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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.

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.

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.

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.