5 Tips for Corresponding with Your Ex During Divorce Proceedings

Ending a marriage is one of the most stressful scenarios you will ever face. Even if the divorce is your decision and you anticipate a relatively amicable split, you can expect to face both emotional roadblocks and financial hurdles along the way.

For many couples, one of the biggest challenges is simply interacting with each other over the course of the proceedings. Thankfully, there are a few strategies for handling these interactions in a peaceful way, so they can remain productive.

If you find corresponding with your especially difficult, here are a few tips for going forward:

1. Focus on the Issues at Hand

Oftentimes, maintaining laser focus and only addressing the logistics in question is the best way to keep the conversation from derailing. If your ex tries to steer the discussion in another direction, stand firm and keep guiding it back to the issues at hand.

2. Keep Everything in Writing

Having all communications with your ex in writing could protect you down the road if disputes over asset division or child custody end up arising. Make an active effort to say everything you need to say via email or text message, and then save the conversations in a secure place in case you ever need to refer to them at a later date.

3. Remember That Anger Is a Secondary Emotion

Mental health professionals often say anger is a secondary emotion. That means there’s usually something else fueling it, whether it’s sadness, fear, or betrayal. If your ex has a tendency to get angry during your interactions, consider what’s actually behind their emotion. If you can gain a little understanding, it will keep you from stooping to their level and getting angry, too.

4. Vent to Friends or Loved Ones

When you have an outlet, you’ll be much less inclined to have negative interactions with your ex because you’ll be releasing all those feelings elsewhere. Vent to friends and loved ones if you can. Depending on how powerful your emotions are, it may also be wise to consult a professional who specializes in helping those who are going through a separation or divorce.

5. Enlist Legal Help

If you hire an attorney, you can refer all correspondence from your ex to your legal team. Your divorce lawyer will handle every interaction on your behalf, so you don’t even have to worry about engaging with your ex. For many couples, having their attorneys handle the logistics of their divorce is often the best and easiest way to keep conflicts from arising and to ensure the proceedings stay on track.

Discuss Your Case with a Divorce Attorney in Michigan

If you’re facing divorce, you can count on the strategic team at Smith & Johnson for compassionate counsel every step of the way. We have a track record of successfully representing individuals in all the most complex divorce and custody disputes. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce lawyer in Michigan.

3 FAQs About Failure to Pay Alimony in Michigan

Alimony, or spousal support, refers to a financial arrangement whereby one spouse makes regular payments to the other during and/or after divorce proceedings. The purpose of alimony is to ensure the lower earner can maintain a reasonable standard of living the wake of the separation.

When the arrangement is court-ordered, there are consequences for failing to abide by its terms. Whether you’re the one who is owed spousal support or you’re the one who will be paying it, here’s what you should know about failure to pay:

1. What Should You Do If Alimony Goes Unpaid?

If you’re the one responsible for paying alimony but you’re unable to meet the obligation, it’s advisable to act as soon as possible. Assuming your circumstances changed significantly, you can file a petition to modify the existing order.

If you’re the one who is supposed to receive the support payments but your ex-spouse has fallen behind, you can likely file a motion asking the judge the review the situation. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may order the other party to cover the amount in arrears as well as stay on top of all future payments.

2. How Do Michigan Courts Enforce Alimony Orders?

The court has a few ways to enforce alimony orders after a failure to pay is brought to their attention. Income withholding is one of the most common approaches. This is when the payer’s employer takes the spousal support directly out of his or her paycheck.

The court can also hold those who fail to pay in contempt. Being in contempt carries with it fines, various sanctions, and even jail time.

Finally, there are scenarios in which it’s possible have a Writ of Execution issued. This is an order that allows for the seizure of the party’s property. The property is then sold, and the proceeds are distributed to the recipient. A Writ of Execution can also allow for the seizure of funds from a bank account.

3. Do You Need to Hire an Attorney to Assist with Unpaid Alimony?

While it’s possible to ask the court to modify or enforce a spousal support order on your own, it’s generally advisable to seek legal counsel. This is especially true when time is of the essence, as a seasoned professional can help you avoid unnecessary delays.

Hiring a lawyer will also free you up to focus on more important matters while your alimony case proceeds in good hands. This will relieve a considerable amount of stress, so you can continue rebuilding your new life.

Speak with a Michigan Divorce Attorney

At Smith & Johnson, we’re well-versed in all aspects of divorce. From dividing hundreds of millions of dollars in assets to addressing family-owned businesses, we’re equipped to do it all. We also assist with custody and child support.

Should you be planning on filing for divorce or facing some kind of family law dispute, we can help. Call 231-946-0700 or submit the Contact Form on our website to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce lawyer in Michigan.

4 FAQs About Filing for Divorce in Michigan

 If you’ve decided to end your marriage, it’s wise to consult a family law attorney. Regardless of the specifics of your situation, there’s a lot at stake. As such, enlisting help from a seasoned professional is a sound investment.

