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.

5 Qualities to Look for in a Child Custody Attorney

If you’re facing a child custody battle, it’s imperative to find the right attorney to represent you. Few disputes have more at stake, after all, than those regarding parenting time.

While it can be challenging to narrow down the options—unless you live in an undeveloped area, there are undoubtedly dozens of family law firms near you—there are a few qualities you can look for to make the process easier. Read on to learn what to look for in an attorney so you can hire one with confidence:

1. Applicable Experience

Just because an attorney practices family law doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to be familiar with all the nuance of your unique case. Before hiring someone, make sure they’ve counseled clients who were facing disputes similar to your own, so they have relevant experience to draw upon.

2. Compassion

Navigating a custody battle is inherently stressful, and it’s natural to experience a vast range of emotions at every milestone. As such, you’ll want to find someone who understands all that you’re going through and treats you with compassion.

At the end of the day, your attorney should make you feel comfortable enough to open up to them, so they know exactly what you want, need, and deserve. Consequently, they’ll be able to fight for your best interests with confidence.

3. Tenacity

It’s not uncommon for parents to face hurdle after hurdle when fighting for custody; however, attorneys who practice with tenacity don’t let those challenges stop them. They will leave no stone unturned when advocating for clients in the hopes of securing the best possible outcomes given the circumstances. If necessary, they will even take the opposing parties to court.

4. Integrity

Sadly, some firms aren’t above taking advantage of those who are facing the hardest chapter of their lives. You can determine whether the attorney you’re considering practices with integrity by seeing what past clients have to say about the counsel they provide. You should also evaluate their reputation within the legal field and the wider community in general.

5. Availability

You’re inevitably going to have questions and concerns over the course of the proceedings, and when you do, you deserve your lawyer’s attention. Ask how quickly it will take them to get back to you when you reach out.

You should also inquire about regular updates. Weeks or even months can pass without much progression during custody cases. Regardless, you deserve to have regular contact with your legal team, who should keep you in the know at all times.

Speak with a Michigan Child Custody Lawyer

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful family law disputes can be. Those involving custody are especially challenging, which is why we fight tirelessly on behalf of our clients.

If you’re facing a custody dispute, we’ll advocate for your rights aggressively at every stage of the proceedings. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a child custody attorney in Michigan.

3 FAQs About Writing a Last Will & Testament

A last will and testament is the foundation of every comprehensive estate plan. Often referred to as just a “will,” this document includes legally binding terms that dictate how the estate should be settled upon the testator’s death.

Considering your own mortality is never easy, but at the very least, you should draft a will. This will allow you to protect your loved ones in all eventualities. It will also ensure your wishes are honored after you pass.

If you’re unsure how to get started, read on. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:


1. What Can You Include in a Last Will & Testament?

For many people, a last will and testament is the only document they need to ensure their affairs will be in order upon their death. This is why drafting one is the best place to start when it comes to estate planning. In a will, you can:

  • Name an executor,
  • Appoint a guardian for any minor children, and
  • Distribute assets and personal property to beneficiaries.

If you choose to write your own will, it’s wise to run it by an attorney once you’re done to ensure its terms are legally binding. The document is also going to have to meet certain requirements before it’s considered valid. In Michigan, for example, a will must be signed by the testator (or by someone at his or her discretion and in his or her conscious presence) and by two other witnesses.

2. Who Can Write a Will?

In the state of Michigan, anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sufficient mental capacity can—and should—write a will. It’s worth noting that in some states, like Georgia, individuals as young as 14 can draft a will.

Since life is utterly unpredictable, it’s advisable for every adult of sound mind to create a will. If you do take a proactive approach to estate planning, however, it’s important to review your documents periodically and update them as needed. After all, your circumstances will inevitably change over time.

3. How Often Can You Update Your Will?

You can update your will as often as needed. Estate planning attorneys generally advise clients to review and update their documents every four to five years. It’s also wise to evaluate the terms of your will after every major life event or change in circumstances. Examples include getting married, starting a business, having children, receiving an inheritance, acquiring a sizable asset, and getting divorced.

Call 231-946-0700 to Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in Michigan

At Smith & Johnson, you’ll find a seasoned team of estate and trust attorneys who are equipped to help clients prepare for all eventualities. From wealth transfers and business succession planning to guardianship and special needs planning, we do it all. To schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning lawyer in Michigan, call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form.

