Being Supportive when Friends Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Being Supportive when Friends Divorce

Married couples are not the only people affected by divorce. Many people have friends or family members who have been through the process as well, and when divorce happens to close friends or relatives it can also cause turmoil for the people close to the couple involved.

People want to be helpful when those around them are hurting or frightened. However, being supportive does not necessarily mean getting overly involved another person’s divorce. There are plenty of problems that arise when someone gives advice, chooses sides or tries to intervene.

Although they may have the best intentions, the advice provided by friends of separating spouses may not be relevant or helpful to the divorcing couple’s situation. No two divorce cases are exactly the same; the same decisions and arrangements very well will not apply to both.

It is also hard for people to remain neutral, no matter how much they try. When friends choose sides, whether it’s because they feel more loyalty toward one spouse over the other or because they perceive some emotional or personal gain from the relationship, feelings can be hurt and may lead to resentment, making an already difficult situation worse.

Friends close to the divorcing couple may trade information back and forth as well. In the search for details or information, rumors often start. This is even more of a problem in the Information Age, when every detail of most people’s lives often end up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Rumors are problematic enough, but misrepresented information can have a detrimental effect on the situation, especially if it plants the idea in someone’s head that one of the spouses has been acting badly, by hiding money or carrying on an affair.

Unfounded concerns, that lead to rumors, can have an unexpected effect on the divorce case. In litigated or very adversarial cases, a rumor about hidden money or an affair may encourage one spouse to delay the proceedings, often creating additional expense for both parties. Very often, the more litigious a divorce cases, the higher the attorney fee bill.

Being supportive to friends who are going through a divorce does not require getting involved with the situation itself. Provide a shoulder to lean on or a safe place to turn, but allow the divorcing spouse to get their advice and legal information from the right professional.

If you are considering divorce or feel that itis your only option, be sure to discuss your situation with an experienced West Michigan attorney. In Grand Rapids, please contact the legal professionals at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce Today – No-Fault vs Fault Explained | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce Today – No-Fault vs Fault Explained

At one time, anyone filing for divorce in the United States needed to prove fault before being granted permission to proceed. Reasons for fault varied, and individuals seeking to split with their partner often found reasons to do so anyway.

In a divorce, fault could include adultery, prison time, alcohol or drug abuse and mental or physical cruelty. In many cases, when good reason could not be provided, one or both spouses chose “irreconcilable differences” as their reason for separating.

Today, 17 of the 50 states are “no-fault” states, not requiring (or allowing) spouses to blame the other for the breakdown of their marriage. Traditional reasons for divorce, such as adultery and abuse, are not recognized as reasons for ending the marriage in these no-fault states.

The other 33 states do allow a reason to be given as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, however, they do not require it. In these states, no-fault is the main reason for the divorce, and any other details provided simply fall under the no-fault umbrella.

One of the biggest differences between fault and no-fault divorce is the cost involved. Since fault requires one spouse accusing the other in order to obtain their divorce, litigation can drag out and legal fees can be significant.

When fault was required in order to proceed with a divorce case, couples often lied under oath when giving a reason for the breakdown of their marriage. By making false statements, people would often commit perjury just to be granted their divorce. The no-fault divorce designation helped the courts to more efficiently process divorce cases and reduce legal fees for litigants.

As a No-Fault state, Michigan does not require a reason for divorce. One spouse, and one spouse only, must state under oath that, “there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” The other spouse may disagree, but the filing spouse will be granted their divorce regardless.

If you are considering divorce or feel that it is one of your only options, be sure to discuss your situation with an experienced West Michigan attorney. In Grand Rapids, please contact the legal professionals at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

The Power of Mediation for Divorcing Couples | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The Power of Mediation for Divorcing Couples

Today’s couples have divorce options that did not exist in the recent past. Traditional approaches to divorce, which in West Michigan and other places around the country, involve two attorneys, in an adversarial position, were once the only option. New and trending options, such as Collaborative Divorce, arbitration, and mediation, provide a less stressful approach for couples who do not want to fight their way to freedom.

Instead of creating conflict, mediation places couples in a low-stress, cooperative environment where they can work together to find common ground. Mediation helps to reduce conflict and preserve relationships, often ensuring a healthy co-parenting arrangement once the process is complete.

A Dutch company has taken the mediation approach a step further by offering couples a weekend retreat at a high-end hotel where the end result is their divorce agreement. Called DivorceHotel, couples can check in married, and three days later, leave with a signed divorce.

DivorceHotel, a company and not a specific location, partners with finer hotels to offer a weekend getaway that includes meals, spa treatments, and even free swag bags. Couples looking for a softer approach to the divorce process can pay a single fee which includes their stay, meals and spa access, and the process which leads to signed divorce paperwork by the time they check out.

