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More than just Divorce

More than just Divorce

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

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

Mediation

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

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

Arbitration

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

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

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

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

 

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence

Social media and personal messaging apps, such as those associated with Facebook and Twitter, are being used for more personal communication than ever. Facebook friends or Twitter followers are easily found in the list of contacts associated with the user’s account, so many people never bother to add them to any other contact list.

Convenient private messaging apps are also available for phones and computers. Some dedicated communication applications, such as Snapchat, are used to send sensitive information because their short-lived messages disappear from the sender’s account after a predefined time. Each messaging app and social media outlet has its own pros and cons, but all of them share something in common – their content, when discoverable, can be used as evidence in divorce cases.

Social media content can show a wide variety of evidence that a divorce lawyer can use to help benefit their client against there spouse. Photos can be especially harmful, but text messages and online comments can be equally damaging when they contain proof of a lie or illicit behavior. A cheating spouse (or their friends) may post photos of themselves out to dinner or vacationing with another party, which may present usable evidence to a legal team.

Social media can also be used to prove, or disprove, a person’s state of mind at the time they created a post. Comments that threaten to harm other people, or the poster themselves, can affect important pieces of a divorce case such as child custody decisions. Even if the threats are hollow, they can still be used to show potential intent or instability. Angry messages or threats can even be used to justify a personal protection order.

Many people post their daily activities without thinking. Posting on social media has become so commonplace that people rarely stop to consider the implications of their actions. However, bragging online about a financial windfall or hidden wealth, or claiming to be unemployed while posting pictures of new cars or expensive vacations, could provide information that impacts property settlements or alimony.

For more information or a consultation, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander to discuss your current situation and let us help you through this difficult time.

The Truth About Divorce Rates

The Truth About Divorce Rates

We have been told for years that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. The entertainment news, friends, and social media spit out facts and figures that are often repeated until they become truth. But, what is the real truth?

We’re all privy to celebrity divorces when every detail is broadcast into our living rooms each night. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, etc; their struggles are discussed over dinner and in break-rooms across the country.

The real truth: divorce rates are falling in West Michigan, and nationwide.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services, Michigan divorce rates have declined overall by more than 25% in the last 15 years. Since the 1980’s, divorce rates have been declining steadily from their most recent peak.

Although the general marriage rate has also fallen since the 1980’s, it has also begun to increase again in recent years. However, today’s couples are waiting longer before tying the knot, and one or both partners standing at the altar may also have already experienced divorced.

There are several possibilities for the drop in divorce rates, but there is little hard evidence. With many couples embracing marriage for the second time, it’s possible that some “trial and error” may be a factor. Couples waiting longer to get married may have also worked out some of the uncertainty other new spouses face when sharing a home for the first time.

Marrying later may also mean that both partners have had time to mature. Compatibility is now a more important factor in partnerships as well, meaning couples are more likely to experience successful, loving partnerships longer, and later, in life.

No matter what the reason, the divorce rate has definitely seen its peak, and has begun its descent back to earthly levels. However, there is still a fairly high percentage of marriages that just don’t work.

If you are struggling to find the truth about divorce, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Let us help you navigate the uncertain path ahead.

 

Holiday Stress and Divorce Remorse | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Holiday Stress and Divorce Remorse

For someone going through separation or divorce, the holiday season may seem more like a challenge to be overcome than an opportunity to celebrate family bonds and friendship. Social events like Thanksgiving may be accompanied by feelings of sadness or loneliness for someone who is newly single, especially for a parent facing their first holiday without their children.

Even West Michigan family gatherings can seem like overwhelming situations involving endless explanations and unwanted attention. Parents may hover over their newly divorced child, smothering them when they need room to breathe and adjust. Friends and relatives may push their “help” by offering unwanted or inappropriate advice, or worse, they may dig for information they can use to spread rumors and gossip.

Holiday parties can also be difficult for newly divorced people. Friends may be loyal to one person or the other, potentially leaving a void where one is unexpected. Parties can present another challenge when both newly divorced people are invited. Well-meaning friends may intentionally invite them both to try to patch up a failed relationship, creating more stress or increased tension.

Holidays in Grand Rapids will be hard on the children of divorced parents as well, whether they spend the day with only one parent, or split the day between both. Children spending the day with only one parent may wish to be with the other, or, if they are younger, they may not understand why only one parent is present on such a special day. If they are shuttled between two households, they may feel overwhelmed by the situation or by an overabundance of attention from concerned adults.

