How the new Tax Code May Impact Children of Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

How the New Tax Code may Impact Children of Divorce

New tax code changes may have collateral effects on divorcing couples in West Michigan. One potential impact could be more complicated disputes over the relevant deductions for minor children. The new Tax Code not only increases the child tax credit to $2,000, it allows for a $500 for other family dependents.

The new Tax Code has also changed the restrictions on 529 College Savings Plans, allowing these funds to be used on K-12, not just college, expenses. Most divorce agreements may not include specific instructions for the use of these funds, creating a potential post-judgment dispute if one parent wishes to deplete the account for pre-college education expenses.

If both parents agree that the 529 Plan should be used for college only, this agreement should be clearly documented so the funds will be available as expected and not used for other, earlier school expenses.

Too often, parents forget that their actions can have long-term effects on their children. A child’s college savings account is now an issue that might be disputed during a divorce case; the ultimate decision significantly impacting the child.

Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but itis important to keep children out of the process as much as possible. Children of divorcing parents are already going through one of the most difficult experiences in their lives. Parental fighting can lead to behavioral issues that last into the young adult stage, and children of divorce are also more likely to do poorly in school and struggle with anxiety, betrayal, and loss.

For more information on changing tax laws and how they could impact your decisions during a divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce

As most people know the US tax laws are changing in many ways. Those changes will likely have some impact on almost everyone in West Michigan, and in the rest of the United States. However, there are many changes to the Tax Code that most people may be unaware of until changes in their own lives cause them to be exposed to the effects.

Some of the new tax laws will affect couples considering divorce in several ways, such as the changing laws regarding spousal support and tax deductions. However, there are business implications as well. For example, the new laws and related deductions may impact small business owners by potentially affecting their business valuations.

With so much change surrounding the US tax laws, and the implications those changes could have, it is extremely important for anyone considering divorce to discuss the process with an experienced attorney and tax professional immediately. Don’t wait until it’s time to file business and personal taxes next year, ask questions from an experienced West Michigan attorney immediately if you have any major life changes on the horizon.

Divorce is difficult no matter what the circumstances. Many people will be exposed to information from friends and family who have been through the process, and who believe they can provide sound advice. Even if they were able to share information regarding the divorce process or tax implications that was correct in the past, that information will probably not be relevant now.

If you are considering divorce, it is extremely important that you do not wait to discuss the legal and tax implications with an experienced attorney. The decisions you make today could affect your business and personal tax filings in the following year, or possibly for years to come.

We will be featuring a series of articles highlighting the tax changes and what they mean for couples considering divorce, as well as the impact on child support, spousal support, and business valuations. Please stop back for more information on these topics and others that can help you to be better prepared.

It is important that you act now, so please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through this difficult time.

New Divorce Trends - Online Apps | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

New Divorce Trends – Online Apps

There are many new trends in modern divorce that would have seemed far-fetched even ten years ago. Nesting, or bird-nesting as it’s also known, has grown in popularity. It is an arrangement whereby children live in a single home while their parents rotate in and out.

Cohabitation is also on the rise for divorced West Michigan parents. Cohabitation means that two parents continue to live together under one roof even though they have divorced. This practice allows both people to save money while continuing to provide a more stable home environment for their children.

Another current divorce trend is the creation of computer and smartphone applications which help divorced parents manage details such as visitation schedules and shared expenses. Post-divorce parenting apps can help ensure appointments are kept and arguments are avoided.

Some of the available divorce-related apps are listed below.

Our Family Wizard

Our Family Wizard provides divorced parents with a place to maintain records of all of their important information which can be accessed by each parent, their attorneys, and even provided to the court if necessary. The app can be accessed from computers or smartphones and, as stated on their site, “Helps keep Children in the Middle” by eliminating uncertainty and clarifying communication. The app even tracks access by each parent and allows reports to be generated.

Click Here for more information on the Our Family Wizard website.


2Houses is similar to Our Family Wizard and provides divorced parents with a place to communicate, store and share information, and track all of the family resources necessary to effectively share parental responsibilities. The service includes calendars, expenses trackers, and messaging. There is also an information bank which can house important information such as emergency contacts, medical information, and more.

Access the 2Houses website here for more information.

Talking Parents

Providing an alternative communication platform to text and email, Talking Parents maintains an independent, third-party record of all important communication between parents that can be used to avoid or resolve disputes. Talking Parents helps parents maintain a positive co-parenting experience by keeping communication clear and civil.