What to Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Attorney

If you’ve decided to end your marriage, it’s wise to enlist legal help. Even if you anticipate a fairly amicable split, a seasoned attorney will help you navigate the proceedings with ease, all the while advocating for your rights.

It’s important to remember, however, that not all lawyers are equipped to handle divorce cases. Consequently, you shouldn’t turn to just anyone for counsel.

To ensure your case ends up in good hands, it’s imperative to do your due diligence. This generally starts with scheduling an initial consultation and then asking the following questions before the meeting ends:

1. Have You Counseled Many Clients Who Were Facing Circumstances Similar to My Own?

While every marriage is undeniably unique, many share a lot of the same elements, and it’s important to turn to someone who is familiar with those that apply to your situation. If you have children with your spouse, for example, you need guidance from someone who’s well-versed in the child support and custody laws in your state. If, on the other hand, you started a business together, you’ll want to make sure you enlist help from a lawyer who knows how to address sizable assets.

2. Do You Have Litigation Experience?

Ending a marriage is a highly emotional endeavor, and the sad reality is even those who expect a clean break can find themselves in the middle of a contentious legal battle. As such, it’s wise to hire someone who can take your case to trial if settling proves impossible.

By hiring an attorney who has litigation experience, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens, your case will proceed in capable hands.

3. How Accessible Will You Be over the Course of the Proceedings?

You might not be the firm’s only client, but you certainly deserve to feel like you are. At the very least, your lawyer should make you feel as though they care as much about the outcome of your case as you do.

Put another way, you deserve frequent and detailed updates on the status of the proceedings. You also deserve prompt answers to any questions or concerns that arise along the way.

You can gauge a firm’s commitment to customer service by reading reviews from past clients. It’s important to inquire about the lawyer’s availability, as well. During your first meeting, for example, ask how long it will take them to get back to you when you reach out.

4. What Is Your Fee Structure?

Since divorce can get complicated quickly, you should be wary of anyone who promises to take your case for a low flat rate. Should issues arise along the way, they may not be willing to put in the time to resolve them as favorably as possible.

Discuss Your Case with a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful divorce proceedings can be. That’s why we strive to provide personalized, attentive, and strategic counsel to those in the throes of ending their marriage. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce attorney in Michigan.

When Can You Change a Child Custody Arrangement in Michigan?

Since children thrive when they have a predictable routine, the courts rarely like to change custody orders. That doesn’t mean your initial arrangement is permanent, however. There are scenarios in which you can request modifications and, depending on the circumstances, a judge may be willing to grant them.

If you’re hoping to change an existing order, you probably have a lot of questions on the subject. To help you get started, check out the answers below:

1. When Will the Court Modify a Custody Arrangement?

Generally speaking, judges are willing to change custody orders when at least one party can present proper cause or demonstrate a significant change in circumstances. Since every family’s dynamic is unique, there are no universal rules regarding what constitutes either. Some of the most common examples, however, include:

  • One party has started abusing drugs or alcohol,
  • One party has started neglecting or abusing the children, or
  • One party is failing to provide routine care for the children.

2. How Do You Ask the Court to Change a Custody Order?

Even if both parties agree on the modifications, they must submit a formal motion in order to change the arrangement in the eyes of the law. The party filing the motion is called the moving party, while the other is the respondent.

Unless the moving party wants to change an ex parte order, they must submit the Motion Regarding Custody form and pay the associated fee. Upon filing this document, they must ask for a hearing date. Then, they must mail the motion to the respondent at least nine days prior to the hearing, or they must give it to them in person at least seven days in advance.

At the hearing, a judge will review the request and decide whether to modify the arrangement based on the evidence presented.

3. What Do Judges Consider When Deciding Whether to Change Custody Orders?

When considering a custody order, whether it’s a new arrangement or a modification of an existing one, the judge’s primary concern is the best interests of the children involved. In Michigan family courts, there are 12 factors that come into play when determining the children’s best interests. Such factors include:

  • The love, affection, and emotional ties that exist between each party and the children;
  • The capacity and disposition of each party to provide what the children need;
  • The moral fitness of each party;
  • The mental and physical health of each party;
  • The willingness and ability of each party to facilitate the children’s relationship with the other; and
  • Any history of domestic violence on the part of either party.

Speak with a Michigan Family Law Attorney

If you want to modify a custody order in the Great Lake State, turn to Smith & Johnson for help. We have been representing Michigan citizens since 1965.

Our team fights tirelessly on behalf of our clients, and you can be sure we’re equipped to address all aspects of separation and divorce. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a family lawyer in Michigan.

