Thursday, October 17, 2013

Divorce information in Michigan - a brief overview of family law issues

What follows is a brief overview of issues in Family Law. For more information, contact me, or view my website, 

Divorce - Time Lines
The time you are waiting for your divorce to be final depends on several things. If you are married with minor children, the waiting time is at a minimum six months, as set by the state statute governing divorce. If you are married without minor children the waiting time can be less. This all depends on whether, as the deadline approaches, there are still issues to be settled between the spouses, such as property division, or spousal support.

Spousal Support
Spousal support (formerly called alimony) is not an automatic "given" in any marriage. The court decides whether to award spousal support, and for how long, depending on several factors. The factors include, but are not limited to: the ages of the parties, the abilities of the parties to work, the length of the marriage, and so on. It's also not a "given" that the man would pay spousal support to the woman, it could be reversed, depending on the situations of the parties.

Child Custody
It's possible that a couple can reach an agreement about child custody before they begin the divorce process. If that's the case, it makes things easier on all parties, and the children as well. But if the parties can't agree on custody, it will be decided by the court. The court takes into consideration the best interests of the child, and may decide that a joint custody arrangement is preferred to one where one party has "sole custody."

Child Support
All children have the right to a parent's financial support until the child is 18 or graduates high school. The amount of support a parent will pay is based on applying the Child Support Guidelines, with the amount of parenting time a parent has as a factor. Joint custody of children will not erase a parent's support obligation. Many factors go into calculating what child support obligations are.

Property settlement is the area of divorce that divides all assets accumulated during or by reason of a marriage. Even if property is titled in one party's name, it may be considered as marital property. If a valid prenuptial (or antenuptial agreement) was entered, that will also be considered by the court.

It is presumed that it is in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents that continues during and beyond the divorce process. The court will arrange for visitation that supports a relationship with both parents - whether custodial or non-custodial. Often, parents can agree on a schedule for visitation, but if not, the court will arrange one for the parents. If one party seeks to restrict or limit the other party's visitation, the court will only order this based on clear and convincing evidence that visitation would be a danger to the child's physical, mental, or emotional health. This is because a child has an inherent right to love and affection from both parents, and neither parent should attempt to estrange children from the other parent. It's best not to involve the child in disputes between the parents that often occur during the divorce process.

Friend of the Court
Friend of the Court may be involved in your divorce, custody, or child support case. Friend of the Court is an arm of the court, and it issues recommendations on child support, custody, and visitation. It is also involved in enforcement of child support orders.

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