A Gentler Process, A Better Answer | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Collaborative Divorce: A Gentler Process, A Better Answer

In 2014, Michigan became the tenth state to adopt laws that provide couples with a better, gentler path forward when facing divorce. Collaborative Law promotes voluntary negotiation and settlement over traditional litigation and can help divorcing couples to achieve a more private, dignified outcome.

Collaborative Divorce focuses on interest-based negotiation, cooperation, and mutually beneficial solutions instead of courtroom battles over assets and custody. Instead of approaching the case as a fight to be won, both parties agree to retain collaboratively-trained lawyers, financial neutrals, and mental health professionals in order to work toward a mutually beneficial outcome for their entire family.

Collaborative Divorce also makes children a top priority, aiming to preserve a workable relationship between divorcing parents. By creating a more cooperative atmosphere throughout divorce proceedings, the process can create a more suitable foundation for co-parenting while removing animosity, stress, and tension between parents.

Collaborative Divorce does not work in every case. At the start, both parties sign a contract agreeing to participate in a fair, honest, and cooperative process until the mutually acceptable outcome is reached. If the process fails at any point, or if either party refuses to cooperate or withdraws from the agreement, the Collaborative Process stops and both parties must resort to the traditional divorce process instead. The collaboratively-trained professionals must withdraw and cannot be involved in the litigation process.

Couples participating in a Collaborative Divorce can reach settlements while maintaining a healthy, workable relationship that puts their children’s needs first. By communicating throughout the process, couples no longer see each other as adversaries, rather as participants in a joint venture that is no longer viable. There is no need to fight, only the need to complete the Collaborative Divorce process amicably and peacefully.

It is important to understand which divorce option is best for you and your situation. In West Michigan, please ask the specially-trained Collaborative Law professionals at Johnsen Wikander if the Collaborative Divorce process can work for you. If you have questions, please contact our attorneys and let us help you through this difficult time.

Weird Reasons People Have Divorced | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Weird Reasons People Have Divorced

Divorce is painful and destructive to those involved, however, in some cases around the world, the reasons people have filed can either be amusing or frightening. People usually get married for love, yet sometimes they get divorced for very strange reasons.

With all the latest celebrity divorce chatter, such as Russell Crowe’s divorce auction or Amber Heard’s sizeable donation, it seems like a good time to talk about something a little different. Here are some weird, unusual, or simply interesting reasons why people have filed for divorce.

In Italy, a 99-year-old man filed for divorce from his 96-year-old wife after 77 years of marriage when he discovered letters she had written to a lover in the 1940’s. She had kept the short-lived tryst a secret until then, but even after nearly eight decades together the betrayal was more than he could handle.

A Japanese woman filed for divorce because she and her husband had at least one irreconcilable difference. After becoming obsessed with the movie Frozen, she discovered that her husband had seen it once but “didn’t really care for it.” This, to her, was reason enough to end their six-year marriage even though it seems like her best option would have been to – Nah, not going to do it.

In China, a woman began to suspect her husband of cheating when their pet mynah bird began to call out words and phrases like “divorce” and “be patient.” The bird would also become more talkative whenever the phone rang which led the woman to put two and two together and fly the coop, no pun intended. The woman even took the bird to a local attorney and asked if it could be allowed to introduce evidence through its testimony.

Another Saudi woman filed for divorce after discovering her husband had been using a nickname to refer to her when he was outside of the house. When she picked up his cell phone to look for a contact’s number, she discovered the entry for her own number was one single word – Guantanamo. Even though he claimed it was a harmless joke, the nickname was too much for her, and she filed the necessary papers in court.

No matter what the circumstances, divorce can be painful and destructive to those involved and affected. If you are facing the uncertainty of divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.

Collaborative Divorce Revisited | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Collaborative Divorce Revisited

The news of Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa’s impending divorce seems to be everywhere you look these days. Updates are available almost daily while the world awaits the outcome for the President’s oldest son and his wife of 12 years.

No matter what the reason is for the couple’s split, one thing seems certain–they appear to be working together on one important task – co-parenting. Although divorce seems imminent, they have been seen together during several recent breaks and vacations amicably spending time with their 5 children.

Parents who are moving toward divorce have options available which provide a layer of protection for their children during the divorce process, and after proceedings are complete, that did not exist in years past. Collaborative Divorce provides couples with a softer, simpler route to the dissolution of their marriage, helping their marriage to end without fireworks or fighting.

Collaborative practice is an approach to divorce which allows both parties to work together to achieve common, and individual, goals instead of facing each other as adversaries. By engaging in the Collaborative practice, the couple agrees to work with a team of professionals to reach a mutually agreeable settlement without the involvement of the court.

Collaborative Law teams include legal, financial, and mental health professionals specially trained in Collaborative Practice. Both parties agree to full disclosure of all important information and then work together along with the trained team to create a fair settlement.

Collaborative practice can often settle divorce cases more quickly than traditional routes, allowing both parties to move on to more settled lives, creating peaceful, stable environments for their children. When both spouses have worked together to create a mutually acceptable settlement, co-parenting also becomes easier and less impactful on their children.

Collaborative Divorce may not be an option in every case; however, the practice can provide an easier path forward, allowing parents to maintain a working relationship once their marriage has ended. When children are present, their well-being becomes the highest priority, and issues such as custody and support are often agreed upon without stress or resentment.

If you are facing divorce, you may be unaware of the current options available to you and your spouse. Please consult with an experienced attorney to discuss Collaborative Practice and any other options that could bring peace to your family easier than traditional divorce proceedings.

For more information on Collaborative Practice, please contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and Financial Considerations | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and Financial Considerations

Divorce can often boil just below the surface of a marriage for several years before coming to pass, churning until one or both of the spouses can no longer maintain their relationship or avoid the inevitable outcome.

At other times, divorce can be unexpected, leaving one spouse little or no time to prepare for the uncertainty and upheaval that accompanies the end of their marriage. In such cases, a husband or wife who is caught off guard may have little to no time to prepare for the financial issues they may face after their relationship has ended.

No matter how equitably marital assets and debts are divided or how income is distributed through alimony (spousal support) and child support, a newly divorced spouse may find themselves in a difficult situation due to inexperience and lack of knowledge regarding their marital finances. Bills, taxes and insurance all potentially present unfamiliar territory when one spouse has primarily handled those day to day affairs in the past.

Consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to avoid common financial pitfalls and consider these important issues in advance of your meeting:

1. Insurance – It may be necessary to assume your own car, renters, homeowners, or health insurance. Pay a visit to your insurance agent to discuss how to proceed with changes in your coverage.

2. Credit Cards – If your credit card was part of a joint account it may be necessary to apply for a card in your own name. Also, it may be best to remove yourself from a joint credit card if you do not need to use the card for expenses while the divorce is pending. You want to protect yourself from being liable for credit card debt incurred by your spouse while a divorce is pending.

3. Banking – Checking and savings accounts should be set up in your own name as soon as legally allowable. Consult with your attorney on the correct process to remove joint account owners or to set up your own accounts.

4. Financial Management – If you have not played a part in your financial management during your marriage, find a good accountant and advisor who can counsel you on issues such as taxes and investments.

5. Taxes – If your spouse has been primarily responsible for filing and paying your joint taxes, find an accountant who can help navigate important tax issues. It’s better to pay a professional than to risk mistakes and potential penalties.

There are other financial implications to divorce aside from the challenges of alimony (spousal support), child support, and the division of assets. If you’re facing divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

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

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

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.

Arbitration

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.