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Why Argue When You Can Collaborate? | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Why Argue When You Can Collaborate?

Divorce is difficult for all parties involved. In many cases, the adversarial nature of traditional divorce is hard on friendships, family relationships, and of course, the spouses who have decided to end their marriage.

However, new processes have emerged over the years which allow divorcing couples to avoid the adversarial nature of traditional divorce. Divorcing couples can now choose to embrace the Collaborative Divorce process, a gentler approach that helps spouses achieve individual and mutual goals while reducing stress, anger and potentially the cost.

The process involves a team of Collaboratively-trained professionals in fields such as family law, mental health and financial planning who assist divorcing spouses to reach a mutually beneficial agreement through interest-based discussions rather than positioned demands.

Children caught up in divorce proceedings are often the most impacted by the potentially combative process. By focusing on a respectful and peaceful approach to family dissolution, Collaborative Divorce can help to protect spouses’ relationships and make post-divorce co-parenting much more attainable.

The newly revised Michigan Court Rules allow couples who have completed the Collaborative process to file a joint “petition” to divorce and permits avoiding often adversarial pretrial hearings. If you complete a Collaborative Divorce, neither spouse is named a “plaintiff” or “defendant,” terms that can emotionally impact a couple after such a non-adversarial and team-centered approach to dissolving their marriage.

By involving a team of professionals from a variety of disciplines, couples often find that costs are reduced. The team uses each professional for a specific purpose, reducing the time that attorneys often spend as counselors and financial advisors. The process is efficient, and couples are motivated to come to the table and have productive and non-adversarial conversations.

If you are considering divorce, please take the time to investigate all of the available options before proceeding with any legal action. In West Michigan, please consult with the specially trained Collaborative Law professionals and Grand Rapids area divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Seeking Legal Advice Before Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Seeking Legal Advice Before Divorce

Most people understand that legal assistance is important in many situations. When an individual faces a lawsuit, possibility of financial gain or loss or potential incarceration, help from an experienced West Michigan lawyer becomes extremely important.

There are, however, a variety of legal issues that people attempt to resolve without the advice of an attorney. Internet-based companies with fancy websites have made many processes appear simple, creating the image that patenting an invention or forming a corporation is a DIY project that can easily be completed over a weekend.

At minimal expense, couples can end their marriage with a few clicks of their mouse and a credit card or PayPal account. However, the decisions made during a separation or divorce—and the language included in the legal documents—can have far-reaching effects, many of which may not be obvious to the unrepresented individual.

While keeping divorce simple and amicable is desirable, answering some generic questions on a form may be a risky way to end a marriage.. Every divorce presents unique circumstances, and individuals should always consider having an attorney review their facts before proceeding on their own.

For example, divorcing couples may start by signing a separation agreement. While this may seem simple enough, a poorly written agreement may lead to future problems for the couple.

If you are considering divorce, please start by consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer.

In West Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Social Media Issues and Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Social Media Issues and Divorce

Social media has become more than just a way for friends and family in West Michigan to stay connected. It is now one of the most popular ways for businesses to advertise or market their product or service. It is a great way for organizations to raise funds or awareness. It is also an easy way to keep the public informed about an event or a cause. And, of course, it is a great way for people to stay in touch and share photos and updates with their friends and family.

Social media, however, can also lead to relationship issues and very often play an integral part in divorce proceedings. As social media becomes more popular, it has also become easier for people to reconnect with old flames, and even rekindle those past relationships.

The threat of infidelity posed by social media is not the only problem. Facebook, Instagram and other outlets can also generate addictive behavior. A Chicago University poll concluded that people can become more addicted to social media than alcohol and nicotine.

In many cases, continuous use of social media, suspicious behavior, unusual posts and more can cause distrust between partners and spouses. Many often try to hide the level of their use.

All social media outlets can lead to marital issues, with 15 percent of couples polled reporting that social media was responsible for the problems in their relationship. A quarter of the couples polled reported that social media use caused at least one argument each week.

One social media outlet stands out from the rest in its impact on relationships. In 2019, Facebook has taken the lead, accounting for one-third of all marriage strife. In a study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, Facebook was cited as the leading cause of divorce in nearly 30 percent of cases.

For many spouses, the primary complaint was inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex. However, in a substantial number of cases, high use was the biggest issue. In either case, the same study found that people who access Facebook more than one hour per day are more likely to have conflict in their marriage.

Although social media provides a number of positive tools and results, its over-use can interfere with, and even destroy, a relationship. If you believe you are facing divorce for any reason, please contact a lawyer and learn your rights. In West Michigan, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Finance and Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Finance and Divorce

Divorce can be unexpected, catching either spouse off guard and unprepared for the issues to come. In many relationships one spouse may handle the couples finances, taxes, and other administrative responsibilities, leaving the other spouse completely unprepared to assume those responsibilities after their relationship has ended.