Follow this link for more information on the Talking Parents website.

Divorce Force

Accessible from computers and smartphones, Divorce Force connects users with other people going through the process of divorce or those dealing with life after the fact. Divorce Force is an online community and support group focusing on education and support, where people can ask questions and share experiences with their identity protected. However, the site and app also feature other family management resources such as shared calendars.

Visit the Divorce Force website for more information

Sesame Street: Divorce

As part of their Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce initiative, The Sesame Street team has created a multimedia resource to help parents communicate the many issues of divorce with their children. Primarily intended for parents with children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old, the Sesame Street Divorce toolkit includes downloadable videos, printable guides, and even songs. The focus of the toolkit is to help kids know they are loved and never alone, and to help parents navigate conversations on the tough topics related to divorce. More information is available on the website and through smartphone apps that provide additional tools and resources for parents and children.

Visit the Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce website here

Divorce Coping Tip of the Day

For a bit of stress relief, there is even an app for your smartphone that will provide a Divorce Coping Tip of the Day. Created by the author of two books on divorce, these tips are full of advice and practical assistance instead of venom and ill-will. Although some references are specific to the United Kingdom, the advice is good for anyone who might benefit from a little like-minded support. And, some comic relief.

Click Here to find the Divorce Coping Tip of the Day app.

The Internet Age has created the ability to provide an application for almost any need, so it should come as no real surprise that apps are also available to help people with the challenges related to divorce.

If you are considering divorce or need more information regarding the process, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Johnsen Wikander is not affiliated with, nor had any influence in the creation of, any of the above-noted resources.

EZ Divorce Websites – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

EZ Divorce Websites – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

An internet search for West Michigan Divorce Attorney or Grand Rapids Divorce will also reveal a number of do-it-yourself websites where couples wishing to end their marriage can prepare and file their own paperwork. If they meet the right criteria, it often appears that they just need to complete a few simple steps and can then go their separate ways.

This may be an attractive option for many couples, especially if money is already tight and there is little to no turmoil surrounding the separation. In some cases, it may even seem as if there is no reason to involve legal counsel at all.

However, as someone wise once said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Quickie divorce websites can make the legal process appear so easy to navigate that divorcing couples just need an automated guide, to check a couple of boxes, and $139.95 to legally end a marriage. However, there are many potential problems waiting for the unprepared, problems which could have expensive and even far-reaching consequences.

Many sites advertising a quickie divorce are built with a “set it and forget it” mentality. Most people would never know if the site’s online forms are kept current, or in line with changing laws. If an important law is revised or new laws are passed and the related forms are not updated, divorcing couples could easily cause delays in their divorce proceedings.

Divorce procedures often differ from one county to another as well. Although quickie divorce websites appear to offer simple solutions, in reality, there are procedures that must be followed often depending on the couple’s county of residence. Mistakes in paperwork can add extra time and expense, or worse, mistakes could come back to haunt one partner or the other in the future.

Unclear or ambiguous language on documentation, particularly the final judgment of divorce, has led to many unanticipated issues with divorce cases that resurface years later.. Unclear language or misused terminology can create costly issues which need professional legal involvement after the divorce is finalized.

There are easier ways to divorce than entering a lengthy, expensive legal battle in court. Many legal teams such as the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander offer uncontested divorce options and Collaborative Divorce solutions for couples who want to separate without a fight. These options can preserve relationships and provide a more emotionally stable home for any children that may be involved. Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through this difficult time.


New Tax Laws May Affect Alimony Settlements | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

New Tax Laws May Affect Alimony Settlements

The end of a marriage is one of the most difficult and stressful events anyone can go through. Many people have compared their divorce to the death of a loved one or the loss of a limb. Divorce is hard but entering into divorce proceedings unprepared will only make matters more difficult.

With the extra layer of uncertainty provided by our current political climate, it is extremely important to consider the effects that changing laws and tax codes may have on the outcome of a divorce. Any legal changes that affect personal finances, and how they are handled during and after a divorce, can be especially impactful.

Currently, proposed tax changes will end a law that has been in place for more than 70 years. Since 1942, alimony payments have been considered a deductible expense on personal tax filings. At the end of 2018, that law will be cut from the books.

The impact of such cuts on West Michigan couples could be far-reaching. Aside from the increase in cost to the payer, alimony may now become an even more hotly contested issue in divorce cases since it is likely to push either side in the case to disagree with the amount requested.