The approach is unusual, but DivorceHotel now operates throughout Europe and has opened in several hotels around the United States. Couples who wish to avoid confrontation and take a less stressful approach to divorce can work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome – while at the same time enjoying a relaxing “vacation.”

The weekend event, held at upscale hotels in New York and Los Angeles, is also available in other locations around the country. One such location is the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Sarasota Springs, NY, where fine weddings take place several times a year. The possibility that a divorce and wedding could overlap at the same location does exist.

Whether accomplished through an offering like DivorceHotel or through an experienced attorney, couples who can still communicate and are willing to work together to reach a mutually achieved agreement can keep their divorce proceeding out of the courtroom and reduce associated stress and costs.

If you are facing divorce, don’t just assume you have to go to court at odds with your spouse. Discuss your options with an experienced attorney and see if there is a better, gentler approach that puts children first and benefits everyone involved.

Mediation is just one of your options. For more information, or to discuss your divorce with an experienced Grand Rapids area attorney, please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Stay Together for the Kids? Many Kids say No | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Stay Together for the Kids? Many Kids say No

In a recent study by the British Family Law Organization, Resolution, more than 80 percent of the children surveyed between 14 and 22 years old said they would rather their parents divorce than stay together for the sake of the children.

As difficult as divorce can be, the alternative is often worse. Children often observe and sense the stress and anxiety generated by their parent’s unhappy marriage. They are not blind to the pressures and problems, or even to the mechanical relationship of a loveless marriage.

Too often, children are caught in the middle of their warring parents and are either used as a sounding board to vent frustrations or a pawn in the divorce negotiations. Some children may desire for their parent’s marriage to end for self-preservation reasons, while others may genuinely wish To see their parents happy again.

In an interesting Reddit thread, a parent wrestling with the decision to divorce or remain in a marriage for the sake of the children, posted his question to the site’s readers. Many of the responses from those who had been children of divorce created a telling picture, with the majority advising the couple to consider divorce.

Reasons given vary, but the most common were the audible arguments, visible fatigue and stress, and an overall unhappy environment in the home. By staying together, most parents had subjected their children to the very same misery that they were experiencing.

Another side-effect of a crumbling marriage was that one or both parents tend to be less present, choosing to avoid the home as much as possible. By avoiding each other, one or both spouses end up spending less time with their children as well.

Children of parents who remained in an unhappy marriage also claimed that the situation set an unhealthy example for them. Very often, behavior such as lying, cheating, and mistreatment of the other spouse were viewed as acceptable.

In any divorce, children should be a chief consideration, not a pawn or tool caught between two unhappy parents. If you are considering divorce, please discuss your options with an attorney before making any decisions that may affect your children. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you, and your children, through your most difficult time.

Divorced Women on TV | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorced Women on TV

Divorced women have historically carried more of the social stigma than their male counterparts, even when they were equally responsible for the decision to divorce. Once divorce proceedings were done, women have generally been treated with unequal social scrutiny, often being treated as if they have suddenly become members of some lower caste.

This has been visible through the years on television, where divorce was never even mentioned until an unlikely hero brought it out into the center stage. At the end of an era when TV bedrooms had to show two beds and pregnancy could not even be discussed on air, Lucille Ball made a divorced woman the supporting star of her own prime-time show.

After her own divorce from Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball struggled to find her footing until she talked the network into running her new show, which featured herself as a widow and Vivian Vance, or Ethel, as she was known in I Love Lucy, as a divorcee named Viv and Lucy’s best friend. The Lucy Show was a hit, and Viv became the first divorced woman on a hit sitcom.

Years later, Maude, the title character from the 1972 show featuring Bea Arthur (long before she was a Golden Girl), went through divorce as part of the show’s script. Interestingly enough, she would return to TV as a divorced woman in the 1980’s hit, The Golden Girls.

Shortly after Maude ended, Bonnie Franklin brought the role of a divorced mother of two girls to prime time. For many, One Day at a Time, which previewed in December of 1975, was the first to spotlight a divorced woman, and to portray her for what she really was – a struggling single parent facing the same issues any other parent would face, just without the support of a spouse.

One Day at a Time is often cited as the first show to feature a divorced woman, even though it was not even the second. It was, however, the first to discuss the issues of divorce openly and honestly, placing the main characters in realistic situations, which, even though the show was technically a sitcom, could be heartbreaking and difficult. For many, that tipping point brought the subject of divorce out of the shadows and made it a normal, dinner-time discussion.

