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Grandparents Visitation Rights After Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Grandparents Visitation Rights After Divorce

Child custody and visitation can often become points of contention in divorce cases. When divorcing parents fight over money or personal property, children can often become pawns in their parent’s ugly game. In some cases, grandparents are caught between warring parents and end up being denied time with their grandchildren.

A difficult divorce can create challenges for parents who lose custody of their children, forcing them to follow court-ordered visitation schedules and shared custody orders regardless of the convenience or inconvenience. However, what rights do grandparents have when their children cannot agree on custody and deny them time with their grandchildren?

The answer differs from state to state. In Michigan, if a parent prevents a grandparent from seeing their grandchildren, the grandparent may have little to no recourse. If an informal agreement cannot be reached by the parents, Michigan grandparents can seek a court order granting them visitation rights, or grandparenting time, but it can be a tough road.

In order to seek visitation rights, a grandparent may need to clear several hurdles. Visitation denial by a parent may signal to the court that the grandparent is unfit, or a danger to the child, and the courts defer heavily to the rights of parents in making these decisions.

Unless the grandparents can prove that denying them access to the child could cause mental, physical, or psychological harm, a judge may not grant any visitation rights at all. If a fit parent denies a grandparent access, the court will most likely assume that the parent knows what is best for their children, and deny the grandparent’s request for court-ordered time.

In some cases, a judge may determine that spending time with grandparents is in the best interest of the child. There are many criteria on which this decision will likely be made, but in the absence of any history of abuse, neglect, or hostility, it is not always impossible for grandparents to gain visitation rights.

A judge will likely review other factors before making a decision, including moral concerns, the child’s affection for the grandparent, the grandparents physical and mental health, and the child’s personal preference. Ultimately, the child’s best interests will decide the outcome.

If you are a grandparent who has been expressly denied access to your grandchild, you may have rights. In West Michigan, 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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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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.

Proposed Tax Changes - Impact on Divorcing Couples | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Proposed Tax Changes – Impact on Divorcing Couples

Major changes to the U.S. tax code have resurfaced as part of the nightly news during most modern election cycles. However, the new administration appears to be intent on pushing through some form of change, parts or all of which may soon come to pass. For couples who may be considering divorce, some of those changes could have far-reaching effects on one or both spouses.

The IRS has a post on their blog ominously titled “The Tax Consequences of Divorce.” Tax law is challenging enough before throwing divorce into the mix. A fair settlement is important, but divorcing couples need to carefully consider the effects of their actions on the long and short-term financial stability of both parents, and on their children.

The New York Times has a set of charts that help explain the proposed tax plan. Some of the potential changes to the current tax code will affect exemptions available to one or both spouses. The possible reduction in the number of tax brackets may also change the income level with which either partner identifies, creating financial strain where none may have previously existed.

One of the most important issues currently under consideration is tax implications of alimony. Under current tax law, alimony is deductible by the spouse who pays out the alimony payments and included as income to the recipient. Under the proposed changes, the payments would no longer be deductible. If the payer is also reclassified under a higher tax bracket their financial impact may be much more dramatic than expected.

Other tax implications, such as dependency exemptions and child support, may not be under consideration today, but that does not mean they will be completely ignored. Although child support is currently not taxable to the spouse receiving the payments, this should be carefully watched for any changes.

With or without tax code changes, there are many reasons to consult a West Michigan accountant who is familiar with divorce implications on taxes. It is also important to discuss the effects of current tax obligations and potential adjustments with a qualified Grand Rapids divorce attorney, such as Johnsen Wikander, before filing any paperwork.

Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help guide you through the many challenges of divorce.