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Can Your Divorce get your lover in legal trouble too? | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Cheating and the Law – Can Your Divorce get Your Lover in Legal Trouble, Too?

The story of a man ordered to pay his lover’s husband a total of $8.8 million dollars in damages made the headlines on several news sites this week, including CNN and Great Britain’s DailyMail.com.

When Texan Francisco Huizar involved himself in an affair with the wife of businessman Keith King, a North Carolina law provided the foundation for which Mr. King could pursue relief from Mr. Fransisco, who was sued for Alienation of Affection, among other claims. In other words, the lawsuit claimed that the man’s actions had caused the loss of affection between the two spouses, ultimately leading to the failure of the marriage.

Although most of the fines awarded were meant as punishment for the effects of the affair on the husband, $2.2 million dollars was attributed as compensation for tangible damages stemming from lost revenue related to the affair since the wife was also an employee of her husband’s business. And, for the loss of his wife.

Alienation of Affection laws were abolished in most states, including Michigan. North Carolina is one of a handful of states that still allow legal action to be brought against, not only an extra-marital lover, but anyone shown to have interfered with the with the stability of a marriage, including family members, religious leaders, and even counselors or therapists.

The Alienation of Affection law appears to infer that a spouse can be pushed away from a happy marriage by seduction, malicious intent, influence, or attrition and not through the spouse’s own returned affections, inappropriate actions, or self-interests.

To succeed on a claim of Alienation of Affection, there must be proof that a happy, stable marriage existed before the affections of the third party were introduced into the relationship and those affections created the turmoil which led to infidelity and ultimately to the failure of the marital union.

Although North Carolina is not the only state with Alienation of Affection laws still on the books, it does appear to be the most recent place in which this type of lawsuit has been filed. The $8.8 million dollar King vs. Huizar award is the latest of such lawsuits filed, but it is not the only one. Or the most expensive.

In 2011, a North Carolina judge handed down a judgment ordering the wife of a trucking company owner to pay a total of $30 million dollars in damages to her former husband – the largest settlement of its kind in the state’s history and the result of her affair that paved the way for their divorce. In 2000, a jury awarded a high school wrestling coach $1.4 million dollars when his wife reunited with her high school sweetheart 15 years after graduation and their rekindled romance led both lovers to divorce their spouses.

Although Michigan abolished the Alienation of Affection law along with most other states, there are other issues that can lead to penalties and problems for West Michigan couples considering divorce. If you believe divorce has become the only option left, please consult with an experienced West Michigan divorce attorney to avoid expensive pitfalls or legal issues.

Please contact the experienced Grand Rapids attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley? | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley?

No matter how much of a struggle, or how simple, any West Michigan divorce case may be there is a lot of work involved to determine fair and equitable distribution of assets, healthy custody arrangements for the children, and continued support for everyone for the future. However, there is one other participant in the divorce proceedings that is not always immediately considered.

The family pet.

Whether your furry family member is a cat or dog, or even a fish or lizard, there may be discussion over who should continue to care for it and why. It is very easy for this issue to become nearly as challenging as those involving minor children.

These days, the family pet has often been promoted to a position of prominence in the household that borders on, or truly is, family membership. New home builders regularly take pets into consideration when creating floor plans and option lists that are helpful to pet ownership. Neighborhoods and communities are also designed to include pet parks, pet -friendly walking trails, and other features that might draw in potential buyers. Pets are truly a part of many families.

Although more and more courts are also beginning to recognize the family pet as more than just an object, there are still some which may make decisions based on what’s best for the people involved and not the animal.

This is one more important reason to consider a gentler approach to your divorce case. No matter what situation exists between two angry spouses, the children and the family pet are often caught in the whirlwind and need some stability to maintain a healthy life.

Spouses considering divorce have many gentler, less adversarial options today that did not exist 20 years ago such as arbitration, mediation, and Collaborative Divorce.

Collaborative Divorce begins with a commitment from both spouses to NOT go to court. Instead of involving the West Michigan court system, the process begins with assembling a team of Collaboratively-trained professionals from areas such as financial management and mental health.

This team will work together to guide both partners through the decisions regarding asset allocation, custody and visitation, and financial support. By starting in a less adversarial environment, Collaborative Divorce can lead a couple down an easier path, allowing both spouses to make decisions together and ensure their children’s well-being is considered. And their pets too.

With Collaborative Divorce and the other gentler practices offered by Johnsen Wikander, the pet’s care and living arrangements are placed in the hands of the two spouses and not left up to the courts. An agreeable situation, whether it’s joint custody, visitation, or a split living arrangement, can be met through discussion and the pet’s future and security are controlled by the people who care the most – the fur-baby’s parents.

If you are considering divorce in West Michigan, please get professional advice before making a decision that could have negative effects on you, and on your family’s, future. Please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and The Office | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and The Office

The decision to divorce affects every aspect of both spouses lives, including finances, child custody, insurance, and property ownership. However, it can also affect relationships at work whether those relationships are with coworkers or superiors.

