NAVIGATING FAMILY LAW TOGETHER
Assistance Through Divorce
The divorce lawyer’s first priority should be to respond effectively to your family’s needs and not react to specific situations that may cause you concern. We've assisted hundreds of people through the divorce process as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Like most legal matters involving the courts, divorce isn’t always easy.
Many people enter the process expecting more than what the courts will allow or more than what they're entitled to under the law. We are honest and upfront about our clients' cases so that they're not surprised by legal outcomes.
Our goal is to keep clients focused on the long-term needs of their families. Our primary objective is to preserve family environments for life after divorce. Every divorce is different, so we don't use a one-size-fits-all approach. The same circumstances in one divorce in Kent County may result in a completely different outcome in Montcalm County. Even in the same county courts, we understand different judges and referees make different decisions.
Divorce Takes Time
The main frustration of many people dealing with divorce is the length of time it takes. No attorney or judge can decrease the time frame. For example, in cases involving children, Michigan imposes a mandatory six-month waiting period.
Typically, a case involving children will last up to a year. Through the duration of the divorce, we will be honest and clear about ways our clients can improve their positions for the best possible settlements or judgments.
Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution
In Western Michigan county courts, most divorce settlements are mediated, negotiated,
or completed through the collaborative divorce process. Studies have shown that when people create their own settlement, they're far more likely to follow the agreement.
Additionally, this leaves individuals responsible for the outcome of their cases. Specifically, clients can tailor custody and parenting times to their specific circumstances. Decisions about the division of property should be made by the individuals getting divorced. However, in the event a case does not settle in ADR, we are prepared to fight to protect our clients' rights and financial interests in court.
The “Fault Line”
Michigan is a “no-fault” state for divorce. However, this term may be misleading.
The phrase “no-fault” means an individual does not have to allege fault in the breakdown of the marriage in order to get a divorce. To obtain a divorce: “There has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”
- Revised Statutes of 1846 Section 6 -
The fault does affect the division of marital assets, as well as determining awards and amounts of spousal support in particular cases. Individuals should not expect to be awarded all or most of the assets because of fault. In most cases involving fault, the “non-guilty” party only receives a two to three percent shift in marital assets. Fault is only one factor out of many for judges to consider when dividing property.
Division of Property
In Michigan, the division of property has to be equitable, just, and reasonable. Generally, the property falls under two categories. Marital property is defined as property (and debt) accumulated through the joint efforts of the parties during the marriage. This includes any increase in net worth that may have occurred during the marriage. As a general rule, the courts strive for an equitable split of the value of assets and debt, which does not necessarily mean everything will be divided 50/50.
Separate property: It's defined as property owned by one of the parties prior to the marriage, gifts given to one party alone, and assets inherited by one party alone. If during the marriage separate property is commingled with marital property, it may be subject to division during divorce. In addition, any increased value of the separate assets may be subject to classification as marital property. This happens if the non-owning spouse was actively involved in investing or improving the property value during the marriage.
Dissolution of Marriage Through Other Forms
The State of Michigan allows for separate maintenance. The procedure for separate maintenance is relatively the same as in a divorce matter, except that neither party is allowed to remarry.
Michigan also provides for annulment proceedings, which invalidate marriages. Depending on the circumstances, a marriage may be void from the inception or voidable. The grounds for annulment include the capacity to marry, such as insanity, bigamy, and underage parties, as well as any type of fraud that goes
to the heart of the marriage.