Ten Tips to Consider Before You Hire a Divorce Attorney

Finding the right divorce attorney starts with you!

The process of divorce can be difficult. But having the right attorney on Divorceyour side can make the proceedings and life beyond divorce a much more positive endeavor.

Choosing the right divorce attorney doesn’t have to be an additional burden. But it does require a bit of planning before hiring someone to represent you during this critical time.

Before you hire a divorce attorney, do your homework.

  1. Interview different attorneys to find the right one for you. Your situation and fact pattern is unique. It’s important to find an attorney that makes you feel comfortable and understood. It’s important to find an attorney who has experience in your type of case.
  2. Understand the divorce process that will work best for you. Some examples of different divorce processes are: collaborative, mediation, and litigation. Generally speaking, the more conflict in a case, the more costly your case may become. However, trying to save money in a family law case could also cost money or time with your children in the final analysis.
  3. Choose an attorney who fits your situation. Some attorneys are highly litigious, others are low key, still others are adaptable and will focus their strategy based on your goals.
  4. Choose an attorney who has a positive attitude and who tells you the truth about possible outcomes. You don’t want to hear doom and gloom but you don’t want Pollyanna either. An attorney who has a balanced approach to your case may offer the most efficient means to your end goal.
  5. Discuss costs. Although the discussion may be awkward, it’s important to have a frank discussion with your attorney about cost.
  6. Discuss with your attorney your goals for the outcome. Everyone has a different idea of what is most important to them.
  7. Reach out to your support network but don’t expect that your case should turn out the same way as a “friend’s” divorce because your case is based on your facts and your unique situation.

Divorce Attorney8. Stand up for yourself. A good attorney for you will listen and understand what is important to you. That attorney will explain what you need to do in order to reach your goal. There are a lot of choices to make as you go through your legal situation, talk to your attorney honestly. Expect honesty from your attorney.

9. Look to your future. Divorce can be sad and difficult, but some people find relief from a bad marriage that made everyone unhappy. Find an attorney who will help you see that there is positive and happy future for you.

10. Learn about the legal process. Be informed and ask all the questions you need to ask so you can understand where you are going and how you are going to get there. Expect your attorney to be your teacher.

Choosing the right divorce attorney is crucial to finding common ground and an acceptable outcome from your divorce. Take time to do your homework and find an attorney who will work with you to get you the outcome you deserve.

Learn more about Pre-Divorce Planning.

How the Hague Convention Applies to Child Custody Orders

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention is a treaty that was enacted on October 25, 1980. It was enacted to protect children from abduction across international borders.

This may be especially important in divorce cases or custody cases where one parent wishes to keep the children “away from” the other parent.

The Treaty provides a procedure to bring children back from foreign countries. However, not all countries are “signatories” to the Hague convention.

 

The Hague Convention and Child Custory - LakeshoreLawandMediation.comThe Hague Convention and Child Custody

The Hague Convention provides a legal procedure for countries to work with one another when a child is abducted from one country and moved to another country.

Each country that has become a signatory to the Convention must have a “Central Authority.” This is the main contact point for parents or other governments involved in an international child abduction case.

The Central Authority helps to locate abducted children, helps to provide a dialogue for return of the child, and helps to process the request for return of the child.

 

Protecting Michigan’s Children

In Michigan, every custody order must contain Hague Convention language. The purpose of this language is to invoke the rights and responsibilities under the Hague Convention should any enforcement action ever become necessary. Not every country is a signatory to the Hague Convention.

Additionally, every country handles the Hague Convention according to the standards it determines to be best.

If your child is expected to travel to another country with a parent with whom you share custody, you will want to know that the country of travel is a signatory to the Hague Convention.

If you suspect that your child may be removed to another country, it is important for you to consult with an attorney who is familiar with Family Law matters.

Lakeshore Law and Mediation Center is here to help! With one phone call, we can help you get on the right track.

Be Smart About Finances in Divorce!

Tips for Finances in Divorce from Lakeshore Law and Mediation of Spring Lake MISome marriages are just unhappy. Days of bickering and cold shoulders pile one on top of the next. For some, marriage counseling can offer a new perspective. For others, divorce may be the fresh start they have been seeking.