For the payer, the law means they will carry more expense for years to come. For the payee, the law could mean that they get a lower settlement in their divorce case, potentially affecting their quality of life. This major change has the potential to drive divorce rates up for the remainder of 2018.

For couples already struggling to find even ground in a rocky case, contesting an alimony request could add one more layer of turmoil and difficulty to their divorce proceedings. Before taking steps in any direction, spouses considering divorce should educate themselves on the changing laws and the potential effects.

Anyone considering divorce in 2018 should look to an experienced divorce lawyer for assistance and to become educated regarding the outcome of their decisions. Couples could easily end up fighting over a decision that may have been clear before changes to current laws. This could affect their ability to maintain a civil relationship once their divorce is final, which is an especially disruptive outcome for couples with children.

With any divorce, both parties should consider the importance of education and preparation. Please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce lawyers at Johnsen Wikander for help in understanding current and upcoming changes and how they could affect your case.

More than just Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

More than just Divorce

Many West Michigan divorce attorneys advertise other areas of practice as well, including arbitration and mediation. Many people, however, do not understand the difference between these alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and how they can be used during a divorce or family law matter.

At Johnsen Wikander, we provide more services than just traditional divorce litigation, and each option could help you achieve a better, less stressful outcome that does not involve the court system and potential related costs. These options also provide private, and sometimes faster, results.


Mediation is the practice of working with a neutral party to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution to a dispute. The parties meet with the mediator and discuss their issues. The mediator attempts to bring each person to common ground in order to resolve an issue, often minimizing cost and keeping disputes outside of court.

The mediator will meet with each side of a dispute to negotiate their case and reach a settlement or compromise. This can be used to settle spousal support and child custody issues while keeping both parties out of court. Mediation depends on both side’s willingness to achieve an agreement and may not work for everyone.


Like mediation, arbitration involves a neutral third party who makes decisions regarding disputes outside of court. Unlike mediation, an arbitrator hears each side state their position and makes the final decision. Although the arbitrator is a decision-maker, they are making their decision outside of court, in the less formal setting of a conference room or law office.

Albeit more adversarial than mediation, arbitration can still keep a case out of court and reduce costs.

Many cases can be resolved without appearing in court or dragging an issue out for months to reach a settlement. By using an alternative form of dispute resolution, a more acceptable, less expensive, and more private outcome can be achieved. Although this may not be a viable option for all cases, it is always worth discussing.

Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you understand these alternative methods of dispute resolution. Our experienced team of attorneys can help you reach a cost-effective solution to your most difficult issues.


Divorce Doesn’t Have to be Destructive | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce Doesn’t Have to be Destructive

The Cambridge Dictionary website defines Collaboration as – The situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing.

The Business Dictionary website gives a similar description – Cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties (which may or may not have any previous relationship) work jointly towards a common goal.

No matter which way you definite it, the word Collaboration ends with the same simple but powerful message. People working together to achieve a common goal.

Divorce doesn’t have to be a battle, pitting West Michigan spouse against spouse with their children stuck in the center of the fight. There doesn’t have to be a winner or loser, and assets don’t need to be treated like the spoils of war.

There is another way.

Collaborative Divorce is becoming much more common today, providing a way that couples can bring their marriage to a close without the stress, expense, and potentially combative environment that is common with traditional divorce cases.

Instead of hiring divorce attorneys to litigate their case, Collaborative Divorce provides family law attorneys a path forward which keeps the case out of the courts. The result is a more respectful and private outcome that can even preserve family relationships and ensure both parties can effectively co-parent their children once the process is complete.

Instead of placing decisions in the hands of judges and court systems, Collaborative Divorce gives couples the option of working with a team of professionals trained in Collaborative Practice. Spouses who have decided to divorce, using the Collaborative process, work with financial specialists, mental health professionals and family law attorneys to work toward their common goals. This process also makes their children’s security a top priority.

The experienced team at Johnsen Wikander are trained in Collaborative Divorce and welcome the opportunity to handle your divorce case with mutual respect and consideration. Please contact us today to discuss the options available to you during this difficult time– options which focus on the family and the future such as Collaborative Divorce.

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence

Social media and personal messaging apps, such as those associated with Facebook and Twitter, are being used for more personal communication than ever. Facebook friends or Twitter followers are easily found in the list of contacts associated with the user’s account, so many people never bother to add them to any other contact list.