A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to help you navigate the proceedings all the while asserting your rights and protecting your best interests. Along the way, they’ll also answer any questions you have about your unique situation.

Chances are you already have a lot of questions about the process in general and your case in particular. While you can only get tailored advice from an attorney, you can learn about Michigan’s divorce proceedings in general below.

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:

1. Does Michigan Have a Residency Requirement to File for Divorce?

Before you can file for divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months. Additionally, you must reside in the county where you intend to file for at least 10 days prior to submitting the paperwork.

2. On What Grounds Can You File for Divorce in Michigan?

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means neither party has to prove wrongdoing on the part of the other in order to dissolve the marriage. Instead, a couple can file on the grounds of irreconcilable differences by stating the marriage is irretrievably broken.

When it comes to dividing property and determining alimony obligations, however, a judge may consider fault before making a ruling. There are more than a dozen factors the court considers when deciding what’s fair, and the underlying reason for the split is one of them.

3. Does Michigan Have a Separation Requirement Before You Can File for Divorce?

Unlike some states, Michigan does not require a couple to live apart for any amount of time before one party files for divorce. As long as the petitioner meets the residency requirements mentioned above, they can commence the proceedings.

4. How Do Michigan Courts Divide Property?

When dividing property, the court takes an equitable distribution approach. This means they ultimately award assets based on what’s deemed fair, rather than equal.

While the judge will try to divide applicable property between the couple as close to 50/50 as possible, there are factors that can affect the outcome and sway it in either party’s favor. Examples include each party’s health, education, earning capacity, age, and financial circumstances.

Call 231-946-0700 to Discuss Your Case with a Michigan Divorce Attorney

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful divorce proceedings can be. That’s why we strive to make ourselves readily available to our clients and to address any questions or concerns as soon as they arise.

If you enlist our help, we’ll assist with every aspect of your divorce, so you can focus on making the most of your fresh start. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce lawyer in Michigan.

When parents cannot agree on a reasonable custody schedule, they must often take their case to court. During the subsequent proceedings, a family law judge will evaluate the situation from all angles in an attempt to determine the best interests of the children involved.

In most cases, the judge will decide the children should maintain some kind of relationship with both parents. As such, most court-ordered arrangements involve some kind of joint dynamic. That doesn’t mean you can’t fight for as much time as possible, however.

Let’s take a look at the kinds of evidence you should be prepared to present so your argument for more time is as compelling as possible:

1. An Outing Log

Record every outing you take your children on in some kind of log, like a digital calendar. You should also make a note of every event you attend, including doctor’s appointments, parent/teacher conferences, recitals, and sports games.

If you have any photographs or video footage of the outings, store them in a safe place alongside the calendar. At the end of the day, the court wants to see that you’re already engaged in your children’s lives and making an active effort to spend as much time with them as possible.

2. Official Documents

There are a number of official documents that may bolster your case, depending on the nature of the dispute. Examples include paystubs, tax returns, tuition statements or daycare invoices, medical records, report cards, and police reports. If you turn to a family law attorney for guidance, they can help you compile all such documents before your court date.

3. Correspondence with Your Ex

Family law judges want to see that parents are willing to cooperate with each other when it comes to raising their children. Regardless of whether your ex has been copacetic, you can demonstrate your willingness to cooperate by presenting text messages, voicemails, and direct messages between you two on the subject of coparenting.

If the situation is especially volatile, your lawyer may advise you to refer all correspondence to them or to at least use an app that limits your conversations to coparenting logistics. Either way, you should eventually amass a detailed log that highlights how you and your ex interact and whether you’re both prioritizing the best interests of the children.

4. Eyewitness Testimony

Sometimes custody cases call for testimony from eyewitnesses. Depending on the disagreements in question, the judge may want to hear from others who saw firsthand what happened. A resourceful legal team should be able to help you find people who are willing to speak on your behalf.

Discuss Your Case with a Child Custody Attorney in Michigan

Are you facing a child custody battle in Michigan? For strategic guidance at every stage of the proceedings, turn to Smith & Johnson

When it comes to family law disputes, we’re determined to advocate for our clients while protecting their best interests, and we always strive to help them secure the best outcomes possible. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a child custody lawyer in Michigan.

5 Qualities to Look for in a Divorce Attorney

Are you planning on hiring an attorney to assist with your divorce? While it’s certainly wise to seek counsel—especially with so much at stake—it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t turn to just anyone. Even those lawyers who claim to be well-versed in family law may not necessarily be equipped to take your particular case.

So, how can you find someone who is? Generally speaking, the best way to start is by doing a bit of research.

