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.

Nesting - Giving Your Children the House | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Nesting – Giving Your Children the House

While the concept is not new, nesting is still a fairly unusual outcome in West Michigan divorce cases. However, the idea has grown in popularity in recent years as a better way for divorcing parents to provide a more stable environment for their children, and to minimize the disruption and upheaval associated with divorce.

For most children with divorcing parents, the situation creates uncertainty, and sometimes conflict, when those children must travel from house to house. The situation becomes even more disruptive when the children are traveling on a daily, sometimes weekly basis, resulting in them being away from the friends who can often provide an extra layer of support.

Divorce can also lead to behavioral issues in children. Guilt and depression can become a factor for children caught in the middle of the turmoil, especially if the parents are struggling to make financial or custody decisions without anger and conflict. A stable environment can be an important factor in the children’s ability to cope with their parent’s separation.

Nesting allows children to remain in their home while their parents come and go as necessary to exercise their visitation and parenting time. Both parents occupy other living quarters, such as a small apartment or a family or friend’s home, while taking turns living in the shared house with their children. This creates a situation similar to custody arrangements, however, instead of displacing the children every other week (or more) the parents accept the inconvenience and upheaval caused by their marital dissolution.

Nesting allows children of divorcing parents to experience less upheaval, hopefully adding some solid ground to a shaky situation. Instead of becoming uprooted and displaced, children stay in their own rooms and beds and maintain some routine and normalcy in their lives.

While seemingly unconventional, this arrangement allows children of divorce to stay in the same school and to maintain close ties with their friends. The children are also spared from constantly packing their clothes and toys for weekend, or longer, visits with the non-custodial parent. Instead of forcing the children through constant “camping trips”, nesting provides a much more solid foundation for the children of divorcing spouses.

The concept is obviously not for everyone and should not be considered without consulting an experienced divorce attorney. Trust issues, new relationships, and financial plans must be taken into consideration before such an arrangement is contemplated. However, nesting offers divorcing parents a way to ensure that their children will be impacted far less by the decision to divorce.

Divorce decisions and arrangements should never be made without first consulting an experienced divorce attorney. In Grand Rapids, please contact Johnsen Wikander today for information or advice.


Holiday Stress and Divorce Remorse | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Holiday Stress and Divorce Remorse

For someone going through separation or divorce the holiday season may seem more like a challenge to be overcome than an opportunity to celebrate family bonds and friendship. Social events like Thanksgiving may be accompanied by feelings of sadness or loneliness for someone who is newly single, especially for a parent facing their first holiday without their children.

Even West Michigan family gatherings can seem like overwhelming situations involving endless explanations and unwanted attention. Parents may hover over their newly divorced child, smothering them when they need room to breathe and adjust. Friends and relatives may push their “help” by offering unwanted or inappropriate advice, or worse, they may dig for information they can use to spread rumors and gossip.

Holiday parties can also be difficult for newly divorced people. Friends may be loyal to one person or the other, potentially leaving a void where one is unexpected. Parties can present another challenge when both newly divorced people are invited. Well-meaning friends may intentionally invite them both to try to patch up a failed relationship, creating more stress or increased tension.

Holidays in Grand Rapids will be hard on the children of divorced parents as well, whether they spend the day with only one parent, or split the day between both. Children spending the day with only one parent may wish to be with the other, or, if they are younger, they may not understand why only one parent is present on such a special day. If they are shuttled between two households, they may feel overwhelmed by the situation or by an overabundance of attention from concerned adults.

For newly divorced partners, and especially parents, it is important to think ahead to the coming holiday season and prepare for the changes to routines, events, and travels that you may encounter. It is also important to avoid situations which fuel loneliness and anger, and which can create discomfort or stress.

When children are involved, planning events, such as visitation days ahead of time, will reduce stress and tension between parents. Children are especially affected by divorce during the holiday season since family traditions may be replaced by new routines and potentially twice as much activity. A special day can quickly be reduced to a series of transitions and extra travel.

Divorce creates a new normal for everyone involved, which will improve with time. However, it is also important to fill that time with positive actions and events. Choosing to participate in volunteer opportunities can provide distraction, as well as feelings of accomplishment and charity. Changing routines can also eliminate stress by removing expectations.

