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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 – Can you Change Your Mind?

Many West Michigan couples approach divorce believing that once the process has been started it cannot be stopped. However, it is possible to stop divorce proceedings if one or both partners are having second thoughts.

If there is any possibility of saving the marriage, or if both partners wish to try and resolve the issues that pushed them to file for divorce, then it is wise to discuss the steps necessary to stop the process with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible.

In many situations, one partner does not want to go through with the divorce or feels that they are making a mistake. Many people enter into divorce proceedings feeling as if they may not have exhausted all other options, and they still want to fight for their marriage.

There are situations that can cause irreparable harm to a relationship, such as cheating or abuse, but very often divorce is not the only answer. If the relationship has not become so toxic that a reasonable conversation is impossible, then it may be wise to stop the divorce process, even if it’s only a temporary situation.

Many people don’t consider that marriage takes work, and that a little extra effort can rebuild a relationship that one or both partners felt was beyond repair. By entertaining options such as marriage counseling, therapy, time alone, or even just rational, heartfelt conversations between the two partners, a relationship thought to be beyond repair may be salvaged.

If you are having second thoughts about your divorce proceedings, or if you want to know what your options are before making a life-altering decision, please contact the attorneys at Johnsen Wikander for a consultation today.

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.

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.

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Be Careful on Social Media

In my last blog, the three of us take turns; I talked about how it is possible to learn a lot about opposing parties in divorce cases by using social media. It is a dilemma for us and our clients as to how much time and effort (i.e. attorney fees) to use in cases researching social media. We try to have a discussion with our clients regarding the pros and cons of investing time in that issue. The flip side of that question is what social media content says about our clients. Read more

Social Media and Other Information Sources

In a recent article in The Lawyer’s Weekly, a magazine for attorneys, talked about the terms of social media and other means to collect information. The article was not focused only on family law, but since our firm specializes in family law it is the area that our firm spent its’ time to discussing. Read more

Are Court Decisions Final?

As a general principle, when cases are settled and judgments are entered, they are final, except for some fairly limited rights of appeal. Most people are of the opinion that if you do not like what a judge does you simply can appeal their decision. Usually, you have to do more than just show that the judge may be wrong. Often, the Court of Appeals will only reverse the trial judge if there was an “abuse of discretion.”  The courts are even more reluctant to set aside a settlement. Read more