Estate planning allows you to ensure your family and loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone. It’s a complicated process, though, which is why it’s wise to consult an attorney. A lawyer can guide you through every stage to confirm you cover all your bases.

Of course, before they can do so, your attorney will have to know the major players in your life. This includes your spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, any pets you have, and any charities or causes you support.

Your estate planning lawyer will also need to have a clear picture of your financial situation. For example, how much income do you make? How much do you spend on living expenses? Do you have debt? Do any assets need protection against creditors or lawsuits?

If you find the thought of tackling all these logistics overwhelming, don’t worry. By taking a few simple steps to prepare for your initial consultation, you can ensure your attorney has almost everything they need to get your estate plan off the ground. Read on to learn what those steps are:

1. Compile Documents That Support What You’ll Be Telling Your Legal Team

You may already be aware that you should bring a list of all your assets and liabilities to the estate planning meeting, but it is also helpful to bring along a list of dependents and beneficiaries.

You should bring any legal documents in progress, as well, so your attorney can see what has already been accomplished. If there are any insurance policies or debts that need attention, these should be brought up during the meeting, too, so they can be included in the discussion.

2. Consider How You Want Your Property Divided

The first step in preparing your estate plan is deciding how you want your property divided. The best way to do this is by writing down all the people who could be affected by your decisions, along with their needs and wishes.

3. Consider Who Will Care for Your Children

There are a few ways to ensure the ongoing care of your children. One approach is naming a guardian who will be responsible for making decisions on behalf of your children if something happens to you before they reach adulthood.

Some parents choose to appoint multiple guardians, so each one has some authority, but no single person controls everything. It’s wise to write down a list of all potential guardians before your first meeting.

Another option is to set up an irrevocable trust, which allows a trustee (usually someone other than yourself) to manage the assets in the trust until your children turn 18. At that point, the assets pass on directly into the children’s control, without needing any additional action from anyone else.

Call 231-946-0700 to Discuss Your Case with a Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer

In the end, estate planning is an opportunity to make sure your loved ones are taken care of after you’ve passed. Preparing for this process can be difficult and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.

The team at Smith & Johnson can lead the way while making sure you account for all eventualities. We have been representing clients since 1965. Call 231-946-0700 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning attorney in Michigan.

A last will and testament is the foundation of every comprehensive estate plan. Sometimes referred to as just a “will,” this document can address a number of elements that will ultimately influence the probate proceedings.

Put another way, if you’re overwhelmed at the thought of making arrangements and you have no idea where to begin, start with drafting a will. Depending on the contents of your estate and the complexities of your family dynamic, you may eventually need to make additional arrangements. At the very least, however, having a will can relieve loved ones of a considerable burden in the event of your passing.

Let’s take a look at the most important elements you should address in your will, when applicable:

1. The Personal Representative of Your Estate

The personal representative is responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes. Also called the executor, this party guides the estate through the probate proceedings.

Spouses, adult children, and adult siblings commonly take on this role. You can also name a professional, like an estate planning attorney, to serve as your personal representative.

It’s wise to include a backup party, as well, in case the original person you choose is unwilling or unable to handle the duties of executor once the time comes.

2. The Beneficiaries of Your Property

It’s common to use a will to distribute assets to loved ones. Keep in mind, however, that property that passes through a will becomes public record because it must go through probate.

If you want to maintain your family’s privacy when it comes to certain assets, it may be advisable to set up one or more trusts instead of bequeathing those through your will. A knowledgeable attorney will be happy to evaluate your situation and then explain the pros and cons of this approach.

3. The Guardian Who Will Care for Your Minor Children

If you have any children who are under 18 and something happens to both you and their other parent, who will step in and care for them? While this is an eventuality that will hopefully never happen, it’s important to address in your will so you can have total peace of mind. Should you fail to name a guardian and disaster strikes, the court will pick someone, and there’s unfortunately no guarantee that they will choose the same person you would have.

It’s also worth noting that you can name a conservator in your will. This party is responsible for managing the assets you leave to your minor children until they reach adulthood. Generally speaking, the guardian is usually the conservator for the sake of convenience.

Speak with a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney

For help drafting your will with terms that are legally enforceable, turn to Smith & Johnson. We have been helping clients make arrangements that will protect their loved ones in all eventualities since 1965. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Michigan estate planning lawyers, call 231-946-0700 or fill out our Contact Form.

