adopt the child.

If you are a stepparent who would like to adopt your stepchild, read on to learn about the stepparent adoption requirements and procedures in Michigan.

Terminating the Biological Parent’s Parental Rights

Children can only have two parents by law. This means that you may need to get a parent’s parental rights terminated before you can adopt your stepchild. Some parents voluntarily agree to give up their parental rights – especially if they recognize that the stepparent is in a better place to care for their child. Other parents refuse to surrender their parental rights. If the child’s biological parent does not want to give up his or her rights to allow you to adopt the child, you will need to attend a hearing and provide sufficient reasoning for the termination of the parent’s rights.  

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Farmington Hills Divorce AttorneyThe term “high-conflict divorce” may initially seem redundant. After all, a couple would not be seeking a divorce if the marriage did not involve a significant amount of conflict. However, some divorce cases are much more contentious than others.

To end your marriage, you and your spouse will need to decide how to divide real estate, vehicles, bank account balances, and other assets. If you have children, you will need to develop a parenting plan that allocates parental responsibilities and parenting time. You may also need to address additional issues like spousal support. If you and your soon-to-be-ex disagree about the terms of your divorce and are unable to discuss these issues productively and rationally, you may be in store for a high-conflict divorce. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prepare.

Work With a Divorce Attorney Skilled in High-Conflict Divorce Cases

Just like other professionals, no two divorce attorneys are alike. When choosing a divorce lawyer to represent you, it is important to select an attorney capable of successfully handling a high-conflict divorce. Make sure your lawyer has sufficient experience in negotiations as well as litigation. Ideally, your divorce case will resolve through an out-of-court settlement, but you should make sure your lawyer also has the experience and knowledge needed to represent you during a trial if necessary.   

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Novi, MI Divorce LawyerDid you know that older people make up a huge percentage of divorcing couples in Michigan? So-called “grey divorce” is on the rise in Michigan and across the U.S. 

If you are thinking about getting divorced and you are over age 50, it is important to realize that you may face unique obstacles during your divorce case. You may need to address complicated financial and legal issues including the division of assets and retirement funds as well as spousal support. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer with experience in gray divorce cases can help you understand the challenges you may face during your divorce and meet those challenges head-on.  

Divorce When You Are Close to Retirement

If you are in your 50s or 60s, the effect of your divorce on your retirement plans is probably a top concern. Understandably, you want to ensure that you will still have the retirement funds you need to live independently once you have stopped working. Retirement accounts are usually classified as marital property during a Michigan divorce. This means that both spouses have a claim to the funds contained in the retirement account regardless of which spouse’s name is on the account. You may need to use a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to divide retirement funds. The funds that accumulated before the spouses got married may be considered separate property to which only the named spouse has a claim.

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Oakland County Divorce AttorneyEarlier this year on our blog, we addressed the question of what happens to the marital home in a divorce. In that post, we noted that in most cases, one spouse either buys out the other’s share of the home, or the spouses agree to sell the home and divide the proceeds. However, you may be wondering whether these are the only options. Perhaps you find it hard to bear the thought of parting with your home at the moment, but you lack the financial resources to keep it on your own.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it may be possible to come up with a more customized solution, especially if you and your spouse are willing to consider an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation or collaborative divorce. Here, we look at some of the more creative options for handling your home and living arrangements after a divorce.

Alternatives to Dividing the Marital Home in Divorce

In many divorce cases, children are the driving factor for seeking alternative arrangements for the family home. As a parent, it may be important for you to keep your children’s home lives as stable as possible as your family goes through such a monumental change. The location of your home may also be important for your children to continue attending the same school or to be close to their friends and other relatives. A couple of options that parents often consider include:

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Oakland County Child Custody AttorneyWhen parents are dealing with legal child custody matters, including during the divorce process or after establishing paternity, the situation can sometimes become contentious. In high-conflict cases, parents are often confronted with the prospect of litigation and the time, costs, and stress that it entails. However, there is an alternative to litigation for parents who are willing and able to work together. It is well worth considering the option of negotiating a child custody agreement for the many benefits that it can bring.

Advantages of a Child Custody Agreement

Michigan family courts allow parents to work together on a child custody agreement on their own, or with the assistance of alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or collaborative divorce. Negotiating an agreement with your child’s other parent may be the right decision for a number of reasons. Some potential benefits to consider include:

  • Maintaining control over the outcome. In child custody litigation, the court has the ultimate authority to dictate the terms of your arrangement. Though a judge will make every effort to account for the child’s best interests, you may feel that you are better equipped to make these decisions as your child’s parent. When you negotiate a custody agreement, you and the other parent can decide on your own terms, allowing you to implement personalized solutions that meet your family’s individual needs.

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Novi, MI Divorce AttorneyWhen it comes to property division in a divorce, Michigan is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that spouses must divide all marital property fairly in accordance with the specific details of their situation. However, people are often surprised to learn just how many assets may qualify as marital property. Marital assets include not only properties that spouses own jointly, like the home they live in but also assets held in one spouse’s name that were acquired during the marriage. This means that much of your retirement savings could be subject to division if contributions were made to your accounts while you were married.

While dividing a retirement account is often a necessity during the divorce process, doing so is not simple. Without taking the proper steps to divide your account, you could find that the assets steeply decline in value due to income taxes and early withdrawal penalties. For this reason, it is important to understand whether you need to obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, that allows you to divide your account while protecting the savings.

Do You Need to Divide Your Retirement Account?

The first question you should ask yourself to determine whether a QDRO is necessary is: Do I actually need to divide my retirement account? If you have any accounts that contain only premarital contributions, those accounts likely remain your sole property. You may also be able to keep a retirement account intact if you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that specifies that the account will be yours in the event of a divorce.

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Farmington Hills Divorce AttorneyAlthough the Michigan divorce process ends with a legally binding resolution, this may not end all conflict between the parties. Ongoing issues involving child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance can lead to new disputes in the years following a divorce, and it may be necessary to petition the court for modification or enforcement of the divorce order. However, if you can work out these post-divorce matters with your former spouse in mediation before you bring them before the court, you may save yourself time, energy, and stress.

Mediation for Post-Divorce Modifications

The child custody order is one of the most common elements of a divorce resolution that may need to be modified as time passes. You may feel that the order should be changed because of a change in your work schedule, a move or relocation, or a change in your children’s needs and preferences as they get older. However, you may find it difficult to reach an agreement with your children’s other parents regarding the details of the modification.

This is where the services of an experienced mediator can be beneficial. A neutral mediator can meet with you and your former spouse to work through any proposed changes to parenting time and decision-making responsibilities and come to an agreement that satisfies both parents and continues to provide for your children’s best interests. You can then file your mediated agreement with the court for approval.

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Novi MI adoption lawyerThe adoption process typically involves a great deal of complexities and obstacles before you can welcome your adopted child home. In the face of such adversities, it may seem like the easiest option is to give up. However, there are actions you can take to overcome these hurdles and successfully become an adoptive parent. An obstacle that prospective adopting parents should be aware of is the possibility of their adoption petition being denied. Unfortunately, even relatives to the child or stepparents who have helped to raise the child may be denied at this point. This rejection can be combated by appealing the decision in court.

Reasons a Petition May Be Denied

While it is unlikely for an adoption to be denied, it is still possible and needs to be considered when maneuvering through the adoption process. There are a wide range of reasons why your petition for adoption may be denied, including the following:

  • You have a criminal felony on your record that you failed to disclose in your application

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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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