The subject of divorced women was initially broached by an unlikely source, one who broke several stereotypes and paved the way for women to succeed on television. Lucille Ball made the subject more approachable, then Bea Arthur’s Maude made it more open and acceptable.

Bonnie Franklin’s character put the subject of women in divorce front and center of our TV screens for almost ten years, showing the world that divorced women were no different than divorced men. In many ways, the show proved what most people already knew – they had to work harder, often face the same struggles and challenges, and often do so with less support than their now-absent spouses.

Every subject has its tipping point, when someone finally steps up and boldly presents it to the rest of the world. These three brave women changed the face of divorce for the rest of us, and especially for divorced women everywhere.

If you are facing divorce, there are many new options available that may not have been possible when Lucille Ball took to the screen, let alone even 5 years ago. Educating yourself is important. Please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Let us help you understand the options, such as Collaborative Divorce and Mediation.

Contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and The Office | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and The Office

The decision to divorce affects every aspect of both spouses lives, including finances, child custody, insurance, and property ownership. However, it can also affect relationships at work whether those relationships are with coworkers or superiors.

Most people do not necessarily wish to make their divorce a part of their work life on top of the stress felt outside of the office. Work may feel like a bit of a sanctuary where the decisions and divisions are hidden by a normal workload. Or, for people who enjoy what they do for a living, their jobs may provide a welcome distraction from the day to day divorce related tasks and trials

People may wish to keep the information regarding their divorce quiet for other reasons. Some people may not agree with the decision to divorce due to political or religious differences, making it harder to share at the office. Others may wish to keep it to themselves because they feel it’s not other people’s business.

However, for spouses who carry the couple’s health insurance, it will become necessary to include the boss, or human resources at the very least. Changes in insurance coverage will mean paperwork that must be handled by the employee spouse’s HR department.

Other issues could bring the news of either spouse’s divorce out into the open, such as questions surrounding either party’s income or financial status. If there is reason to believe that one spouse or the other is being untruthful about their income, an investigation into same (via subpoena or otherwise) could put the impending divorce into the spotlight for coworkers to discover.

At some point, the divorce will very likely become common knowledge – especially in the social media age. It is nearly impossible to prevent news from spreading through Internet channels, so a couple’s split will sooner or later find its way to the office water cooler.

Is it better to keep the news of a divorce quiet at the office, or face it head on? The decision will be different for all people and may be based on the specific circumstances of the divorce.

If you are considering a divorce, please discuss the legal implications of sharing information at work with a professional before putting yourself in a tough situation. Your first step should be to discuss your divorce with an experienced West Michigan attorney such as the team at Johnsen Wikander.

Please contact us today and let us help you through your most difficult time

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

Divorce and Vacations

It is widely known that divorce is one of the most stressful events that can take place in a person’s life. The emotional impact is as difficult as dealing with a death, but the divorce process and related tasks, such as negotiating settlements, agreeing on child visitation, and meeting with attorneys can be exhausting for everyone involved.

For many people, the best way to deal with the aftermath of a taxing event is to take a vacation. However, once the dust settles and the divorce proceedings are over one or both partners may find traveling alone to be stressful in its own right. Many people have never taken a vacation alone at all.

With the reduction in divorce-related shame and embarrassment, more people are openly discussing the impact the dissolution of their marriage has had on them. Although the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, reaching a 40 year low in Grand Rapids and across the country, the number people listing divorce as the reason for their vacation has increased.

Singles vacations are common, with cruises or resort destinations catering to the single lifestyle. Many include events aimed at connecting people through dances, social events, and excursions. However, many newly divorced people are not ready for the possibility of a new connection and could feel left out of the bigger social scene on such trips.

People who do not wish to travel alone generally book a vacation with one or more close friends. The emotional support that comes from such a trip can help with the feeling of loneliness that often follows a split, and the vacation itself serves as a distraction from the stress and challenge of the divorce process.

Vacations with one or more friends can provide the financial benefits that traveling as a couple created before divorcing as well. Sharing a cruise ship cabin or hotel room can reduce costs, which may be especially important after the newfound expenses that accompany post-divorce life.

In many cases, traveling with a friend who has been through a divorce themselves can be helpful and therapeutic. Even just being with someone who “gets it” can be beneficial.

As summer vacations are booked, travel agents are hearing more and more people give divorce as their reason for traveling. Along with the break from stress and responsibility, travel can provide a recharge and reset, allowing newly divorced people to come back with a different view and better grasp on their path ahead. Divorce may be the best reason for many people to book a trip.

If you are facing divorce, it’s important to be prepared and educated about the modern options and potential outcomes surrounding the divorce process. In West Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce lawyers at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.

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.

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.

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.