Family Law

Practice Area

When Family Matters Become
Legal Matters

Family matters feel overwhelming because they involve complex familial relationships where emotions run high and also because the outcome of a case can have a considerable impact on the lives and futures of those involved - especially children. When you find yourself in the midst of these types of situations, it can feel confusing and overwhelming. That's because life still goes on and you still have soccer practice, work, carpools, vacations, and doctor appointments to juggle. These are some of the most common issues you may encounter in family court:

The State of Michigan has some of the most confusing family law statutes and rules in the entire country. If you are feeling stressed about an upcoming hearing involving family matters, you are not alone. Stacey is on standby and ready to help you face and address any challenge in family court.

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Frequently Asked Family
Law Questions

Asked Family
Law Questions

When you are contemplating a divorce, there are lots of things you should do to prepare for a possible filing. From gathering paperwork to documenting your assets, the preparation you complete prior to filing will help your divorce proceed more smoothly. Our family law attorney will guide you throughout the process and will prepare you before you formally file for divorce.

There are different options for how your divorce case proceeds through the court system. An alternative to appearing in court for your divorce is using mediation. The process of mediation allows you and the other party to have open communication with the help of a neutral third party who is a trained mediator.

If mediation is not possible your case will need to proceed through the Circuit Court in your area to go to trial. Once your paperwork is filed, as the individual filing for divorce, you will be known as the plaintiff while your spouse will be the defendant in the Family Court division.

Property division in a Michigan divorce can be confusing because the distinction between marital property and nonmarital property is not as simple as it seems. When dividing marital assets and debts in a Michigan divorce, Michigan courts follow what is known as “equitable distribution laws.” Spouses each receive an amount of property considered fair and reasonable – this does not mean a 50/50 split of the property, which is why the laws are confusing. This may mean that one spouse receives more of the property acquired during the marriage, called marital property. A family court judge strives to provide each spouse with some marital property, provided that it is what they consider to be an “equitable distribution.”

Either divorcing spouse may be required to pay the other party alimony. Attorney fees may be factored into this amount and alimony should be enough to permit the recipient to maintain a household, in some instances, a similar standard of living as existed during the marriage. The payor or the recipient may even be able to request a change in payment amount due to a significant change in circumstances in some situations. This is common when the payor spouse loses her or his job or the recipient spouse becomes injured or disabled shortly after an award of alimony is made in court. Michigan family law experts ensure that divorcing individuals are able to obtain the rights that they deserve.

Michigan courts follow the belief that custody and visitation decisions should be made based on a standard known as the “best interests of the child.” Like courts in many other states, Michigan supports the possibility of shared parental custody of children; known as joint custody. Parents may come to an agreement regarding child custody or visitation without going to court. Michigan family law judges attempt to get parents to enter into a Parenting Plan, which details Michigan child custody, visitation, holiday schedules, extracurricular activities of the children, and so much more. If a parenting plan can be worked out and agreed on between the parents and if the judge believes that the proposed plan is in the best interests of the child, the plan is likely to be approved. When parents cannot agree on custody or visitation, the case must be ultimately decided by a judge at trial.

Courts consider several factors when determining what is in the best interests of the child. Included in this detailed analysis are the following: the ability of each parent to provide for the well-being of the child from physical, emotional, and mental standpoints and the relationship the child has established at school, home, and within the community. Health, safety, and emotional needs of the child rank high on the consideration list as well. When considering or expecting a child custody battle, it is essential to begin preparing your life to meet these minimal basics.

Also assessed under Michigan’s best interests of the child standard is the willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child. Therefore, parents should cooperate and reach mutually agreeable decisions as often as possible. This is the whole point of joint custody in the first place – the ability to co-parent. Co-parenting is best for a child as it allows the child to view both parents as integral people in the child’s life. While rare, and usually only after a child is in his or her mid-teens, when making a custody decision, a judge may also consider the wishes of a child if he or she has expressed preference. This is not given nearly as much weight as the other factors and, in many cases, Michigan judges will not allow either parent to even ask the child which parent they would prefer to live with as it is unfair to the minor child.

Issues of morality may be considered when making a child custody decision, to the extent that these influence fitness as parents. This means that verbal abuse, substance abuse, and illegal behavior can affect child custody decisions. The judge will decide on both legal custody that encompasses major decisions affecting the child and physical custody that pertains to where the child spends the majority of their time sleeping. When issues like child custody are involved in a person life, simply showing up at the courthouse on your own is terrible idea. Working with either an experienced Michigan child custody attorney or another family law professional is the only way to ensure that you get the rights you deserve.

In Michigan, as in many other states, child custody and child support are separate issues. Child support is financial support provided by one parent to another and may be awarded even if the parents never married each other. Michigan follows a rather confusing model called “Income Shares” is used when calculating child support in Michigan. This estimates the total amount spent on the child if the parents lived together. The estimate is then divided proportionally between both parents based on each individual’s income.

Even when using available state manuals and supplementary reading material, it can be difficult to accurately calculate child support. Multiple steps are involved and just one mistake may drastically alter the result. Michigan family law attorneys assist with calculations and help parent’s petition courts for the proper child support orders.

If using the state child support formula would have an unfair outcome, a court may deviate from this formula. In general, deviations may include educational expenses outside of the normal range or costs to attend to special needs children. Michigan child support obligations typically end when the child turns 18 and has graduated from high school. A child support award may be revised if the petitioning parent can show that circumstances have changed significantly, either upward or downward. This is done through filing a petition to modify child support.

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