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Money can’t buy Happiness | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Money can’t buy Happiness

Most people with a TV or Internet access know by now that, after 25 years together, Jeff Bezos and his wife, Mackenzie, are getting divorced. Although they are ending their marriage, they have both stated that they are splitting on good terms and wish for “wonderful futures ahead” for themselves and their four children.

This is not the first time a public figure, politician or wealthy individual created a stir with their marital woes. However, this could be the first time someone’s divorce involves a personal fortune that outweighs the gross national product of several countries.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1995 with the goal of selling books over the Internet. Although his idea seems hardly revolutionary today, the company was founded at a time when many people still believed the Internet, and the personal computers that accessed it, was just a fad that would not be sustained long-term.

Of course, it did not blow over. In fact, it could be argued that Bezos’ creation helped drive the Internet’s explosion into the lives of nearly every man, woman and child across West Michigan, and beyond.

Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest man in late October 2017, when his $90 billion fortune surpassed that of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and many others. Today, Bezos’net worth is estimated at more than $150 billion dollars.

Bezos owns 16% of Amazon.com, which makes him the company’s largest shareholder. In the latter part of 2017, an incredible increase in Amazon’s stock value nearly doubled his net worth, generating approximately $78 billion in income in one year. Using that figure as his annual income, Bezos earned more than $8 million an hour.

What does all of this mean for Mackenzie Bezos, who married the Amazon.com founder when the company was still a back of the napkin idea? More than just Jeff Bezos’ wife and mother to their four children, Mackenzie Bezos was an instrumental part in Amazon’s launch, even acting as the company’s first accountant.

Since the couple’s primary residence is in Washington state, any asset acquired during their marriage is considered “community property” and is subject to a 50-50 split. However, any division of the couple’s unusual fortune could have a negative effect on Amazon.com’s stock price, and potentially each spouse’s net worth. Although each spouse will retain a divorce lawyer, it’s likely that the Bezos’ will come to an agreement out of court.

Although there is a great deal of speculation about their divorce, it is unlikely that Jeff or Mackenzie Bezos will be left struggling. If she receives even half of their wealth, Mackenzie could easily become the richest woman in the world by the time the dust settles. However, even if she is awarded “only” 1/10 of the couple’s wealth, her net worth could exceed $15 billion dollars.

With options such as Collaborative Divorce available today, it would be interesting to speculate on which path forward the Bezos’ will take, especially given their apparent willingness to end things on good terms. A statement released on Jeff Bezos’ Twitter account even read, “After a period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”

With over $150 billion at their disposal, you might think they could find a way to work through their differences and survive any marital speedbumps. Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos, however, are proof that, as the saying goes, money cannot buy happiness.

If you are considering divorce, it is important to educate yourself on the process and options available today. Please contact the experienced Grand Rapids 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.

The History of Collaborative Divorce

The History of Collaborative Divorce

Divorce has traditionally been a frightening path, with spouses often fighting over what may seem like minor details while the children are caught in the middle. Traditional divorce has historically been about the individual, with little to no consideration for the other party.

In 1990, Stuart (“Stu”) Webb, a Minneapolis family lawyer, became tired of watching people fight and decided he would no longer take on divorce cases. He wrote a letter to a local judge voicing his frustrations with the traditional divorce process and outlined his ideas for a less destructive way to handle the breakdown of a marriage.

Instead of running into the courtroom to dissolve each marriage through adversarial practices, Webb decided he would only handle cases where people were willing to work through their divorce together, achieving a peaceful, mutually beneficial result.  If the couple could not work together, he would stop handling the case and let them work through the traditional channels, but with a different lawyer.

Other Minneapolis lawyers discovered what Webb was doing and began to offer the same services. Eventually, the group got together to draw up a roadmap that would standardize their practice and ensure that they were offering families a consistent solution. Although Webb is generally credited with the beginning of the Collaborative practice, other attorneys were going through similar experiences and contributed to the growth of Collaborative Divorce.

The idea of Collaborative Divorce first spread through discussions and word of mouth, slowly spreading across the country until it became a well-known, accepted course of action. In 2009, the first Uniform Collaborative Law Act was created, adopted as law by many states. Within the last few years, Michigan created its own version of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, formalizing the process for litigants throughout the state.

In a Collaborative Divorce, spouses commit to working together to make the mutually beneficial decisions regarding their assets, money, and of course, their children.

The practice of Collaborate Divorce reduces the combative and adversarial nature of divorce, offering both spouses the opportunity to work with a specially trained team of Collaborative Professionals including financial specialists, mental health professionals, and attorneys. This team works together to help a couple reach an outcome that is acceptable and beneficial to their entire family. The Collaborative method also protects both party’s privacy and helps foster and create better future relationships between spouses, especially when children are involved.

Collaborative Divorce provides a civil approach to the divorce process, very often creating a less stressful and more peaceful solution to divorcing spouses. In West Michigan, contact the trained, experienced Collaborative Law team at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Collaborative Divorce Revisited

Collaborative Divorce Revisited

The news of Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa’s impending divorce seems to be everywhere you look these days. Updates are available almost daily while the world awaits the outcome for the President’s oldest son and his wife of 12 years.

No matter what the reason is for the couple’s split, one thing seems certain–they appear to be working together on one important task – co-parenting. Although divorce seems imminent, they have been seen together during several recent breaks and vacations amicably spending time with their 5 children.

Parents who are moving toward divorce have options available which provide a layer of protection for their children during the divorce process, and after proceedings are complete, that did not exist in years past. Collaborative Divorce provides couples with a softer, simpler route to the dissolution of their marriage, helping their marriage to end without fireworks or fighting.

Collaborative practice is an approach to divorce which allows both parties to work together to achieve common, and individual, goals instead of facing each other as adversaries. By engaging in the Collaborative practice, the couple agrees to work with a team of professionals to reach a mutually agreeable settlement without the involvement of the court.

Collaborative Law teams include legal, financial, and mental health professionals specially trained in Collaborative Practice. Both parties agree to full disclosure of all important information and then work together along with the trained team to create a fair settlement.

Collaborative practice can often settle divorce cases more quickly than traditional routes, allowing both parties to move on to more settled lives, creating peaceful, stable environments for their children. When both spouses have worked together to create a mutually acceptable settlement, co-parenting also becomes easier and less impactful on their children.

Collaborative Divorce may not be an option in every case; however, the practice can provide an easier path forward, allowing parents to maintain a working relationship once their marriage has ended. When children are present, their well-being becomes the highest priority, and issues such as custody and support are often agreed upon without stress or resentment.

If you are facing divorce, you may be unaware of the current options available to you and your spouse. Please consult with an experienced attorney to discuss Collaborative Practice and any other options that could bring peace to your family easier than traditional divorce proceedings.

For more information on Collaborative Practice, please contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce Doesn’t Have to be Destructive

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.

The Effects of Parental Conflict on Children | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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, child custody, and visitation 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 a 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 are 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.