If you have decided to file for divorce, or you have been shocked by being “served” with divorce papers, you will need to make wise choices as you navigate finances in divorce.

 

7 Points of Financial Wisdom During Divorce

1. Prepare a Budget.  If you have never lived by a budget before, NOW, is the time to sit down and consciously become aware of your monthly bills. There are many online tools to help you prepare a budget, or your attorney can provide you with a schedule of expenses (including recurring and non-recurring expenses).

Since you will incur attorney fees, it is important for you to project the cost to include in your budget as well. Ask direct questions of your attorney as to “how much your divorce will or may cost?”

2. Prepare an Asset and Debt Spreadsheet.  Do you know your financial standing? It is amazing how many people are unaware of their exact financial outlook. Many couples have one person who handles all of the finances while the other person just contributes a paycheck and remains “in the dark” about bottom line.

When faced with divorce, financial knowledge is a MUST. There have been cases where a spouse is totally blind-sided by credit card debt, lack of IRS tax payments, or other financial debacles that significantly affect them for the rest of their lives.

3. Be Aware of your Emotions. In a stressful situation, like divorce, it is difficult to make wise, thoughtfully considered decisions. People who “just give up” or “fight to the death” often regret their decisions later on. “Buyers remorse” is common once the divorce settlement’s ink has dried.

An attorney can help you gain perspective on your financial decisions. It is important to separate emotional reactions from financial results. Your decisions now will  affect you in the long term.

4. Your Children. Children will adjust to the new living situation so long as they are not used as pawns by either one of you to gain either and emotional or financial advantage. Children are the innocent third parties in any divorce. Do not share “adult” topics with them. Assure them that both you and your spouse will always love them. Leave your children out of the controversy. If you need help with this aspect of divorce, seek counseling for yourself.

5. A New “Friend”. While it may be exciting to move on from the old “ball and chain,” having a new love interest may drain your pocket book when you can least afford the luxury.

Also, spending marital money on a new love may alter the final financial outcome of the divorce,  if you are using “marital money” for the benefit of a third party. Watch your step in this arena.

6. Begin Separation of your Accounts. You must be aware of any court orders regarding “dissipation of marital assets.” However, once temporary orders have been established, it is important for you to set up separate accounts, both checking, savings, and credit cards where appropriate.

7. Credit Reports. If you are a person who never checks your own credit report, now is the time to start. My annual credit report allows for you to receive all three major credit reports once per year at no charge. You don’t have to pay extra for your “credit score.” Just get your reports and become familiar with the content of each report. If you need help understanding what they mean, ask your attorney.

 

If you need personal financial advice for your divorce, Lakeshore Law and Mediation is here to help! Simply give us a call at 616.844.4091

How to Handle a Spouses’ Business during Divorce

Marital Business in Divorce - LakeshoreLawandMediation.com

“If my Wife/Husband owns a business, but it is only in his/her name, does that mean they “get” the business if we decide to divorce?”

 

A business that is developed or actively managed during a marriage is USUALLY considered a marital asset.

However, a lawyer must evaluate and assess the answer to the following questions and more:

  • Was there a valid pre-marital agreement that addresses the business interest?
  • Was there a valid post-nuptial agreement that addresses the business interest?
  • Does the business actually have value?

If the business is determined to be an asset of the marriage, then, certain financial information must be studied to determine the “value” of the asset.

Here is a brief list of information that a lawyer will need to determine the value of a business:

  1. Five years of Financial statements
  2. Recent Monthly or Quarterly statements as compared to the same period of the last year
  3. Board of director minutes for the past five years
  4. Profit and Loss statements for five years
  5. Income tax returns
  6. Personal Income tax returns
  7. Accounts receivable with aging schedules
  8. Depreciation schedules
  9. Shareholder agreements
  10. Expense reports
  11. Budgets
  12. Lease agreements
  13. Any appraisals

It may be necessary to hire a “valuation expert” to  determine the value of the marital portion of the business interest.

An “Established Custodial Environment” (ECE) is VERY important to understand if you are dealing with Child Custody.

