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 Considerations to Keep in Mind When Writing a Last Will

 Thinking about your own mortality isn’t easy, but doing so is a must if you want to protect your loved ones in all eventualities. By taking a proactive approach to estate planning, you can ensure your family will be taken care of long after you’re gone.

If you’re unsure how to start, drafting a last will and testament is usually the best route. The foundation of every comprehensive estate plan, a last will can address almost all the essentials.

When you’re ready to proceed, here are a few considerations to keep in mind. In answering these questions, you’ll be able to ensure the document is as thorough as possible:

1. Who Will Oversee the Probate Process?

In your will, you can name an executor. This party will be responsible for guiding your estate through the probate proceedings. It’s typically a spouse, sibling, or adult child; however, you can also name a professional, like an attorney, to step in and take on the role.

2. Who Will Care for Any Minor Children?

If you have any children and something were to happen to both you and their other parent before they turned 18, who would care for them? In your will, make sure to name a guardian, so your children are cared for according to your wishes no matter what happens.

3. How Will Your Personal Property Be Distributed?

If your estate is fairly simple, you can distribute all applicable assets in your will. While there are other ways to bequeath property, many people find including it in their will is the easiest way to do so. Should you have concerns about any specific assets, however, talk to an estate planning attorney about how best to proceed before adding them to your will.

4. Who Will Care for Any Pets?

If you have any pets and something were to happen to you while they were still alive, the caregiver named in your will can step in and take them. On a side note, while you cannot leave assets to animals, it may be wise to leave something to their caregiver, so he or she has the funds to continue giving them a comfortable life.

5. How Will Your Family Proceed If Any Terms Cannot Be Met?

Sometimes, the terms of a will cannot be followed. For example, the person whom you name as executor may be unwilling or unable to step up and serve in the role. As such, it’s wise to include contingencies.

Include alternative arrangements for all the most important terms. This will keep the court from having to get involved and make decisions on your behalf after you’re gone should issues arise.

Speak with a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney

At Smith & Johnson, we’re proud to help clients protect their families by making comprehensive arrangements for their estate. If you’re ready to get started—or you need to modify existing arrangements—we can help. Call 231-946-0700 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning 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.

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.

Don’t Fall for These Common Myths About Last Wills

Taking a proactive approach to estate planning by getting your affairs in order while you’re still of sound mind is one of the kindest things you can do for your loved ones. This is assuming, however, that the terms of your last will and testament are actually legally binding.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about last wills, and falling for any one of them could prove disastrous when it comes time to settle your estate. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths, so you don’t inadvertently complicate things when you’re ultimately trying to simplify them:

1. You Should Include Wishes Regarding Your Final Arrangements

If you want to ensure your family abides by your wishes regarding your funeral and burial or cremation, it’s reasonable to assume that you should add them to your will. This is especially true if your wishes are somewhat eccentric or unexpected. Perhaps you want them to play a certain song at the service, for example, that’s not often associated with funerals.

Unfortunately, your will must go through probate, which is a lengthy process that won’t be completed until long after your funeral. Instead, it’s wise to leave a separate letter of instruction in which you relay your preferences, if you have any. While not a legally binding document, this letter can be given to someone trustworthy whom you know will see to it that your wishes are followed when planning the funeral.

2. You Should Include Any Businesses in Your Will

You might assume your will is only comprehensive if it addresses all your assets, including any companies you own. When it comes to business succession planning, though, it’s best to make alternative arrangements.

While you can bequeath business interests in a will, doing so could hinder operations (or even stall them entirely), since the plans won’t go into effect until probate is complete. Assuming you want the business to remain operational, it’s better to create a separate plan that allows for a seamless transition upon your death.

3. You Can Only Modify Your Will in Certain Scenarios

You can modify your will as often as you like. As long as you go about doing so in the correct way and the new terms are legally binding, there’s nothing stopping you from updating the document whenever you want.

In fact, it’s wise to review your estate planning arrangements often. Since your circumstances will inevitably change over time, your wishes may, too. And depending on the circumstances, dying with an outdated will could cause more problems than dying without any will at all.

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

For help writing or updating your last will, turn to Smith & Johnson. Our team is well-versed in virtually all aspects of estate planning, and we’re equipped to assist clients with everything from guardianship to business succession planning. Call 231-946-0700 or fill out the Contact Form on our website to schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning 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.

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.