Look up firms in your area that handle divorce, and then evaluate their credentials. Once you find an attorney worth considering, it’s wise to schedule a meeting so you can confirm that he or she possesses the following qualities:

1. Relevant Experience

No two divorces are exactly the same. Those that involve the same elements, however, tend to demand similar strategies.

Whatever the specifics of your situation may be, it’s advisable to find a lawyer who is familiar with them. If you and your spouse share children, for example, you should make sure your attorney is well-versed in Michigan’s custody laws. If, on the other, you started a business together, you’ll want guidance from someone who knows how to handle such an intertwined asset.

2. Compassion

Over the course of the proceedings, you’re inevitably going to have good days and bad. It’s important to work with a lawyer who understands as much and will make you feel comfortable on even your worst days.

3. Trial Experience

If some kind of major dispute arises, you and your spouse may end up before a judge. Should this be the case, you’ll want counsel from a seasoned litigator. If you turn to a legal team with trial experience from day one, you won’t have to change attorneys midway through the proceedings should you find yourself in court.

4. Availability

When you have questions about your case, you deserve answers promptly. You also deserve frequent updates on the status of various motions. Moreover, your lawyer should be just as invested in the outcome of your case as you are.

If reviews from past clients indicate that the attorney doesn’t provide the kind of personalized care or attention you deserve, it may be best to look elsewhere for counsel.

5. A Good Reputation

How do past clients talk about the firm you’re considering? What about others in the legal field? In general, you can trust a practice that has made a name for itself among both clients and peers as honest, trustworthy, and tenacious.

In addition to reading reviews, you can learn about a firm’s reputation by scrutinizing any awards they have received and evaluating any professional organizations they have joined.

Discuss Your Case with a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan

Going through a divorce is inherently stressful, and at Smith & Johnson, we don’t believe anyone should do so alone. That’s why we’re proud to advocate for our clients and guide them through every stage of the proceedings. To schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce attorney in Michigan, call 231-946-0700 or fill out our Contact Form.

If you’re facing a custody battle, you shouldn’t turn to just anyone for legal guidance. When family time is at stake, it’s imperative to enlist help from a seasoned professional.

Unfortunately, a lot of firms tout their family law experience, but not everyone is actually equipped to resolve complex custody disputes. As such, it can be challenging to find the right attorney to take your case.

The best way to determine whether you should proceed with someone’s help is by taking advantage of your initial consultation. During this meeting, you’ll get the opportunity to ask questions about your case, as well as the firm in general. Based on the lawyer’s answers, you can then decide whether you want to proceed with their counsel.

So, what kinds of questions should you be asking? Let’s take a look:

1. Have You Resolved Disputes with Elements Similar to My Own?

While every custody case is undeniably unique, there are only a handful of scenarios that can lend to a dispute in the first place. Whether you’re in the early stages of divorce or you have been separated for a while but your ex wants to move out of state, it’s important to find someone who’s familiar with all the nuance of the issues at play.

2. What Do You Think Is the Likeliest Outcome to My Case?

In addition to giving you some idea of what to expect, the answer to this question will let you know if you’ve found a reputable firm. Since legal proceedings are ultimately unpredictable, a family law attorney who practices with integrity will never promise to achieve a specific outcome for a client.

If they have enough experience handling similar cases, they should be able to discuss the trajectory yours will likely take; however, they shouldn’t make any guarantees.

3. How Often Will You Update Me on the Status of My Case?

You should be kept in the know at every turn. As such, it’s wise to ask about the level of communication you can expect to receive from the firm over the course of the proceedings. Will they reach out monthly? Weekly? Or only when there’s a major breakthrough in the case?

4. How Can I Reach You If a Question or Concern Arises?

If you reach out to your lawyer, you should be able to count on getting a prompt response. Therefore, it’s wise to inquire about the firm’s accessibility during your first meeting. You can also read testimonials from past clients to see whether the practice provides the personalized and attentive service you expect from your legal team.

Speak with a Michigan Child Custody Lawyer

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful child custody battles can be. If you’re facing some kind of custody dispute, get the full force of the firm backing your every move. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a child custody attorney in Michigan.

If you’re planning on ending your marriage, it’s only natural to worry about how the divorce will affect your children. While the transition will inevitably prompt a host of emotions—some of them undoubtedly negative—there are ways you can make the process easier on your kids. Let’s explore some of the most effective strategies below:

1. Present a United Front

If at all possible, you and your spouse should tell the children about the divorce together. If you share more than one child, you should also make an effort to tell them all at the same time. This will reinforce the idea that no matter what, you’ll always be a family.

Some parents are inclined to tell their older kids first. They might assume the older ones have realized something is wrong, or they may just want to give them plenty of time to make peace with the fact that their routine will be changing soon.

Experts generally advise against sharing the news in stages, however, since it places a burden on those who learn about the divorce first but must keep it a secret from their siblings.