Surviving the holidays may not be easy for some time after divorce, however, things will improve with time. For more information, please contact the Grand Rapids divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today.

The Effects of Parental Conflict on Children | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The Effects of Parental Conflict on Children

During a divorce, parents can become increasingly angry and far more stressed than they were before reaching the decision to separate. Asset distribution, custody issues, parenting time plans, and many other difficult decisions can create tension in the home or any place that divorcing parents are brought together. Any fighting that may occur can leave a lasting impression on the children involved.

Children of divorced parents are affected by fighting both at the time of the argument and years into the future. According to WebMD, children’s emotional development is likely to be affected by heated conflict between their parents. A child’s emotional security is especially affected, often creating depression and anxiety when parental conflicts are unresolved.

Modern studies have shown that divorce can be a relief for children caught between fighting parents because they no longer live in the middle of the constant conflict. According to adolescent psychologist Nancy Cahir, “conflict between parents can be just as damaging as physical abuse.” Parental conflict can also lead to trust issues and difficulties with attachment.

Fighting parents can cause an unexpected issue for their children. A child’s sleep pattern can be negatively affected by parental conflict, causing the loss of 30 minutes or more of sleep per night. If this loss occurs in the middle of regular sleep patterns it can be even more disruptive, leading to irritability and other behavioral issues. Parental conflict can even lead to physical illness in extreme cases.

Studies by psychology professor Patrick Davies have shown that children exposed to fighting between parents do not get used to the conflict over time. Instead, they become more sensitive to it. Parents who stay together for their children’s sake are more likely to have a negative effect on them. Children exposed to conflict very often expressed the wish that their parents had divorced sooner.

Children’s emotional and behavioral stability and growth is negatively affected by their parent’s hostility, however, unresolved conflict is much worse. Although parents should do their best to avoid exposing their children to conflict, they can reduce potential impact by allowing their children to see the issue end with compromise or resolution.

Please contact leading Grand Rapids divorce attorneys Johnsen Wikander to discuss available solutions before your children are affected.

Choosing Sides: The Impact of Divorce on Friendships

West Michigan residents tend to be very social, developing strong relationships with people in and out of work, organizational, or religious environments. As social beings, almost all people want to feel like they are part of a group, and friendships provide the natural support system that goes with being an accepted part of a larger whole.

Divorce proceedings can create stress for the people on the outside of the relationship as well as the divorcing spouses. The process often pulls friends and acquaintances into the middle, forcing people who had allegiances with both partners into the uncomfortable position of choosing who they will continue to socialize with when divorce proceedings are complete.

People who choose to remain friends with adversarial divorcing spouses may find it difficult to maintain an allegiance with both. These people may find themselves caught in one partner’s struggle for information about the other, or victims of one’s jealousy regarding the other’s relationship.

Psychology Today reports that married couples rarely stay friends with either divorced partner, and divorced singles rarely remained friends with a strong couple. The married relationship often reminds the divorced individual of what they had lost and creates feelings of remorse or depression.

For couples, remaining friends with a divorced partner is often identified as the source of their own marital strife. New lives, new situations, and new opportunities can be attractive to one or both spouses who are having doubts about their own situation, and they may decide to abandon their friendship as a defensive measure.

Divorcing couples need to remember that people are not an asset to be divided, like furniture or capital. Friends of both partners may naturally choose to remain as part of one spouse’s life or another, but putting them in the middle or demanding they pick a side will almost certainly drive them away.

Friends are natural support systems and few situations create more stress or challenges than divorce. In times of need, we all want a shoulder to cry on or strong back to help us move forward. However, it is important to let other people find their own way through your divorce and come out wherever they feel safest.

That may mean they follow the other partner, keep their distance, or decide to simply disappear. In any case it’s best to let them stand where they are the most comfortable, even if it means the loss of a best friend.

Divorce is difficult, but an experienced divorce attorney can help. Please contact us at Johnsen Wikander in Grand Rapids with your questions and allow us to be your support system during your time of need.