Although the couple’s marital assets and debts may be equally distributed through alimony (spousal support) and child support, a newly divorced spouse may not have the experience to assume control over their own bills, taxes and insurance.

1. If you are facing divorce, it’s important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible to avoid some of the more common financial problems such as the following:

2. Banking – Checking and savings accounts should be created as soon as legally allowable. Consult with your attorney before removing either spouse from a joint account to avoid legal issues later.

3. Insurance – One spouse will probably take over their own car, renters, homeowners, or health insurance. It’s important to consult with your insurance agent before proceeding with any changes in coverage.

4. Credit Cards –It may be necessary for one spouse to apply for a card in their own name. The other spouse may need to remove additional users from their account and create a new one.

If the card must be used for expenses while the divorce is pending, it may be best to remove the second user from a joint credit card. It’s important to stay protected from any credit card debt incurred by your spouse while a divorce is pending.

5. Financial Management – Find a good accountant and advisor who can counsel you on unfamiliar issues such as taxes and investments.

6. Taxes – If one spouse has been primarily responsible for filing 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.

Aside from the challenges of alimony (spousal support), child support, and the division of assets. There are many other financial implications that must be addressed. 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.

Collaborative Divorce & Finances

Divorce, Wealth, and the Future of Amazon.com

The divorce of the world’s wealthiest couple turned Jeff Bezos’ wife MacKenzie into the 3rd richest woman in the world.

Mrs. Bezos could have been the richest as she was entitled to 50 percent of the couple’s holding in Amazon, as well as Bezos’ other private space company, Blue Origin, and his recent acquisition, the Washington Post.

As of today, Amazon stock alone is valued at more than $1800.00 per share, putting the Bezos’ holdings of more than 80 million shares at a value of over $140 billion dollars.

However, MacKenzie Bezos agreed to give control of 75% of the couple’s shares to her husband, along with the voting rights to the 25% of the stock that she will retain. While Jeff Bezos’ net worth will remain above $100 billion dollars, MacKenzie will leave the marriage with more than $35 billion of her own.

The couple’s divorce created concern in the financial world since an extended or contentious split had the potential to influence Amazon’s stock price. If the couple went through a difficult divorce, control over the company’s future may have shifted, negatively impacting Amazon stock.

However, according to separate Twitter posts from both Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the couple parted ways on amicable terms. They stated that they intend on working closely on philanthropic projects and will cooperatively co-parent their four children. Both of their statements referenced the other as a “friend.”

With so many celebrity divorces ending badly and so much riding on the outcome, it is interesting to note the positive statements by both spouses and the apparent cooperative nature of their split.

Did MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos work things out on their own, or could they have used a process such as Collaborative Divorce to come to a final agreement?

Collaborative Divorce provides couples with a process that reduces animosity and offers a more respectful, less combative approach to the dissolution of their marriage. Couples choosing Collaborative Divorce engage a group of professionally trained Collaborative specialists who help the couple work together to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.

The Collaborative Divorce process helps couples maintain their co-parenting relationship and helps to keep their children’s well-being in the spotlight. By removing conflict, the ability for spouses to work together and co-parent their children is very often maintained.

Whether you are facing divorce in Silicon Valley or Grand Rapids, please consult with a qualified divorce lawyer before taking any steps forward. In West Michigan, contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Road to Parenting after Divorce

Life after Divorce – Apps and Websites That Assist Parents

Adjusting to life after divorce is difficult, especially with the many changes to daily life that follow. Co-parenting requirements, financial considerations, and communication issues can all place new responsibilities on divorced West Michigan spouses. However, there’s tech for that.
Parents can find help with many of their needs both online and in apps from the Google or Apple App Stores. Here are some of the most popular and helpful free and paid tools available today.
1. Talking Parents
By keeping an online record of all conversations between both parties, Talking Parents helps them avoid the “he said-she said” aspects of communication and can prevent disputes. If a dispute does arise, it may be resolved more quickly since stored communication records cannot be altered or deleted.
Talking Parents also provides space for sharing and storing files, and a shared calendar with notifications to help with co-parenting tasks and appointments. The program is free for people who only want to use the website, however, for $4.99 per month parents can also use Talking Parents’ mobile apps on their phone.
2. 2Houses
2Houses helps divorced or separated parents communicate, organize, and schedule tasks and resources to prevent conflict and to help ensure the well-being of their children. 2Houses provides a shared calendar specifically created for separated parents, and a journal for sharing information such as news, pictures, and even videos.
2Houses also provides an expense management tool so that parents can easily track and share financial information, offering transparency that helps to avoid conflict between divorced spouses. Visit their website or download the smartphone app and provide access to the entire family for $9.99 per month.
3. AppClose
Although only available on mobile phones, AppClose helps separated parents avoid scheduling conflicts with an easy to use shared calendar. AppClose also includes a secure messaging platform that includes the ability to export conversations for review by a divorce attorney.
The app can also maintain a record of important information such as allergies, contact info, teacher’s names, and alternative childcare. Download Appclose for free from the Google or Apple App store.
4. Our Family Wizard
Designed specifically for co-parenting, Our Family Wizard helps parents keep the focus on their children. The program helps to avoid miscommunication and reduce stress by providing a secure platform where messages between parents cannot be deleted or altered. The built-in, proprietary Tone Meter can suggest changes to new messages that will keep things light and positive.