2. Maintain a Normal Schedule

Kids thrive when they have a predictable routine. Once you and your spouse implement a new living arrangement, try to get the children back to a normal schedule as soon as possible. It’s also wise to keep them in as many of the same activities as you can, like sports, art classes, and after-school programs.

3. Encourage Your Children to Share Their Feelings

Divorce can prompt complicated emotions in everyone, including children. Ask your kids how they’re feeling often, and make sure to validate what they say. That means empathizing with their emptions, rather than brushing them off, albeit well-intentioned, in an attempt to make them feel better.

4. Give Them Age-Appropriate Choices to Make

Watching their parents get divorced can make children feel powerless. To give them back some sense of control and help mitigate chaos in the process, let them make age-appropriate decisions. For example, you can let them take the lead on decorating their new bedrooms or, if you had to move out of the district, on picking which sport they want to play in their new town.

5. Refrain from Saying Negative Comments About Your Spouse

At the end of the day, it’s probably in your children’s best interests to maintain a relationship with their other parent. As such, it’s important that you avoid saying things about your soon-to-be-ex that might alienate the kids.

Even if they ask outright why you’re getting divorced and you ultimately believe your spouse is to blame, you should frame your answer in such a way that he or she is not painted in a negative light.

Speak with a Michigan Family Law Attorney

Have you decided to end your marriage? Are you planning on filing for divorce in Michigan? For help with every aspect of the proceedings, turn to Smith & Johnson.

Since 1965, we have been counseling clients in a broad range of practice areas. To schedule a free initial consultation with a family lawyer in Michigan, call 231-946-0700 or submit our Online Contact Form.

When people who share children separate or divorce, they must devise an arrangement for handling all aspects of childrearing moving forward. Called a custody arrangement, this plan addresses everything from where the kids will live to how major decisions will be made on their behalf.

If you’re planning on seeking custody in Michigan and you’re wondering what the proceedings will entail or how these agreements are reached, read on. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:

1. How Do the Courts Decide Who Gets Custody?

The Michigan Child Custody Act assumes it’s almost always in a child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with both parents. As for determining specific logistics, like where the children will reside and how much time they’ll spend with each parent, judges evaluate 12 primary factors. These include:

  • The existing emotional ties the child has with each parent,
  • The living situation of each parent and their ongoing ability to provide a stable home life,
  • The moral fitness of each parent, and
  • The mental and physical health of each parent.

2. What Is the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

In Michigan, physical custody refers to living with the children. Parents who have shared physical custody each get to reside with the children at least some of the time. If one parent lives with the kids for significantly more than 50 percent of the time, they have what’s called “primary physical custody.”

Some courts are moving away from using the term “primary,” however, in an effort to avoid making the other parent feel marginalized. Instead, many judgements are issued with no mention of a “primary” parent at all, regardless of whether one party has the kids for a much larger portion of time.

Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the right to make major decisions on behalf of the children. Examples include decisions regarding education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Parents often have joint legal custody, though there are scenarios in which only one party is awarded this right.

3. Can You Ever Change a Custody Arrangement?

Generally speaking, the courts do not like to modify orders regarding custody because children need stability. Family judges recognizes that circumstances can change, however, so there are scenarios in which it’s possible to adjust an existing arrangement.

In order to secure a new order, you must present clear and convincing evidence that the modifications you’re proposing are in the best interests of the children. Petitioning for a change can be an uphill battle, but with the right legal strategy, it may be possible to secure a new arrangement.

Discuss Your Case with a Child Custody Attorney in Michigan

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful custody battles can be for all parties involved. If you’re facing some kind of custody dispute, we’ll be proud to advocate for your rights every step of the way. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our child custody lawyers in Michigan, submit the Contact Form on our website or call 231-946-0700.

Improper to Rely on Study Not Part of Evidence…

In this divorce appeal, the trial court modified the parenting time schedule to give the defendant parenting time every other weekend including Sunday overnight, and Monday and Wednesday after school until 7:15 p.m.  The defendant claimed that the trial court erred in relying on a study about the advisability of children waking up in their own beds at the end of the ruling.  At the end of the court’s ruling, the trial court stated:  “I’m also a big believer in the study that kids should wake up in their own bed and that’s why I ruled the way I did on the parenting time.”  However, there was no study introduced as evidence at the hearing, and no witnesses testified regarding the findings of any study.    The Court of Appeals held that  the trial court erred.  A court must make its decision on testimony given in open court, not on extrajudicial information.   Although the plaintiff argued that the trial court made this statement only after making its findings and that the judge’s comments did not indicate that he actually relied on the study, the comments do not bear this out.  The trial court’s comments that it “ruled the way it did” because of its belief in the study indicates that the error was not harmless and that the error did affect the outcome.  By referencing and then relying on a study not introduced into evidnce or part of the record, the trial court committed clear legal error.

You can read the entire opinion here.