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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.

The British Monarchy, Marriage, and Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The British Monarchy, Marriage, and Divorce

There is a general fascination with the British Royals and their lives, loves, and even deaths. Most people have dreamed about what it must be like to never want for money, or to be treated like a King or Queen. However, money and power cannot buy happiness, and several members of the royal family have been the subject of high-profile news stories for that very reason.

The most famous, of course, is arguably Princess Diana’s split from Prince Charles. Her marriage was the stuff of dreams for many people around the world, and her divorce created more subject matter for the tabloids than even the ever-enduring Bat Boy could hope for. However, many people do not realize that Diana’s divorce was not the first for the Royals. It was just the most well-known at the time.

Before Diana and Charles, the biggest stir in the House of Windsor came about in 1936, when the future King Edward the VIII fell in love with Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman from Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1936, the Church of England and British Monarchy forbade marriage when the divorced person’s spouse was still living. Wallis Simpson had two husbands who were alive and well, making marriage impossible for Edward. However, Edward was so smitten that he abdicated the throne, giving up his right to the rule in order to marry the woman he loved.

It turned out that her entire reason for chasing Edward in the first place was to land herself in the big chair and become the next Queen of England, so Edward’s decision did nothing to stoke the fires of her love. She did, however, follow through with the marriage in fear that pulling out at the last minute would make her the most hated woman in England. She remained Edward’s wife until he died in 1972. Simpson herself lived to 89 while living in seclusion in Paris.

Because Edward’s brother, George the VI, was made King in his place, the shift placed Elizabeth squarely in line to occupy the throne, and to look rather stately in a tiara. Because of the royal views regarding divorce at that time, the destiny of the entire royal family changed forever.

There were a few other marital upsets before Princess Diana and Prince Charles separated in 1992, but none quite so newsworthy. Because divorce was traditionally such a difficult subject for the British monarchy, most of the breakups took place well out of the spotlight. Or, as far out of the spotlight as possible, anyway.

Times have changed and we are flooded daily with news about Prince Harry’s upcoming marriage to American actress Meghan Markle, who is herself divorced. Markle untied the knot after a short marriage to actor and producer Trevor Howard. Due to the Church of England’s and Royal Family’s softened stance on divorce, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appear to have a real chance at happiness.

After centuries of unbending rules and traditions, even the House of Windsor and the Queen of England herself have acknowledged that love is imperfect and relationships may not last. The public view on divorce has made it into a non-issue as well instead of creating the stigma it once did. Today’s views allow people who can no longer find common ground to be released from unhappy situations without ending up on the front page.

Although we hope for all marriages to last, it is unrealistic to believe every single one will be a fairytale romance.

If you find yourself facing divorce or considering the process, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys 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.

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.