Most people do not necessarily wish to make their divorce a part of their work life on top of the stress felt outside of the office. Work may feel like a bit of a sanctuary where the decisions and divisions are hidden by a normal workload. Or, for people who enjoy what they do for a living, their jobs may provide a welcome distraction from the day to day divorce related tasks and trials

People may wish to keep the information regarding their divorce quiet for other reasons. Some people may not agree with the decision to divorce due to political or religious differences, making it harder to share at the office. Others may wish to keep it to themselves because they feel it’s not other people’s business.

However, for spouses who carry the couple’s health insurance, it will become necessary to include the boss, or human resources at the very least. Changes in insurance coverage will mean paperwork that must be handled by the employee spouse’s HR department.

Other issues could bring the news of either spouse’s divorce out into the open, such as questions surrounding either party’s income or financial status. If there is reason to believe that one spouse or the other is being untruthful about their income, an investigation into same (via subpoena or otherwise) could put the impending divorce into the spotlight for coworkers to discover.

At some point, the divorce will very likely become common knowledge – especially in the social media age. It is nearly impossible to prevent news from spreading through Internet channels, so a couple’s split will sooner or later find its way to the office water cooler.

Is it better to keep the news of a divorce quiet at the office, or face it head on? The decision will be different for all people and may be based on the specific circumstances of the divorce.

If you are considering a divorce, please discuss the legal implications of sharing information at work with a professional before putting yourself in a tough situation. Your first step should be to discuss your divorce with an experienced West Michigan attorney such as the team at Johnsen Wikander.

Please contact us today and let us help you through your most difficult time

Divorce and Friendship - Who gets The Smiths? | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and Friendship – Who gets The Smiths?

With any divorce comes the separation and division of assets and financial responsibilities. Items such as a couple’s home, cars, boats, and other tangible items must be fairly distributed between the two parties involved. However, there is another “asset distribution” that almost always takes place during divorce proceedings – friendships.

A couple’s friends seem to favor one partner over the other in many divorce situations, and those friends often take sides during the divorce. There can even be an impact on the married friends if one half of the couple chooses the husband while the other chooses the wife.

When friends choose to remain close to one divorcing spouse but not the other, several other issues can arise. Feelings of betrayal or abandonment can occur when someone believed to be a good friend chooses to maintain a relationship with the other spouse. This can also lead to suspicion if a female friend remains friends with the male spouse of a divorcing couple.

Aside from social discomfort, there can be another byproduct of the friendship split. Since a close friend can also be a confidante, or become one when they offer a sympathetic ear during a difficult situation, issues can arise if personal information is shared.

If a divorcing spouse tells a believable, but untrue, story about their separated partner, relationships can be destroyed. This is enough of a problem when the fact in question involves late nights or lipstick stained shirts, but when the stories are charged with hints of violence or criminal activities, no matter how unbelievable, friendships can be irreparably destroyed.

Exaggerated facts or outright falsehoods can become problematic when friends, and even family, are caught up in the moment and believe something untrue. However, that same information can also affect the outcome of the divorce if the information presents someone as unfit for child custody or creates the impression that either divorcing spouse’s financial situation is being misrepresented.

When divorce is unavoidable, it may be wise to inform close friends together in order to prevent sensationalized accounts of the crumbling relationship or misinformation about the reasons for the divorce. Creating a shared statement can avoid the spreading of false facts and may help maintain relationships after the divorce is final.

If you are considering divorce, please consult with an experienced attorney to review the options available to you before taking any steps forward. Please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attornies at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and the Five Stages of Grief | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and the Five Stages of Grief

The Kubler-Ross model of grief and mourning suggests that people go through five stages during or after a loss or tragedy, such as the death of a loved one. However, the loss of a family member or friend is not the only source of grief strong enough to create the cycle. Other life-altering events can also generate the same response, such as divorce.

It is said that divorce can be as painful as the death of a loved one, and many people go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief during the process. Below are the five stages and the extreme emotions some people can expect to experience during their divorce.

1. Denial – many people will respond to the initial announcement or realization that a spouse wants to be released from the marriage with denial. Denial may be a coping mechanism to help soften the initial impact of an emotional or destructive event and can help to reduce the associated pain. In many cases, divorce proceedings may come as a surprise to one partner, and denial may allow time to accept the truth.

2. Anger – An angry response is almost guaranteed to follow denial. The betrayal associated with an affair can even illicit fury in some cases, but even the realization that a spouse has been considering divorce for some time can bring anger and resentment. Intense emotions may drive one partner to focus on little things that were considered annoyances, turning them into much bigger issues. With any divorce, anger is almost assured.

3. Bargaining – The third stage in the emotional rollercoaster associated with divorce is bargaining, which one partner may see as the opportunity to salvage the relationship. Bargaining may include attempts at counseling, or even one partner begging the other not to go while promising change or acceptance of the another’s own poor behavior. Bargaining can add additional time to the divorce process and may not affect the outcome.

4. Depression – The pain of divorce has been compared to the loss of a beloved family member or friend. In many ways, the dissolution of a marriage is just that, especially if one partner intends to move away or has already developed a relationship with someone else. Divorcing spouses can also see the event as failure, and depression may be accompanied by shame.

