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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 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

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.

Divorce Themed Jewelry

After wearing a wedding ring for years, many newly divorced partners become all too aware that the ring is now missing from their left hand. In order to fill that void, a new wave of divorce-themed jewelry has begun to appear in its place. Or, in the case of rings, next to its original place.

Available on websites as big as Amazon and through craft outlets like Etsy, divorce rings, necklaces, and other “bling” can take many unique and interesting forms. Although the patterns vary, many feature obvious signs of separation such as a cut or opening down through the item’s center.

Rings and Other Things

Divorce rings, often worn on the middle finger of the left hand, can be simple symbols of survival or more intricate designs that are only meaningful to the wearer. A popular option features a gold band with two small bars broken away from the larger design and creates a powerful message when the ring’s purpose is understood.

Other options, such as necklaces or bracelets, can carry engraved messages of strength, wisdom, or humor. Amazon carries jewelry aimed at divorced partners with messages including “He had it coming” or “I’m not giving up, I’m starting over.”

Many people have used the money gained by selling their wedding or engagement rings to buy jewelry that symbolizes their freedom or that provides a reminder that time can heal. Some have even melted their original wedding sets to create something new, just as they see the divorce process unfolding in their own lives.

Additional Options

Another option has recently gained in popularity. Instead of melting the original rings down to form new pieces, divorced spouses have sold their rings and donated the proceeds to charities for domestic violence or homeless women.

Divorce is difficult enough without a constant reminder of loss in the shape of a ring, or that ring’s absence. If a symbol exists for love, it is no surprise that a symbol would become popular for the loss of that partnership. Whether the symbol takes the shape of a ring, necklace, or bracelet it is the message of strength and hope that it carries, which is ultimately important.

To discuss the challenges of divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Please let us help you find your way through this difficult time.

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.

 

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

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.

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.

Holiday Stress and Divorce Remorse

For someone going through separation or divorce the holiday season may seem more like a challenge to be overcome than an opportunity to celebrate family bonds and friendship. Social events like Thanksgiving may be accompanied by feelings of sadness or loneliness for someone who is newly single, especially for a parent facing their first holiday without their children.

Even West Michigan family gatherings can seem like overwhelming situations involving endless explanations and unwanted attention. Parents may hover over their newly divorced child, smothering them when they need room to breathe and adjust. Friends and relatives may push their “help” by offering unwanted or inappropriate advice, or worse, they may dig for information they can use to spread rumors and gossip.

Holiday parties can also be difficult for newly divorced people. Friends may be loyal to one person or the other, potentially leaving a void where one is unexpected. Parties can present another challenge when both newly divorced people are invited. Well-meaning friends may intentionally invite them both to try to patch up a failed relationship, creating more stress or increased tension.

Holidays in Grand Rapids will be hard on the children of divorced parents as well, whether they spend the day with only one parent, or split the day between both. Children spending the day with only one parent may wish to be with the other, or, if they are younger, they may not understand why only one parent is present on such a special day. If they are shuttled between two households, they may feel overwhelmed by the situation or by an overabundance of attention from concerned adults.

For newly divorced partners, and especially parents, it is important to think ahead to the coming holiday season and prepare for the changes to routines, events, and travels that you may encounter. It is also important to avoid situations which fuel loneliness and anger, and which can create discomfort or stress.

When children are involved, planning events, such as visitation days ahead of time, will reduce stress and tension between parents. Children are especially affected by divorce during the holiday season since family traditions may be replaced by new routines and potentially twice as much activity. A special day can quickly be reduced to a series of transitions and extra travel.

Divorce creates a new normal for everyone involved, which will improve with time. However, it is also important to fill that time with positive actions and events. Choosing to participate in volunteer opportunities can provide distraction, as well as feelings of accomplishment and charity. Changing routines can also eliminate stress by removing expectations.

Surviving the holidays may not be easy for some time after divorce, however, things will improve with time. For more information, please contact the Grand Rapids divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today.

The Effects of Parental Conflict on Children

During a divorce, parents can become increasingly angry and far more stressed than they were before reaching the decision to separate. Asset distribution, custody issues, parenting time plans, and many other difficult decisions can create tension in the home or any place that divorcing parents are brought together. Any fighting that may occur can leave a lasting impression on the children involved.

Children of divorced parents are affected by fighting both at the time of the argument and years into the future. According to WebMD, children’s emotional development is likely to be affected by heated conflict between their parents. A child’s emotional security is especially affected, often creating depression and anxiety when parental conflicts are unresolved.

Modern studies have shown that divorce can be a relief for children caught between fighting parents because they no longer live in the middle of the constant conflict. According to adolescent psychologist Nancy Cahir, “conflict between parents can be just as damaging as physical abuse.” Parental conflict can also lead to trust issues and difficulties with attachment.

Fighting parents can cause an unexpected issue for their children. A child’s sleep pattern can be negatively affected by parental conflict, causing the loss of 30 minutes or more of sleep per night. If this loss occurs in the middle of regular sleep patterns it can be even more disruptive, leading to irritability and other behavioral issues. Parental conflict can even lead to physical illness in extreme cases.

Studies by psychology professor Patrick Davies have shown that children exposed to fighting between parents do not get used to the conflict over time. Instead, they become more sensitive to it. Parents who stay together for their children’s sake are more likely to have a negative effect on them. Children exposed to conflict very often expressed the wish that their parents had divorced sooner.

Children’s emotional and behavioral stability and growth is negatively affected by their parent’s hostility, however, unresolved conflict is much worse. Although parents should do their best to avoid exposing their children to conflict, they can reduce potential impact by allowing their children to see the issue end with compromise or resolution.

Please contact leading Grand Rapids divorce attorneys Johnsen Wikander to discuss available solutions before your children are affected.