Elkouri Heath, PLC

248-344-9700

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

Recent blog posts

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.

    ...

    Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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

    ...

    Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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

    ...

    Continue Reading...

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:

...

Continue Reading...

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:

...

Continue Reading...

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. 

...

Continue Reading...

Financial Dos and Do Nots of Divorce

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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:

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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:

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.

    ...

    Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

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.

...

Continue Reading...

Oakland County Bar Association State Bar of Michigan Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan WCCDBA Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan
Back to Top