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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.

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.

Gentler Approach to Difficult Issues | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Gentler Approach to Difficult Issues

Celebrity war stories regularly show up in the nightly news and gossip shows as the latest Hollywood power couples break up and begin the battle for assets and custody in the public eye. For weeks or months, the newspapers and magazines lining the grocery store checkout aisles will treat readers to the latest updates as famous couples dissolve their relationships.

Often, the couple’s lives, skirmishes, and the resulting deals are published for all the world to see. Separations like these can make it easy to believe all divorces are overwhelmingly difficult, and will always end in blood, sweat, and tears.

However, the path to marital dissolution no longer needs to include adversarial legal teams and strategic battles. Although the traditional process still exists and may be the proper approach for some couples, other solutions have become popular ways to bring a peaceful end to a couple’s failing marriage.

Divorcing couples today have more options than ever before. Gentler solutions, such as Collaborative Divorce, mediation, and arbitration provide alternatives meant to put families first and preserve a couple’s relationships with each other and with their children.

More peaceful solutions such as these help couples find common ground, placing decisions on the table for discussion, instead of for debate. Couples seek out common sense solutions to financial issues, child custody schedules and the division of assets.

By participating in the formal Collaborative Divorce process, couples contractually agree to enlist the aid of a specially-trained team consisting of legal, mental health, and financial professionals, who help guide and support the couple throughout the process.

Instead of victories and failures, each decision leads to an outcome that tends to favor both parties’ interests and needs, while also heavily focusing on the children’s best interests. The Collaborative Divorce process attempts to preserve relationships between spouses by helping to remove the adversarial nature of a more traditional divorce. Whether a couple resides in Hollywood or Grand Rapids, they have more, and often better options for divorce than ever before. Discuss the available options with an experienced attorney to find the solution that best fits your needs before deciding on a traditional divorce process. In West Michigan, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Grandparents Visitation Rights After Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Grandparents Visitation Rights After Divorce

Child custody and visitation can often become points of contention in divorce cases. When divorcing parents fight over money or personal property, children can often become pawns in their parent’s ugly game. In some cases, grandparents are caught between warring parents and end up being denied time with their grandchildren.

A difficult divorce can create challenges for parents who lose custody of their children, forcing them to follow court-ordered visitation schedules and shared custody orders regardless of the convenience or inconvenience. However, what rights do grandparents have when their children cannot agree on custody and deny them time with their grandchildren?

The answer differs from state to state. In Michigan, if a parent prevents a grandparent from seeing their grandchildren, the grandparent may have little to no recourse. If an informal agreement cannot be reached by the parents, Michigan grandparents can seek a court order granting them visitation rights, or grandparenting time, but it can be a tough road.

In order to seek visitation rights, a grandparent may need to clear several hurdles. Visitation denial by a parent may signal to the court that the grandparent is unfit, or a danger to the child, and the courts defer heavily to the rights of parents in making these decisions.

Unless the grandparents can prove that denying them access to the child could cause mental, physical, or psychological harm, a judge may not grant any visitation rights at all. If a fit parent denies a grandparent access, the court will most likely assume that the parent knows what is best for their children, and deny the grandparent’s request for court-ordered time.

In some cases, a judge may determine that spending time with grandparents is in the best interest of the child. There are many criteria on which this decision will likely be made, but in the absence of any history of abuse, neglect, or hostility, it is not always impossible for grandparents to gain visitation rights.

A judge will likely review other factors before making a decision, including moral concerns, the child’s affection for the grandparent, the grandparents physical and mental health, and the child’s personal preference. Ultimately, the child’s best interests will decide the outcome.

If you are a grandparent who has been expressly denied access to your grandchild, you may have rights. In West Michigan, contact the experienced West Michigan attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.

Collaborative Divorce Revisited | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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 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.

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce

As most people know the US tax laws are changing in many ways. Those changes will likely have some impact on almost everyone in West Michigan, and in the rest of the United States. However, there are many changes to the Tax Code that most people may be unaware of until changes in their own lives cause them to be exposed to the effects.

Some of the new tax laws will affect couples considering divorce in several ways, such as the changing laws regarding spousal support and tax deductions. However, there are business implications as well. For example, the new laws and related deductions may impact small business owners by potentially affecting their business valuations.

With so much change surrounding the US tax laws, and the implications those changes could have, it is extremely important for anyone considering divorce to discuss the process with an experienced attorney and tax professional immediately. Don’t wait until it’s time to file business and personal taxes next year, ask questions from an experienced West Michigan attorney immediately if you have any major life changes on the horizon.

Divorce is difficult no matter what the circumstances. Many people will be exposed to information from friends and family who have been through the process, and who believe they can provide sound advice. Even if they were able to share information regarding the divorce process or tax implications that was correct in the past, that information will probably not be relevant now.

If you are considering divorce, it is extremely important that you do not wait to discuss the legal and tax implications with an experienced attorney. The decisions you make today could affect your business and personal tax filings in the following year, or possibly for years to come.

We will be featuring a series of articles highlighting the tax changes and what they mean for couples considering divorce, as well as the impact on child support, spousal support, and business valuations. Please stop back for more information on these topics and others that can help you to be better prepared.

It is important that you act now, so please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through this difficult time.

Divorce Doesn’t Have to be Destructive | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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.

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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 may help or hurt a divorce case. 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 | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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.