For newly divorced partners, and especially parents, it is important to think ahead to the coming holiday season and prepare for the changes to routines, events and travels that you may encounter. It is also important to avoid situations which fuel loneliness and anger, and which can create discomfort or stress.

When children are involved, planning events, such as visitation days ahead of time, will reduce stress and tension between parents. Children are especially affected by divorce during the holiday season since family traditions may be replaced by new routines and potentially twice as much activity. A special day can quickly be reduced to a series of transitions and extra travel.

Divorce creates a new normal for everyone involved, which will improve with time. However, it is also important to fill that time with positive actions and events. Choosing to participate in volunteer opportunities can provide a distraction, as well as feelings of accomplishment and charity. Changing routines can also eliminate stress by removing expectations.

Surviving the holidays may not be easy for some time after the divorce, however, things will improve with time. For more information, please contact the Grand Rapids divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today.

Proposed Tax Changes - Impact on Divorcing Couples | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Proposed Tax Changes – Impact on Divorcing Couples

Major changes to the U.S. tax code have resurfaced as part of the nightly news during most modern election cycles. However, the new administration appears to be intent on pushing through some form of change, parts or all of which may soon come to pass. For couples who may be considering divorce, some of those changes could have far-reaching effects on one or both spouses.

The IRS has a post on their blog ominously titled “The Tax Consequences of Divorce.” Tax law is challenging enough before throwing a divorce into the mix. A fair settlement is important, but divorcing couples need to carefully consider the effects of their actions on the long and short-term financial stability of both parents and on their children.

The New York Times has a set of charts that help explain the proposed tax plan. Some of the potential changes to the current tax code will affect exemptions available to one or both spouses. The possible reduction in the number of tax brackets may also change the income level with which either partner identifies, creating financial strain where none may have previously existed.

One of the most important issues currently under consideration is the tax implications of alimony. Under current tax law, alimony is deductible by the spouse who pays out the alimony payments and included as income to the recipient. Under the proposed changes, the payments would no longer be deductible. If the payer is also reclassified under a higher tax bracket their financial impact may be much more dramatic than expected.

Other tax implications, such as dependency exemptions and child support, may not be under consideration today, but that does not mean they will be completely ignored. Although child support is currently not taxable to the spouse receiving the payments, this should be carefully watched for any changes.

With or without tax code changes, there are many reasons to consult a West Michigan accountant who is familiar with divorce implications on taxes. It is also important to discuss the effects of current tax obligations and potential adjustments with a qualified Grand Rapids divorce attorney, such as Johnsen Wikander, before filing any paperwork.

Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help guide you through the many challenges of divorce.

Choosing Sides: The Impact of Divorce on Friendships

West Michigan residents tend to be very social, developing strong relationships with people in and out of work, organizational, or religious environments. As social beings, almost all people want to feel like they are part of a group, and friendships provide the natural support system that goes with being an accepted part of a larger whole.

Divorce proceedings can create stress for the people on the outside of the relationship as well as the divorcing spouses. The process often pulls friends and acquaintances into the middle, forcing people who had allegiances with both partners into the uncomfortable position of choosing who they will continue to socialize with when divorce proceedings are complete. No matter how good we are at helping Grand Rapids clients with mediation or arbitration there is only so much we can do!

People who choose to remain friends with adversarial divorcing spouses may find it difficult to maintain allegiance with both. These people may find themselves caught in one partner’s struggle for information about the other, or victims of one’s jealousy regarding the other’s relationship.

Psychology Today reports that married couples rarely stay friends with either divorced partner, and divorced singles rarely remained friends with a strong couple. The married relationship often reminds the divorced individual of what they had lost and creates feelings of remorse or depression.

For couples, remaining friends with a divorced partner are often identified as the source of their own marital strife. New lives, new situations, and new opportunities can be attractive to one or both spouses who are having doubts about their own situation, and they may decide to abandon their friendship as a defensive measure.

Divorcing couples need to remember that people are not an asset to be divided, like furniture or capital. Friends of both partners may naturally choose to remain as part of one spouse’s life or another, but putting them in the middle or demanding they pick a side will almost certainly drive them away.

Friends are natural support systems and few situations create more stress or challenges than divorce. In times of need, we all want a shoulder to cry on or strong back to help us move forward. However, it is important to let other people find their own way through your divorce and come out wherever they feel safest.

That may mean they follow the other partner, keep their distance, or decide to simply disappear. In any case it’s best to let them stand where they are the most comfortable, even if it means the loss of a best friend.

Divorce is difficult, but an experienced divorce attorney can help. Please contact us at Johnsen Wikander in Grand Rapids with your questions and allow us to be your support system during your time of need.