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More than just Divorce

Many West Michigan divorce attorneys advertise other areas of practice as well, including arbitration and mediation. Many people, however, do not understand the difference between these alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and how they can be used during a divorce or family law matter.

At Johnsen Wikander, we provide more services than just traditional divorce litigation, and each option could help you achieve a better, less stressful outcome that does not involve the court system and potential related costs. These options also provide private, and sometimes faster, results.

Mediation

Mediation is the practice of working with a neutral party to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution to a dispute. The parties meet with the mediator and discuss their issues. The mediator attempts to bring each person to common ground in order to resolve an issue, often minimizing cost and keeping disputes outside of court.

The mediator will meet with each side of a dispute to negotiate their case and reach a settlement or compromise. This can be used to settle spousal support and child custody issues while keeping both parties out of court. Mediation depends on both side’s willingness to achieve an agreement and may not work for everyone.

Arbitration

Like mediation, arbitration involves a neutral third party who makes decisions regarding disputes outside of court. Unlike mediation, an arbitrator hears each side state their position and makes the final decision. Although the arbitrator is a decision-maker, they are making their decision outside of court, in the less formal setting of a conference room or law office.

Albeit more adversarial than mediation, arbitration can still keep a case out of court and reduce costs.

Many cases can be resolved without appearing in court or dragging an issue out for months to reach a settlement. By using an alternative form of dispute resolution, a more acceptable, less expensive, and more private outcome can be achieved. Although this may not be a viable option for all cases, it is always worth discussing.

Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you understand these alternative methods of dispute resolution. Our experienced team of attorneys can help you reach a cost-effective solution to your most difficult issues.

 

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.

 

Nesting – Giving Your Children the House

While the concept is not new, nesting is still a fairly unusual outcome in West Michigan divorce cases. However, the idea has grown in popularity in recent years as a better way for divorcing parents to provide a more stable environment for their children, and to minimize the disruption and upheaval associated with divorce.

For most children with divorcing parents, the situation creates uncertainty, and sometimes conflict, when those children must travel from house to house. The situation becomes even more disruptive when the children are traveling on a daily, sometimes weekly basis, resulting in them being away from the friends who can often provide an extra layer of support.

Divorce can also lead to behavioral issues in children. Guilt and depression can become a factor for children caught in the middle of the turmoil, especially if the parents are struggling to make financial or custody decisions without anger and conflict. A stable environment can be an important factor in the children’s ability to cope with their parent’s separation.

Nesting allows children to remain in their home while their parents come and go as necessary to exercise their visitation and parenting time. Both parents occupy other living quarters, such as a small apartment or a family or friend’s home, while taking turns living in the shared house with their children. This creates a situation similar to custody arrangements, however, instead of displacing the children every other week (or more) the parents accept the inconvenience and upheaval caused by their marital dissolution.

Nesting allows children of divorcing parents to experience less upheaval, hopefully adding some solid ground to a shaky situation. Instead of becoming uprooted and displaced, children stay in their own rooms and beds and maintain some routine and normalcy in their lives.

While seemingly unconventional, this arrangement allows children of divorce to stay in the same school and to maintain close ties with their friends. The children are also spared from constantly packing their clothes and toys for weekend, or longer, visits with the non-custodial parent. Instead of forcing the children through constant “camping trips”, nesting provides a much more solid foundation for the children of divorcing spouses.

The concept is obviously not for everyone and should not be considered without consulting an experienced divorce attorney. Trust issues, new relationships, and financial plans must be taken into consideration before such an arrangement is contemplated. However, nesting offers divorcing parents a way to ensure that their children will be impacted far less by the decision to divorce.

Divorce decisions and arrangements should never be made without first consulting an experienced divorce attorney. In Grand Rapids, please contact Johnsen Wikander today for information or advice.

 

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.

Social Media: A Leading Factor in Divorce

In the digital age, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have become a significant factor in divorce cases. It has often been cited as the direct cause of marriage problems by one or both marital partners. Any relationship can be impacted by suspicion, disconnected behavior and jealousy, but when the source of trouble is the computer in the next room, removing that source is difficult.

Grand Rapids marriages are just as likely to be affected by social media as any others. Some of the reasons behind social media driven divorces are obvious, such as interaction with old love interests. Although most connections with old girl or boyfriends may be innocent enough, there is always the chance that a spark may appear.

Old Friends, New Links

Even when a renewed friendship is completely innocent, it may not appear that way to a marital partner. Divorce lawyers may also review social media content for evidence in a divorce case. Inside jokes and old sayings can be seen as flirtatious, or can be taken out of context. Social media activity with an old flame can often lead to either physical or emotional connections and could be viewed as emotional infidelity or cheating.

Twitter, Instagram, and especially Facebook also contribute to marital instability in other ways. Social media has been shown to trigger some of the same effects in the brain as narcotics, which may lead to addictive behaviors.

Too Much Time on My Hands

The snowy West Michigan winters can drive people to look for entertainment indoors, and the Internet provides endless distraction. However, too much time spent on social media, especially Facebook, may leave a marital partner feeling less important or ignored.

Shared pictures have also been a source of trouble for many married couples. Inappropriate photos that appear in a partner’s timeline can lead to suspicion and distrust, especially when they come from an old love interest. Even if the pictures don’t appear in a husband or wife’s Facebook timeline, rumors and misconceptions can arise from the content when it appears in a mutual friend’s account.

Believe Half of What You See

Marital issues can also arise over mistrust when one spouse uses social media to monitor the other’s behavior. Fights over social media have become commonplace for many couples, often caused by use or misuse by either spouse and how that activity is interpreted by their partner.

It is easy to take what you see or read out of context and jump to conclusions that are not actually true. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have taken over as communication mediums, and even news platforms, but you must consider the source, or the situation, before buying into the story they tell.

Let us help with any questions or concerns. For more information or advice please contact Johnsen Wikander today.

 

Divorce Rates In New Study Show The Stress Of Michiganders

Wallethub recently released a new study that ranked how stressed 150 of America’s major cities were. Furthermore, the website ranked them in order of least to most stressed out. Although Grand Rapids ranked 119th, Detroit topped the list at number one. Although Michigan seems to be divided in terms of stress levels, Wallethub’s data may show why the two cities differ so greatly. Read more

Two Notable Men Help Women Survive Abuse Differently

Contestants on reality shows are often given 15 minutes of fame. Many of them use their publicity to endorse products or for launching businesses. However, one contestant from ABC’s The Bachelorette is using his notoriety for good. Derek Peth from the show’s twelfth season is raising money through online donations to help survivors of domestic abuse. Several organizations in West Michigan are striving to do the same, but by hosting a day-long workshop encouraging community members to better help abuse victims. For these women, divorce may be just a starting point. Read more