5. Acceptance – Once the cycle is complete, divorcing partners will reach acceptance and can begin to move on with their lives. Although other emotions may still exist, such as anger and depression, acceptance will allow work to begin so that divorce proceedings can be completed, and spouses can begin to reclaim their lives. Acceptance may not bring happiness, but it can at least help to reduce divorce-related stress and anger.

Divorce is one of the most emotionally challenging events a person can experience. However, as divorcing spouses pass through the five stages of grief during the process, recognizing the steps can help process the event and return to normalcy sooner. Once acceptance has been reached, there is a better chance at a stable, and even happy, life.

The emotional impact of divorce can be overwhelming. If you are struggling with any of the five stages of grief throughout the process, please consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you work through the cycle. The sooner you can move on, the sooner you can begin to heal.

If you are facing or considering divorce, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss the options and decisions that are right for your situation. In West Michigan, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this 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.

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.

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.

New Year’s Resolutions and Divorce

For many people the New Year brings new hope, providing a fresh outlook and the feeling of renewed opportunity. However, the turn of the year also brings a spike in divorce cases nationwide when holiday events are over, family commitments have been met, and guests have gone back home.

Both spouses may have reached common ground and agreed to divorce after the holidays are over to preserve family traditions and protect their children’s holiday experience. If both spouses are on common ground they may also have agreed to preserve appearances and avoid explaining the situation during family gatherings or parties.

However, a spouse who has been unhappy for some time may use their New Year’s Resolution to commit to a difficult choice and end a rocky marriage. Holiday stress can also become a driving force in the decision to divorce. Family visits, party preparations, and excess spending can increase tension and stress, and push an unsteady relationship over the edge.

One partner’s decision to divorce may blind-side the other partner, leading to angry and emotional confrontations. Even though both partners may know there is something wrong one may not be aware that other has become unhappy enough to leave, especially if any attempt has been made to resolve personal differences and repair the marriage.

With any unexpected confrontation, emotions and anger become factors that can only make matters worse. As difficult as it may be, it is extremely important to keep a level head and approach the situation cautiously and to be as informed as possible, especially when there are minor children involved.

The situation can also create knee-jerk reactions and spontaneous decisions that could create additional challenges, especially if any discussions about finances, custody, or assets take place. As hard as it may be, the best options are to face the issue head-on with rational conversation, or to step back until both partners have time to process the information and can talk through the issue.

An angry response or clouded judgment can make matters substantially worse. A snap decision could create an outcome which is difficult to reverse and has long-lasting effects on one or both partners.

If you are facing a potential separation or divorce, please – don’t make any quick decisions. Contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.

Hard Truths - Divorce and Reality | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Hard Truths – Divorce and Reality

Divorce is hard. I know, I know – “Thank you Captain Obvious.”

Sometimes painful honesty is the best way to make a point. There are endless quotes about marriage, many by people famous for saying truly insightful things. Some of them are hard to beat for their blunt approach to the truth, and for the spotlight they shine on the future.

“One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, my dear, is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive.” Jeannette Walls, Author

Few things are harder to face than divorce, even when a relationship has deteriorated to one filled with misery and pain. Leading up to the process, divorce can feel like a doctor just told you that you’re about to lose a limb. During the proceedings, it can feel like the same doctor is sawing that limb off while you’re awake for the procedure.

“Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with strength.” Unknown

The idea of divorce can be hard to accept, and the process can appear to be so overwhelming that two people will choose to live in misery rather than take on the great unknown that exists on the other side of a failed marriage. Many people believe there is nothing else, that life can never be any better than the struggle they face every day.

“Divorce is never a pleasant experience. You look upon it as a failure. But I learned to be a different person once we broke up. Sometimes you learn more from failure than you do from success.” Michael Crawford, Actor

Two people may choose to hate each other under the same West Michigan roof instead of looking for kindness and love somewhere else. Partners may even choose to turn their head while the other cheats rather than accept that their marriage has collapsed. For some, accepting physical abuse can even seem like a better option than separating.

“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” Jennifer Weiner, Author

No one deserves to live in misery. No one should dread the start of each new day, or the slam of a car door after 5:00 pm. No one should spend their life avoiding their roommate, especially when there are children living in the same house.

“I deserve better, I deserve to be loved wildly, passionately, deeply. I deserve to be accepted and appreciated.” Samantha Matthews, Blogger

Many people believe that every marriage must be saved, but the truth is, not every marriage can be saved. Or should be. Sometimes, people who started out as friends should have stayed that way, instead of crossing the line and becoming romantic partners.

Too many people feel that admitting failure is worse than ending a bad relationship, but most relationships that carry on in sadness and resentment have already failed.

“I used to think that divorce meant failure, but now I see it more as a step along the path of self-realization and growth.” Alana Stewart, Actor

A fresh start is very often a frightening thing, but it can also be the best possible outcome for one or both spouses. Two people might not pull off a marriage, but they may have the potential to salvage a friendship, and a great friendship beats a broken marriage every time.

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings” Lao Tzu

Starting over is difficult. Please contact the experienced Grand Rapids divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us provide you with the advice and guidance you need during this challenging time.