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Seeking Legal Advice Before Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Seeking Legal Advice Before Divorce

Most people understand that legal assistance is important in many situations. When an individual faces a lawsuit, possibility of financial gain or loss or potential incarceration, help from an experienced West Michigan lawyer becomes extremely important.

There are, however, a variety of legal issues that people attempt to resolve without the advice of an attorney. Internet-based companies with fancy websites have made many processes appear simple, creating the image that patenting an invention or forming a corporation is a DIY project that can easily be completed over a weekend.

At minimal expense, couples can end their marriage with a few clicks of their mouse and a credit card or PayPal account. However, the decisions made during a separation or divorce—and the language included in the legal documents—can have far-reaching effects, many of which may not be obvious to the unrepresented individual.

While keeping divorce simple and amicable is desirable, answering some generic questions on a form may be a risky way to end a marriage.. Every divorce presents unique circumstances, and individuals should always consider having an attorney review their facts before proceeding on their own.

For example, divorcing couples may start by signing a separation agreement. While this may seem simple enough, a poorly written agreement may lead to future problems for the couple.

If you are considering divorce, please start by consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer.

In West Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

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.

Divorce Roundup for 2018

Divorce Roundup for 2018

In the past year, Americans have seen a fair amount of uncertainty, turmoil and change. Some events may impact the legal decisions facing divorcing spouses in the near future, while other events point to cultural changes that may positively touch the lives of one or both spouses who have chosen to dissolve their marriage.

For our first post of the new year, it seems appropriate to review some information we shared during 2018. Although some of the things we have shared with our West Michigan neighbors has been light-hearted, other posts have addressed critical issues facing the people in the Grand Rapids area who might be considering or going through a divorce.

Our 2018 highlights include:

Divorce Rate Decline

Divorce rates have seen a decline over the past several years, with much of that change attributed to the Millennial’s approach to marriage. With a more results-driven, goal-oriented attitude toward marriage, Millennials are marrying later in life, and divorcing less often.

The Truth About Divorce Rates

Dropping Divorce Rates Influenced by Millennials

Modern Technology, Social Media, and Divorce

Todays’ technology and its occasional overuse can lead to marital problems and also provide attorneys and litigants with evidence that can be used on either side of a case. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets often show proof of everything from hidden property to infidelity.

There have been some helpful technological advancements too, with the rise of smartphone apps and websites that help with co-parenting and communication, such as Our Family Wizard and the like.

Social Media can be Divorce Case Evidence

New Divorce Trends – Online Apps

Divorce Themed Jewelry

Divorce and Vacations

Cultural Changes, Acceptance, and Divorce

Public sentiment towards divorce has changed dramatically over the last several decades, with television and other media sources contributing to the shift. TV shows like One Day at a Time and even I Love Lucy showed the public that divorced spouses were still human beings with regular problems, undeserving of the stigma and scorn so often directed their way.

Divorced Women on TV

The Power of Mediation for Divorcing Couples

Stay Together for the Kids? Many Kids say No

Divorce and The Office

Divorce and Friendship – Who gets The Smiths?

New Options Available to Divorcing Spouses

Divorce does not have to be the adversarial, “winner take all” contest it once may have been for many divorcing spouses. Newer options, such as Collaborative Divorce, and more common options, like arbitration, and mediation, offer divorcing couples and family lawyers a way to work together, protect their relationships, and create better outcomes for children.

The History of Collaborative Divorce

More than just Divorce

Collaborative Divorce: A Gentler Process, A Better Answer

Collaborative Divorce Revisited

Gentler Approach to Difficult Issues

New Tax Laws, Finances, and Divorce

Tax code changes that take effect in the new year may change the way spouses approach issues like spousal support and alimony. With the tax responsibility shifting from one side to the other, new financial considerations make it more important than ever to discuss the divorce process and outcome with an experienced divorce attorney.

New Tax Laws May Affect Alimony Settlements

Divorce and Financial Considerations

How the New Tax Code may Impact Children of Divorce

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce

If you are considering divorce in 2019, please consult with a divorce lawyer before taking any steps forward. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce in 2018

Divorce in 2018

As the year draws to a close and West Michigan prepares for the Holiday Season, many people take time to reflect on the events of the past year and the impact those events have had on their lives, including divorce.

For some couples, divorce played a part in their year, setting the course their lives will take in 2019 and beyond. For those Grand Rapids couples who have been through a divorce, this year may have included consultations with divorce lawyers, being educated about Collaborative Divorce, mediation, arbitration, and traditional divorce proceedings.

In 2018, the choices available to divorcing couples are more varied than past years, and the opportunity to part with a spouse amicably – instead of going through a combative process – can lead to a more functional co-parenting situation after the divorce is finalized.

Instead of fighting over minute details, West Michigan divorce attorneys can offer solutions that include decisions and outcomes that give both parties the tools they need to move forward.

With Collaborative Divorce, couples can find closure without aggressive litigation that often impacts their ability to maintain a positive relationship in the future. This is especially important for parents who wish to co-parent their children and make it easier to work together when visitation is split between homes.

The alternative options available to divorcing couples can have less harmful impacts on children’s lives, with less tension and stress that often affects their relationship with their parents.

Modern divorce options put children first, allowing divorcing parents to maintain a peaceful family environment and provide a secure foundation for the future of their children. The importance of preserving the integrity of the family unit is unmatched.

If you are facing the possibility of divorce, please consult with a divorce lawyer before taking any steps that might be difficult to reverse. In Grand Rapids and the surrounding West Michigan area, please contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Collaborative Divorce – A Better Approach to a Difficult Issue

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

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 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.

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley?

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley?

No matter how much of a struggle, or how simple, any West Michigan divorce case maybe 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 options 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

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.