Cohabitation After Divorce: A Growing Trend

In most modern marriages both spouses work to support their family and to move toward common goals such as children’s college expenses, a larger house or retirement. During marriage, most costs associated with housing, cars, and other resources are shared between husband and wife.

Aside from the emotional impact, divorce, whether it takes place in West Michigan or anywhere else, can create another layer of hardship when both partners suddenly find themselves house or apartment hunting, or in need of another car. The resulting financial challenges can add to the stress of an already difficult situation.

These days, many couples are choosing to live together after divorcing for several reasons. Children have the largest effect on strategic and financial decisions during, and after, a divorce. Staying close together, or even under the same roof, to provide parental continuity has led many couples to simply sleep in separate bedrooms in their existing home once divorce proceedings are finalized.

Real estate also plays a major role in the decisions made after separation. When a house or property has been purchased as an investment, or real estate has dramatically decreased in value, it may make more sense to live under the same roof until the market bounces back or a project home is completed.

Another reason couples will live together is to prevent upheaval. A single parent may not be able carry the costs associated with the current family home. However, if both parents continue to shoulder the mortgage, utilities, and taxes together they can ensure their children stay in the same home and the same school with their established friends and teachers.

In many cases, custody or visitation arrangements mean the children are packed up and shipped between their parent’s separate houses. This can result in two sets of belongings, and even friends. When spouses choose to stay under the same roof, the effects of the divorce on the children may again be reduced by eliminating the need for children to shuffle back and forth.

This situation can also impact fighting over custody and over who gets to see the children on which night or weekend. When the children of divorced couples stay put and both parents come to them, the situation’s impact is less severe.

Cohabitation after divorce is by no means an easy solution. Aside from the agreements put in place by the spouses and their respective divorce lawyers, rules and boundaries must be set. This is not a simple roommate situation, especially when old emotions resurface or one former partner begins dating.

Like any other situation, cohabitation after divorce has pros and cons. It may not be possible for everyone, but it could provide an easier solution to financially challenged partners and may allow parents to spend more time with their children.

Cohabitation may not be for everyone, but there are plenty of success stories about parents who have amicably divorced and made cohabitation work. The children of divorced parents appear to reap the most benefits, but it could provide a better financial and structural solution for the parents as well.

Options aside from litigation include mediation and Collaborative divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can help you find the best path forward, so please contact Johnsen Wikander for a free consultation today.

Joint Custody Bill Debate Hits Grand Rapids | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Joint Custody Bill Debate Hits Grand Rapids

Child custody matters are incredibly sensitive during a divorce. As divorce attorneys, we know there can enormous benefits to parents reaching agreement through Collaborative Divorce, but sometimes litigation is necessary. A judge’s custody determining is often challenged later on as life situations change and parents’ views on their children’s best interests vary.

Proposed Michigan legislation, however, would change the system and create a presumptive 50/50 child custody split. House Bill 4691, the Michigan Shared Parenting Act, passed a House Panel earlier this summer and lawmakers are now trying to send it to the house floor. Recently, a town hall was held in Grand Rapids to invite community discussion on the bill. Read more

Controversial Mandatory Joint Custody Law Passes House Panel | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Controversial Mandatory Joint Custody Law Passes House Panel

Potential new legislation, aiming to drastically change Michigan child custody laws, recently passed the Michigan House Judiciary Committee. We recently shared introductory information on the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jim Runestad, R- White Lake. Now that it has passed the Judiciary Committee, the bill still must make it through the full State House, Senate, and be signed by Governor Snyder to become law.

Read more

Tips to Help Your Kids Cope With a Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Tips to Help Your Kids Cope With a Divorce

Experienced divorce attorneys know the process can be one of the most challenging life experiences. Along with emotional distress, divorce can drain your time, money, and energy. The process can become significantly more complex when children are involved.

Read more

Potential Custody Changes Coming to Michigan | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Potential Custody Changes Coming to Michigan

Typically, one of the most sensitive issues during a divorce involves children, both custody and support. We believe in helping all parents with forward-looking guidance to achieve what is best for the long-term wellbeing of children, even in the most complex of cases. Read more