Since life can be unpredictable, it’s wise to take a proactive approach to estate planning. By making arrangements long before you actually need to, you’ll ensure your loved ones are taken care of no matter what happens.

Of course, that’s assuming the arrangements you make are actually legally binding. The best way to guarantee as much is by enlisting help from a seasoned estate planning attorney.

With your family’s financial security at stake, however, you shouldn’t turn to just anyone. Estate planning is a vast practice area, encompassing everything from wills and trusts to special needs planning. To ensure you’ve found the right lawyer, ask the following questions before hiring them:

1. Have You Helped Many Clients Whose Situations Were Similar to My Own?

Do you own a small business? Are you a real estate investor? Do you have loved ones who aren’t related by blood or marriage relying on you for financial support?

Whatever your situation, it’s imperative that you find an attorney who’s familiar with your estate planning needs. You need someone who can propose practical solutions for ensuring all your wishes and contingencies are carried out after your passing.

2. How Long Will It Take You to Get Back to Me?

As you consider the kinds of arrangements you’re going to have to put in place, questions will inevitably arise. When they do, you deserve a prompt answer from your lawyer. That means if you end up having to leave a message, you should be able to count on them getting back to you within a matter of days, not weeks.

While you can ask the attorney about their average response time during your initial consultation, it’s also wise to do a little research of your own. One of the easiest ways to gauge a firm’s commitment to their clients is by reading reviews from past clients.

3. What Is Your Fee Structure?

Since everyone has unique needs when it comes to estate planning, there’s really no standard pricing structure for formalizing the arrangements. As such, it’s important to confirm that the attorney you’re considering hiring is within your budget before you proceed with their counsel.

You should also inquire about the firm’s fees should you ever have to modify your estate plan. Since your circumstances will likely change over the years, your wishes probably will, too. When that time comes, it would be nice to know the practice will honor whatever fee structure you agreed upon from the start.

4. What Do You Need from Me to Get Started on My Estate Plan?

If, at the end of your consultation, you’ve decided to hire the attorney in question, ask for a list of all the documents they’ll need from you to start making your arrangements. The sooner you get everything to them, the sooner they can put your plans in place, and the sooner you’ll have peace of mind knowing your family is protected.

Speak with a Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer

For a knowledgeable estate and trust attorney who’s well-versed in Michigan law, look no further than Smith & Johnson. Our team assists clients with all kinds of probate matters. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Michigan estate planning attorneys, call 231-946-0700 or submit our Online 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.

Lawsuits filed by Timothy Smith of Smith & Johnson, Attorneys PC on behalf of 36 Northern Michigan municipalities will bring in over 26 million to those cities and counties. These local funds will be allocated from a 26 billion dollar national settlement with just four of the numerous defendants named in this litigation. Smith & Johnson, as counsel of record for 36 cities and counties across Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, is proud of the role it has played to secure funds to reimburse municipalities for the monies spent cleaning up the epidemic these companies created and for future prevention and treatment of opioid addiction in our communities.

The Master Settlement Agreement between the municipalities and these 4 defendants requires the monies to be used for a variety of abatement measures approved by the Federal Court in Cleveland, Ohio. This settlement is the first of its kind to administer resources directly to the state and local governments specifically for relief programs to help rebuild the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic.

The settlement will allow for a broad range of approved abatement uses by state and local governments. Developed in consultation with the nation’s leading public health experts, the list of pre-approved uses includes a wide range of intervention, treatment, education, and recovery services so that state and local governments can decide what will best serve their communities. It is anticipated that entire communities will benefit from the effects of the opioid-remediation efforts funded by the settlements and the injunctive relief the settlements provide.

In addition to monies, the groundbreaking opioid settlement also provides long-term injunctive relief for the state of Michigan. The agreements require vital changes to both distributors’ and manufacturers’ conduct to protect the health and welfare of our communities.

The agreement will result in court orders requiring Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen to:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

The agreement will result in court orders requiring Johnson & Johnson to:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

The settlement monies will go a long way towards stemming the current level of opioid abuse and addiction. By changing the way these companies do business, this settlement agreement and injunctive relief will play a role in ensuring that this opioid crisis will never happen again.

The litigation against the remaining defendants in the lawsuit will continue and additional monies from the remaining manufacturers, distributors and retailers are anticipated. For more information, contact Tim Smith of Smith & Johnson Attorneys, P.C. at (231) 946-0700 or tsmith@smith-johnson.com.