Our Family Wizard also includes a robust shared calendar, a virtual diary, and an information bank that can store important medical, school, or contact information and files for easy access by both parents. Our Family Wizard plans begin at $99.00 per year and include website and mobile access.
5. CoParently
CoParently helps parents spend less time managing custody and more time with their children. Offering a shared calendar, secure messaging platform, and information storage much like the others, the program provides parents with all of the tools they need to stay focused on the best interests of their children.
Coparently also allows Guest access to select family members, caregivers, or family law professionals and provides special access for children that shields them their parent’s conversations. Membership plans include website and mobile access for $9.99 per month.
If you are considering divorce, please take the time to learn about the options available to you today, such as Collaborative Divorce, which can help couples reach an outcome that is acceptable and beneficial to their entire family.
In West Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Fear of Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Fear of Divorce

Divorce is far from uncommon in West Michigan today. However, the idea of separating from someone who has shared the same home for years, for better or worse, is still often met with fear by one or both divorcing spouses.

The fear of divorce may keep unhappy couples together for years, often living as roommates to avoid subjecting themselves to the process even when no children are involved.

When asked why they feared the idea of divorce, the answers given were often the same, with several specific issues repeatedly appearing in the top results.

Disruption/Upheaval

For many people, the idea of divorcing is overshadowed by the upheaval that accompanies the process. Couples who have been together for decades may have accumulated a substantial amount of personal property, investment and retirement assets, and just plain “stuff.”

For them, staying together may seem easier than facing the work involved in dividing their shared assets. Other disruptive issues may also be cause for fear, such as lost friendships, new and unfamiliar homes, and new financial responsibilities.

Loneliness

The fear of divorce can also be rooted in the common fear of being alone. This can be especially true for older couples who believe they may never have another chance to find a strong or lasting relationship.

For these spouses, sharing a home with a virtual “roommate” may be preferable to walking into an empty house. Even when couples no longer share a bed, having someone else in the home may provide peace of mind and security for one or the other spouse.

Financial Stress

People often believe divorce will result in extreme financial difficulties. When both people earn a paycheck and share expenses, one or both may fear the impact removing half of their collective income might have on lifestyle, well-being and financial security.

Newer divorce options, such as Collaborative Divorce, can provide solutions that may reduce the cost of divorce and will certainly reduce stress.

For the Children

Parents who stay together because they believe it is the best solution for their children’s emotional wellbeing or concern regarding who gets custody of the child,  often overlook the real results of their decision. Children are often not fooled by their parents’ actions and can feel the tension and unhappiness in the home.

Unfortunately, children sometimes believe they are to blame for the trouble at home and may act out because of it. By staying together, parents potentially contribute to the resulting misbehavior, violent actions, and sadness or depression their children may manifest.

Many children of divorced parents who were interviewed later knew that their parents were staying together “because of me” and stated that they would have been much happier if the couple had divorced earlier, removing the tension and anger from their lives.

If you are considering the possibility of divorce, it is important to understand the process and options available to you today. In Grand Rapids and the surrounding communities in West Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Let us help you through the fear associated with your most difficult time.

Divorce Roundup for 2018

Divorce Roundup for 2018

In the past year, Americans have seen a fair amount of uncertainty, turmoil and change. Some events may impact the legal decisions facing divorcing spouses in the near future, while other events point to cultural changes that may positively touch the lives of one or both spouses who have chosen to dissolve their marriage.

For our first post of the new year, it seems appropriate to review some information we shared during 2018. Although some of the things we have shared with our West Michigan neighbors has been light-hearted, other posts have addressed critical issues facing the people in the Grand Rapids area who might be considering or going through a divorce.

Our 2018 highlights include:

Divorce Rate Decline

Divorce rates have seen a decline over the past several years, with much of that change attributed to the Millennial’s approach to marriage. With a more results-driven, goal-oriented attitude toward marriage, Millennials are marrying later in life, and divorcing less often.

The Truth About Divorce Rates

Dropping Divorce Rates Influenced by Millennials

Modern Technology, Social Media, and Divorce

Todays’ technology and its occasional overuse can lead to marital problems and also provide attorneys and litigants with evidence that can be used on either side of a case. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets often show proof of everything from hidden property to infidelity.