Whether or not an ECE exists will determine your burden of proof in order to be successful in your request for custody. In other words, will you need a LOT of evidence or just ENOUGH to prove your case?

With regards to an Established Custodial Environment, Michigan courts will look at facts regarding:

  • Established Custodial Environment in Michigan - Lakeshore Law and Mediation The amount of time a parenting “routine” has been in place
  • What kind of care and guidance is the child receiving
  • Who is providing the parental care, and when
  • Where is the care being provided
  • What is the home environment like
  • What is the physical quality of the parenting relationship
  • What is the psychological quality of the parenting relationship
  • Is the environment stable
  • Does the child feel secure
  • Does the child feel that they can rely on day to day permanence
  • Who do the children look to for guidance, discipline, necessities of life and parental comfort

When many changes in a child’s routine causes uncertainty, a previously established custodial environment is destroyed. The most important aspect of an established custodial environment inquiry is whether the children’s relationships were marked by qualities of security, stability and permanence.

When one parent is uncooperative in making sure the other parent is allowed parenting time with the children, trying to  control how a parent communicates with or sees the children (without a really good reason, i.e., safety of the children) the court may look on this as an unstable environment.

An ECE can be found with both parents as long as there is a sense of stability and security. Just because there may be a custody order in place does not mean that there is an ECE. The court must still determine if there has been stability in the parental relationship over a sufficient period of time.

At times, a parent may give up custody of a child for a period of time during a difficult time so they can focus on fixing whatever problem they are experiencing so that in the future the child can have a better life. Parents are encouraged to transfer the care of children in a better position to care for them during times of difficulty. However, these cases are all very fact specific.

Lakeshore Law and Mediation is experienced family law firm that knows which questions to ask, the pertinent law and is skilled in presenting facts and arguments of law that will represent you well in a court of law.

Call us at 616.844.4091 or email us below for expert help!

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You are getting a divorce because you do NOT like your spouse. But you don’t want your kids to be caught in the middle of anything nasty. It’s just not good for them.

“He did WHAT?” your friend commiserates with you. “I never liked her.” Your friend looks you in the eye. Your child overhears. This is damaging to your child.

No matter how you feel about your ex, your child will always love both parents. Don’t make them choose sides because of your need to feel “right.”

So, how do you get past the anger, the hurt, the embarrassment, everything?

#1 Co-Parenting Tip from an Expert Divorce Attorney

Co-Parenting Tips from an Expert Family Law Attorney in Grand Haven Michigan - Lakeshore Law and Mediation CenterOne of the most important things you can do is to SET GROUND RULES FOR COMMUNICATION with your ex.

These could include things like:

-No Yelling (end the conversation calmly before it gets to that point);

-No Swearing;

-No name calling;

-If you are unable to talk face to face, talk by phone (never through your child);

-If you are unable to talk by phone, communicate via email;

-All communication is child focused;

-All communication is based in the present (old grudges are for the therapists couch);

-Conduct yourself with respect for your ex (you don’t have to like them,  just be respectful);

-Take a deep breath and stop your automatic response, STOP yourself from acting out;

 

Other Ways You Can be a Better Co-Parent

Set aside your own viewpoint and look through the eyes of the child. Remember….you love your child and want what is best for them.

Listen to your ex about what they think is best for your child. Even if you don’t agree, try to understand. If you need time to think about it take time to think, decisions do not have to be made immediately.

Don’t let your child overhear you talking poorly or making unfavorable gestures/expressions towards your ex.

Listen to your child about their feelings for the ex, however realize that children will play parents against each other as a way of getting what they want. Be very careful on how you to react to statements about your ex made by your child. You need to separate the “Wheat from the chaff.” This takes some degree of sophistication and practice.

Allow your children to express happiness and excitement about their time with the other parent. They do not want you to feel bad or lonely when they are away.

Do NOT allow your children to relay messages back and forth.

Have age appropriate conversations with your children about their feelings. Don’t let them become your sounding board or therapist. You are their parent, if you need help dealing with Divorce issues seek professional help, a trusted friend, or clergy.

