1. I am not sure about a divorce or legal separation so why should I meet with an attorney now?
Even if you are not sure about a divorce or separation, you need to acquire as much information as possible on the subject, even before discussing these possibilities with your spouse. Sometimes acting without knowing the possible results of their actions can create a situation that cannot be changed after the divorce process begins. Merely seeking advice does not mean that a divorce is inevitable. Sometimes the information received by a family law lawyer could prevent a divorce from happening once all your options are understood.
2. My spouse and I want to have a friendly divorce. We have decided we will just come up with an agreement first and then hire one attorney to write it up and go to court with us. He or she will represent both of us.
This is generally a big mistake to believe that jointly hiring one lawyer means this lawyer works for both of you. This is contrary to the Michigan Professional Rules of Practice. Meeting with a lawyer that will only represent you and consider your objectives is the only way to make sure that any agreement you make is fair now and will be fair to you in the future.
3. My spouse and I are both uneasy living together. Why shouldn’t I move out right now and talk to an attorney later?
Doing that may seem to be a good idea but moving out without first understanding the importance of doing so can cause strategic and legal problems that could adversely impact spousal support, child custody, and parenting time. Unless you are the victim of domestic violence, do not move out of the marital home unless you have consulted with our Firm.
4. I know that my spouse may have maxed out our credit cards or has prevented me from using the credit card. While I have access to bank accounts and credit cards, why shouldn’t I withdraw money from the bank right now or charge things on the credit card that I might need later?
Doing that is not advisable. If your spouse is trying to force you into poverty, there are procedures and petitions that can be filed with the court immediately to prevent that. That could be in the form of getting an injunction or a restraining order or having a hearing right away to give you access to assets or credit.
5. What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?
A divorce ends your marriage. Once divorced, you will be single and free to remarry. In a divorce judgment, either by agreement with your spouse or by an order of the court, there will be a division of property and assets and the allocation of any debts. There could also be an award of alimony, child support, custody, parenting time, and the payment of attorney fees. What people refer to as a legal separation in Michigan is known as separate maintenance. A court order granting a legal separation does not end the marriage. A separation results in couples who do not want a divorce but who want to live separately (both physically and financially) to legally decide with finality financial, property, and child issues. A petition for a legal separation must be filed in court and is similar to a divorce proceeding. Later, a legal separation could be converted into a divorce by just one spouse. Sound legal advice is needed to enter into this type of arrangement or agreement.
6. How is the issue of alimony decided?
There are Michigan statutes and cases from the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court for a judge to follow in making a decision as to whether to grant alimony or spousal support. So, if you are requesting or defending a request for alimony, the issue of how much is to be paid or for how long or under what circumstances depends on your current family history and the circumstances of your case. The key factors the judge must consider are the following:
1. The past relations and conduct of the parties.
2. The length of the marriage.
3. The parties’ ability to work.
4. The source and amount of property to be awarded to the parties.
5. The age of the parties.
6. The ability to pay spousal support.
7. The parties’ present financial and family situation.
8. The parties’ needs.
9. The parties’ health.
10. The prior standard of living of the parties and whether the parties support other.
11. General principles of equity.
7. How does the court decide who gets custody of children?
If parents can agree on who gets custody or what the parenting time arrangements will be, then the court may agree with the parental decision. However, under Michigan law, the court must decide for itself whether the agreed upon arrangement is beneficial or in the children’s best interests. There are two types of custody recognized in Michigan. They are as follows:
A. Legal Custody – This refers to the legal authority to make important decisions on behalf of a child such as medical and educational ones.
B. Physical Custody – This refers to the home the children will live in the majority of the time.
Parenting Time – Along with custody decisions, parenting time is the term to use for how parents will share parenting time arrangements and responsibility for children’s day-to-day care. The policy of the courts is that it is presumed to be in the best interests of a child to have a strong relationship with both parents. This is deemed to be the right of the child. Parenting time is granted by the court in accordance with the best interests of the child as defined by applicable Michigan statutes and case law.
8. How does Michigan law decide the issue of child support?
In order to decide upon the correct amount of child support, the court must follow the Michigan Child Support formula. This formula is known as the Child Support Guidelines. The courts must determine the correct amount of child support by using this computer-based guideline system. Generally, after support is ordered, a parent can ask to modify it every three years or sooner if there is a significant change of circumstances in the lives of children.
9. How long does it take for the court to grant a divorce?
If there are no minor children involved, there is a 60 day statutory waiting period after the case has been filed. Generally, a divorce that quickly only occurs when the parties have agreed on all issues relating to their assets and their family. Families with minor children generally have to wait at least six months after the complaint for divorce has been filed. However, that waiting period can be waived if both parties and the court agree that is in the best interests of the minor children to do so.
Copyright 2017 The Law Firm of Thomas J. Demetriou