There have been some helpful technological advancements too, with the rise of smartphone apps and websites that help with co-parenting and communication, such as Our Family Wizard and the like.

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence

New Divorce Trends – Online Apps

Divorce Themed Jewelry

Divorce and Vacations

Cultural Changes, Acceptance, and Divorce

Public sentiment towards divorce has changed dramatically over the last several decades, with television and other media sources contributing to the shift. TV shows like One Day at a Time and even I Love Lucy showed the public that divorced spouses were still human beings with regular problems, undeserving of the stigma and scorn so often directed their way.

Divorced Women on TV

The Power of Mediation for Divorcing Couples

Stay Together for the Kids? Many Kids say No

Divorce and The Office

Divorce and Friendship – Who gets The Smiths?

New Options Available to Divorcing Spouses

Divorce does not have to be the adversarial, “winner take all” contest it once may have been for many divorcing spouses. Newer options, such as Collaborative Divorce, and more common options, like arbitration, and mediation, offer divorcing couples and family lawyers a way to work together, protect their relationships, and create better outcomes for children.

The History of Collaborative Divorce

More than just Divorce

Collaborative Divorce: A Gentler Process, A Better Answer

Collaborative Divorce Revisited

Gentler Approach to Difficult Issues

New Tax Laws, Finances, and Divorce

Tax code changes that take effect in the new year may change the way spouses approach issues like spousal support and alimony. With the tax responsibility shifting from one side to the other, new financial considerations make it more important than ever to discuss the divorce process and outcome with an experienced divorce attorney.

New Tax Laws May Affect Alimony Settlements

Divorce and Financial Considerations

How the New Tax Code may Impact Children of Divorce

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce

If you are considering divorce in 2019, please consult with a divorce lawyer before taking any steps forward. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and New Tax Laws in 2019

Divorce and New Tax Laws in 2019

With last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act set to take effect in 2019, many West Michigan couples have rushed to finalize their divorces before the end of the year. The adjustments to the U.S. Tax code, drafted in 2018, will implement changes, including the taxes and deductions related to alimony and spousal support payments.

In the past, the person making the payments was able to deduct the amount when filing their taxes while the person receiving the payments was taxed on the income. Under the new tax code, the payor no longer has the advantage of a deduction, and the recipient does not pay taxes on the income.

In previous years, the deduction may have dropped the payer to a lower tax bracket, incentivizing many to pay spousal support. This major change has driven many people, who may have already been considering divorce, to file before the end of the year.

Though the real impact made by the new tax laws remains to be seen, some professionals argue that the shift in tax liability may eliminate some opportunity for negotiation. By removing the deduction, the spouse responsible for writing the alimony checks may have more reason to push for lower payments. With the deduction no longer providing a potential tax advantage, the payer may fight harder to limit their responsibility.

In the past, the month of January has often seen an increase in divorce filings, since couples who were already struggling with their relationship often waited until the new year to file for divorce to reduce the negative impact on the holidays and related events.

However, the opposite will likely be true for divorce filings in 2019; January may bring a reduction in the number of cases filed since the push to beat the clock, and the new tax guidelines, will likely have run its course. Grand Rapids divorce attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals across the country may get a reprieve from the wave of new cases once the current rush is over.

If you are considering divorce now or in 2019, please consult a divorce attorney before taking your first steps. In Grand Rapids, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce in 2018

Divorce in 2018

As the year draws to a close and West Michigan prepares for the Holiday Season, many people take time to reflect on the events of the past year and the impact those events have had on their lives, including divorce.

For some couples, divorce played a part in their year, setting the course their lives will take in 2019 and beyond. For those Grand Rapids couples who have been through a divorce, this year may have included consultations with divorce lawyers, being educated about Collaborative Divorce, mediation, arbitration, and traditional divorce proceedings.

In 2018, the choices available to divorcing couples are more varied than past years, and the opportunity to part with a spouse amicably – instead of going through a combative process – can lead to a more functional co-parenting situation after the divorce is finalized.

Instead of fighting over minute details, West Michigan divorce attorneys can offer solutions that include decisions and outcomes that give both parties the tools they need to move forward.

With Collaborative Divorce, couples can find closure without aggressive litigation that often impacts their ability to maintain a positive relationship in the future. This is especially important for parents who wish to co-parent their children and make it easier to work together when visitation is split between homes.

The alternative options available to divorcing couples can have less harmful impacts on children’s lives, with less tension and stress that often affects their relationship with their parents.

Modern divorce options put children first, allowing divorcing parents to maintain a peaceful family environment and provide a secure foundation for the future of their children. The importance of preserving the integrity of the family unit is unmatched.

If you are facing the possibility of divorce, please consult with a divorce lawyer before taking any steps that might be difficult to reverse. In Grand Rapids and the surrounding West Michigan area, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.