When, you or your, ex re-marry help your child to make the transition to the new family by listening and encouraging them.

Let your child know that you will be okay.

Let your child know that you love them no matter what.

 

Click for a List of More Resources for Divorcing Parents

 

If you need help with Child Custody or Child Support Arrangements, call Lakeshore Law and Mediation Center today!

Our straightforward, fair approach will deliver results quickly and affordably.

Call 616.844.4091 or email us here. 

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The Effects of Infidelity in Divorce Settlements in Michigan

Even though Michigan is a No-Fault Divorce State, infidelity in divorce can affect contested issues with property settlement, spousal support and child custody.

If this story sounds familiar, an expert divorce attorney can help sort out the divorce that could follow.

The effects of Infidelity in Divorce in Michigan“I didn’t think it would ever happen to me,” he says. Tearfully, opening up about the affair he NEVER thought could happen in his marriage. “It started out innocent enough. I don’t even know how it became a full blown affair. But it was all there, the excitement of secret lunches and confessions of love. With the guilt that goes along with it.

She sat there feeling empty, lonely, vulnerable, and suspicious. Something wasn’t right. “Why would he lie about where he was?” she asked. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her husband, she did. But this had to be the end.

 

Michigan is a “No-Fault” State for Divorce

Because Michigan is a “no fault” state for divorce, either spouse may file for divorce if they allege “there has been a breakdown in 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.”

You do not have to prove “fault” in order to be granted a divorce in Michigan.

However, when it comes to Property Settlement, Spousal support and Child Custody, “fault” may be a contested issue. and infidelity in divorce can be considered fault if it can be proven.

 

Infidelity in divorce affects the negotiation phase of the process

Michigan Courts have ruled that if a party can prove fault of the other party in causing the breakdown of the marriage, the court may slightly skew the property settlement 55%-45% in favor of the non-offending party. However, just because an issue is contested, does not mean that it is a trump card that will sway a decision substantially in your favor or against your interests.

These decisions are VERY fact specific. Oftentimes, during negotiations, one parties guilt will cause them to surrender MORE than a court of law would actually order. Other times, because of the emotional charge caused by the infidelity, parties are unable to focus on the issues that must be either agreed upon or litigated.

 

If you have questions or concerns about proceeding with divorce, call Lakeshore Law and Mediation Center PLC for a free phone consultation at 616.844.4091.

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There are many couples who choose not to marry one another when they are expecting the birth of a child. The reasons for that decision are as varied as the people who make that decision. Once the child is born there may be many legal questions about what will happen next.

What about the name of your child?

Did you know that there is a Michigan statute (Law) Public Health Code, Act  368 of 1978 (333.2824) that grants an unmarried mother (she must be unmarried at the time of conception or birth) of a child the right to name the child. The father’s name will not be placed on the certificate of birth without the written consent of the mother AND without the completion, and filing with the state registrar, of an acknowledgment of parentage by the mother and the individual to be named as the father.

If you have questions about the birth of your child or a child that you are expecting, knowing your rights and responsibilities is a good first step in becoming a responsible parent.

Have a legal question?  The professional staff of family law attorneys at the Lakeshore Law and Mediation Center would be happy to assist you.  Contact us today by phone at 616.844.4091 or by email using the contact form below.

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The issue of separate assets in a divorce is an area of Michigan Law that is constantly changing. Lawyers keep their eyes on recent opinions from the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court on a daily basis.

“Separate Property”  is not considered as a part of the marital estate. The court must make a determination about what is separate property and what is “marital” property.  Separate  property will be awarded to the person who it belongs to except for limited statutory exceptions to the rule, namely, need or contribution (there are always exceptions to the rule). The consequences of finding an asset to be separate as opposed to marital can change the bottom line in a divorce settlement immensely.

So, exactly how is “separate property” defined???

Here is a list of questions to ask in making that determination: Read more

Alimony or spousal support is a common issue in Michigan divorce law. It is important that you discuss your unique situation with an experienced family law attorney to analyze your alimony questions.

Michigan courts look at the following factors when it determines whether or not alimony/spousal support is appropriate in your case. Those factors are:

Read more