Convenient private messaging apps are also available for phones and computers. Some dedicated communication applications, such as Snapchat, are used to send sensitive information because their short-lived messages disappear from the sender’s account after a predefined time. Each messaging app and social media outlet has its own pros and cons, but all of them share something in common – their content, when discoverable, can be used as evidence in divorce cases.

Social media content can show a wide variety of evidence that may help or hurt a divorce case. Photos can be especially harmful, but text messages and online comments can be equally damaging when they contain proof of a lie or illicit behavior. A cheating spouse (or their friends) may post photos of themselves out to dinner or vacationing with another party, which may present usable evidence to a legal team.

Social media can also be used to prove, or disprove, a person’s state of mind at the time they created a post. Comments that threaten to harm other people, or the poster themselves, can affect important pieces of a divorce case such as child custody decisions. Even if the threats are hollow, they can still be used to show potential intent or instability. Angry messages or threats can even be used to justify a personal protection order.

Many people post their daily activities without thinking. Posting on social media has become so commonplace that people rarely stop to consider the implications of their actions. However, bragging online about a financial windfall or hidden wealth, or claiming to be unemployed while posting pictures of new cars or expensive vacations, could provide information that impacts property settlements or alimony.

For more information or a consultation, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander to discuss your current situation and let us help you through this difficult time.

Divorce Themed Jewelry | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce Themed Jewelry

After wearing a wedding ring for years, many newly divorced partners become all too aware that the ring is now missing from their left hand. In order to fill that void, a new wave of divorce-themed jewelry has begun to appear in its place. Or, in the case of rings, next to its original place.

Available on websites as big as Amazon and through craft outlets like Etsy, divorce rings, necklaces, and other “bling” can take many unique and interesting forms. Although the patterns vary, many feature obvious signs of separation such as a cut or opening down through the item’s center.

Rings and Other Things

Divorce rings, often worn on the middle finger of the left hand, can be simple symbols of survival or more intricate designs that are only meaningful to the wearer. A popular option features a gold band with two small bars broken away from the larger design and creates a powerful message when the ring’s purpose is understood.

Other options, such as necklaces or bracelets, can carry engraved messages of strength, wisdom, or humor. Amazon carries jewelry aimed at divorced partners with messages including “He had it coming” or “I’m not giving up, I’m starting over.”

Many people have used the money gained by selling their wedding or engagement rings to buy jewelry that symbolizes their freedom or that provides a reminder that time can heal. Some have even melted their original wedding sets to create something new, just as they see the divorce process unfolding in their own lives.

Additional Options

Another option has recently gained in popularity. Instead of melting the original rings down to form new pieces, divorced spouses have sold their rings and donated the proceeds to charities for domestic violence or homeless women.

Divorce is difficult enough without a constant reminder of loss in the shape of a ring, or that ring’s absence. If a symbol exists for love, it is no surprise that a symbol would become popular for the loss of that partnership. Whether the symbol takes the shape of a ring, necklace, or bracelet it is the message of strength and hope that it carries, which is ultimately important.

To discuss the challenges of divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Please let us help you find your way through this difficult time.

The Truth About Divorce Rates | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The Truth About Divorce Rates

We have been told for years that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. The entertainment news, friends, and social media spit out facts and figures that are often repeated until they become truth. But, what is the real truth?

We’re all privy to celebrity divorces when every detail is broadcast into our living rooms each night. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, etc; their struggles are discussed over dinner and in break-rooms across the country.

The real truth: divorce rates are falling in West Michigan, and nationwide.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services, Michigan divorce rates have declined overall by more than 25% in the last 15 years. Since the 1980’s, divorce rates have been declining steadily from their most recent peak.

Although the general marriage rate has also fallen since the 1980’s, it has also begun to increase again in recent years. However, today’s couples are waiting longer before tying the knot, and one or both partners standing at the altar may also have already experienced divorced.

There are several possibilities for the drop in divorce rates, but there is little hard evidence. With many couples embracing marriage for the second time, it’s possible that some “trial and error” may be a factor. Couples waiting longer to get married may have also worked out some of the uncertainty other new spouses face when sharing a home for the first time.

Marrying later may also mean that both partners have had time to mature. Compatibility is now a more important factor in partnerships as well, meaning couples are more likely to experience successful, loving partnerships longer, and later, in life.

No matter what the reason, the divorce rate has definitely seen its peak, and has begun its descent back to earthly levels. However, there is still a fairly high percentage of marriages that just don’t work.

If you are struggling to find the truth about divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Let us help you navigate the uncertain path ahead.