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Collaborative Divorce – A Better Approach to a Difficult Issue | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Collaborative Divorce – A Better Approach to a Difficult Issue

In the past, divorcing couples were given few choices when the decision was made to end their marriage. A traditional divorce, which often created feelings of anger and resentment due to the adversarial nature of the process, was very often the only choice a couple faced.

In 1990, Stuart Web, a Minnesota divorce lawyer, grew frustrated by the conflict created through traditional divorce proceedings and created the less impactful process known today as Collaborative Divorce. After representing divorce clients for 15 years, Webb recognized the need for a more respectful, less adversarial process that presented both spouses with a mutually beneficial outcome.

Collaborative Divorce has since become a widely accepted option for divorcing couples who wish to work together to achieve an outcome that not only satisfies both spouses’ needs and wishes but also puts the security of any children involved in the divorce above all else.

By reducing the conflict present in many divorce cases, the children receive another benefit to Collaborative Divorce. Relationships between divorcing spouses are more likely to remain respectful and civil when both parties work through the divorce process together, leading to a more stable and friendly co-parenting arrangement.

Collaborative Divorce can also cost less than traditional divorce proceedings. By reducing anger and resentment and introducing cooperation, the time required to achieve an acceptable outcome can be reduced, along with fees and court costs.

The time required to complete the divorce process can also be reduced. If both spouses can work together to make critical decisions and agree on the outcome, the process can move faster and potentially can be completed in less overall time without involvement of the courts.

In a Collaborative Divorce case, both parties agree to work together to reach a mutually beneficial outcome with the assistance of divorce lawyers, financial specialists, mental health professionals, and other important professionals who have been specially trained in the Collaborative Divorce process.

If you are considering divorce, you may not be aware of the options available to you and your spouse today. Please take the time to educate yourself 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.

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.

The History of Collaborative Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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.

Can Your Divorce get your lover in legal trouble too? | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Cheating and the Law – Can Your Divorce get Your Lover in Legal Trouble, Too?

The story of a man ordered to pay his lover’s husband a total of $8.8 million dollars in damages made the headlines on several news sites this week, including CNN and Great Britain’s DailyMail.com.

When Texan Francisco Huizar involved himself in an affair with the wife of businessman Keith King, a North Carolina law provided the foundation for which Mr. King could pursue relief from Mr. Fransisco, who was sued for Alienation of Affection, among other claims. In other words, the lawsuit claimed that the man’s actions had caused the loss of affection between the two spouses, ultimately leading to the failure of the marriage.

Although most of the fines awarded were meant as punishment for the effects of the affair on the husband, $2.2 million dollars was attributed as compensation for tangible damages stemming from lost revenue related to the affair since the wife was also an employee of her husband’s business. And, for the loss of his wife.

Alienation of Affection laws were abolished in most states, including Michigan. North Carolina is one of a handful of states that still allow legal action to be brought against, not only an extra-marital lover, but anyone shown to have interfered with the with the stability of a marriage, including family members, religious leaders, and even counselors or therapists.

The Alienation of Affection law appears to infer that a spouse can be pushed away from a happy marriage by seduction, malicious intent, influence, or attrition and not through the spouse’s own returned affections, inappropriate actions, or self-interests.

To succeed on a claim of Alienation of Affection, there must be proof that a happy, stable marriage existed before the affections of the third party were introduced into the relationship and those affections created the turmoil which led to infidelity and ultimately to the failure of the marital union.

Although North Carolina is not the only state with Alienation of Affection laws still on the books, it does appear to be the most recent place in which this type of lawsuit has been filed. The $8.8 million dollar King vs. Huizar award is the latest of such lawsuits filed, but it is not the only one. Or the most expensive.

In 2011, a North Carolina judge handed down a judgment ordering the wife of a trucking company owner to pay a total of $30 million dollars in damages to her former husband – the largest settlement of its kind in the state’s history and the result of her affair that paved the way for their divorce. In 2000, a jury awarded a high school wrestling coach $1.4 million dollars when his wife reunited with her high school sweetheart 15 years after graduation and their rekindled romance led both lovers to divorce their spouses.

Although Michigan abolished the Alienation of Affection law along with most other states, there are other issues that can lead to penalties and problems for West Michigan couples considering divorce. If you believe divorce has become the only option left, please consult with an experienced West Michigan divorce attorney to avoid expensive pitfalls or legal issues.

Please contact the experienced Grand Rapids attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley? | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley?

No matter how much of a struggle, or how simple, any West Michigan divorce case may be there is a lot of work involved to determine fair and equitable distribution of assets, healthy custody arrangements for the children, and continued support for everyone for the future. However, there is one other participant in the divorce proceedings that is not always immediately considered.

The family pet.

Whether your furry family member is a cat or dog, or even a fish or lizard, there may be discussion over who should continue to care for it and why. It is very easy for this issue to become nearly as challenging as those involving minor children.

These days, the family pet has often been promoted to a position of prominence in the household that borders on, or truly is, family membership. New home builders regularly take pets into consideration when creating floor plans and option lists that are helpful to pet ownership. Neighborhoods and communities are also designed to include pet parks, pet -friendly walking trails, and other features that might draw in potential buyers. Pets are truly a part of many families.

Although more and more courts are also beginning to recognize the family pet as more than just an object, there are still some which may make decisions based on what’s best for the people involved and not the animal.

This is one more important reason to consider a gentler approach to your divorce case. No matter what situation exists between two angry spouses, the children and the family pet are often caught in the whirlwind and need some stability to maintain a healthy life.

Spouses considering divorce have many gentler, less adversarial options today that did not exist 20 years ago such as arbitration, mediation, and Collaborative Divorce.

Collaborative Divorce begins with a commitment from both spouses to NOT go to court. Instead of involving the West Michigan court system, the process begins with assembling a team of Collaboratively-trained professionals from areas such as financial management and mental health.

This team will work together to guide both partners through the decisions regarding asset allocation, custody and visitation, and financial support. By starting in a less adversarial environment, Collaborative Divorce can lead a couple down an easier path, allowing both spouses to make decisions together and ensure their children’s well-being is considered. And their pets too.

With Collaborative Divorce and the other gentler practices offered by Johnsen Wikander, the pet’s care and living arrangements are placed in the hands of the two spouses and not left up to the courts. An agreeable situation, whether it’s joint custody, visitation, or a split living arrangement, can be met through discussion and the pet’s future and security are controlled by the people who care the most – the fur-baby’s parents.

If you are considering divorce in West Michigan, please get professional advice before making a decision that could have negative effects on you, and on your family’s, future. Please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander 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 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.