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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 and New Tax Laws in 2019

Divorce and New Tax Laws in 2019

With last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act set to take effect in 2019, many West Michigan couples have rushed to finalize their divorces before the end of the year. The adjustments to the U.S. Tax code, drafted in 2018, will implement changes, including the taxes and deductions related to alimony and spousal support payments.

In the past, the person making the payments was able to deduct the amount when filing their taxes while the person receiving the payments was taxed on the income. Under the new tax code, the payor no longer has the advantage of a deduction, and the recipient does not pay taxes on the income.

In previous years, the deduction may have dropped the payer to a lower tax bracket, incentivizing many to pay spousal support. This major change has driven many people, who may have already been considering divorce, to file before the end of the year.

Though the real impact made by the new tax laws remains to be seen, some professionals argue that the shift in tax liability may eliminate some opportunity for negotiation. By removing the deduction, the spouse responsible for writing the alimony checks may have more reason to push for lower payments. With the deduction no longer providing a potential tax advantage, the payer may fight harder to limit their responsibility.

In the past, the month of January has often seen an increase in divorce filings, since couples who were already struggling with their relationship often waited until the new year to file for divorce to reduce the negative impact on the holidays and related events.

However, the opposite will likely be true for divorce filings in 2019; January may bring a reduction in the number of cases filed since the push to beat the clock, and the new tax guidelines, will likely have run its course. Grand Rapids divorce attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals across the country may get a reprieve from the wave of new cases once the current rush is over.

If you are considering divorce now or in 2019, please consult a divorce attorney before taking your first steps. In Grand Rapids, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Dropping Divorce Rates Influenced by Millennials

Dropping Divorce Rates Influenced by Millennials

The US divorce rate has been slowly falling for several years. However, the decrease has often been attributed to the aging baby boomer population, who married younger and then divorced at an earlier age. Boomers often married more than once, adding to the statistics when their second marriage ended in divorce as well.

While Baby Boomers in West Michigan and across the country continue to divorce, even ending their marriage in their 60’s and 70’s, studies now show that Millennials are having an unexpected effect on the rate of divorce in America. Instead of following in the older generation’s footsteps, Millennials are staying married.

Millennials are waiting until school is behind them, along with other potentially stressful events such as the start of their career and the purchase of a house, before they are married. By waiting longer, both partners tend to bring less stress and uncertainty to the table.

Many Millennials are also more cautious about choosing a partner and settling down together, again waiting much longer than Baby Boomers did. Although marriage was generally seen as the next step in life after WW I and II, that view has changed over the last century.

Baby Boomers continue to divorce in higher than average rates as compared to other age groups, with some studies showing rates that doubled when couples reach retirement years. By marrying later, Millennials are eliminating some of the sources of conflict couples often face and are creating a more stable foundation for their relationships.

Fewer people are choosing to get married as well, which has also contributed to the reduction in divorce rates. Instead of following tradition, some younger couples are living together and raising children without the formal contract of marriage. However, this arrangement is often more likely to end in the office of family law or divorce attorney.

Divorce acceptance may have contributed to the rising rates, which have been steadily climbing throughout the 20th Century. As the decision to divorce became more acceptable, couples that may have remained in a loveless marriage in the past have now chosen to consult with a divorce lawyer to bring that relationship to an end.

If you are considering divorce in Michigan, please consult with a family law or divorce attorney and discuss the modern options available, such as mediation and Collaborative Divorce. In Grand Rapids, contact one of the experienced Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today, and let us help you through your most difficult time.

The Power of Mediation for Divorcing Couples

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.

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.

Weird Divorce Laws Around the World

Weird Divorce Laws Around the World

Divorce is difficult no matter where a couple resides. However, we Americans mostly face laws intended to protect each other from the bad decisions or behavior of the other person and to ensure that assets are evenly distributed between both parties via spousal support and alimony.

Divorce laws are also intended to protect the children involved, ensuring they have every opportunity to enjoy a happy, stable future albeit it different than before their parents separated. The divorce process may seem long and challenging, but it is intended to protect the family unit, including spouses and minor children.

Other countries have strong laws in place to protect both parties as well, but there are also plenty of international laws that may seem strange to Americans. Some are left over from a forgotten age and should be challenged despite the probable good intentions at the time they were enacted.

In Australia, Aboriginal Women can become divorced from their current husband if they elope with a new partner. They can also persuade their husband to divorce them via the traditional route, but if that fails, they can simply elope and become married to the new person.

In the Philippines, a divorce obtained in another country may not be recognized under their home country’s laws. In this case, remarrying in another country and returning to the Philippines may constitute bigamy, which is a punishable crime in the country.

Traditional Eskimos can divorce simply by living apart. An Eskimo couple who no longer wish to be married can simply move out and begin living separate lives; they do not even necessarily need to retain an attorney. In the “Lower 48” as many Alaskan natives refer to the main body of the US, a law like this could wipe out the rental home market when one half of a couple who wished to divorce simply need to move to a new residence.

This last one is not technically a divorce law but is weird enough to be included here. In France, it is actually legal to marry someone who is no longer alive. Apparently, the law dates back to World War One when men did not return from the war and left fiancés behind to grieve for them. Laws allowed the marriage to proceed as long as there was sufficient proof that the couple truly did intend to marry before the other person’s death.

Divorce is difficult in America, but many other countries make it even more complicated to end a marriage. If you are considering divorce in West Michigan, please consult the experienced divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce and Vacations

Divorce and Vacations

It is widely known that divorce is one of the most stressful events that can take place in a person’s life. The emotional impact is as difficult as dealing with a death, but the divorce process and related tasks, such as negotiating settlements, agreeing on child visitation, and meeting with attorneys can be exhausting for everyone involved.

For many people, the best way to deal with the aftermath of a taxing event is to take a vacation. However, once the dust settles and the divorce proceedings are over one or both partners may find traveling alone to be stressful in its own right. Many people have never taken a vacation alone at all.

With the reduction in divorce-related shame and embarrassment, more people are openly discussing the impact the dissolution of their marriage has had on them. Although the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, reaching a 40 year low in Grand Rapids and across the country, the number people listing divorce as the reason for their vacation has increased.

Singles vacations are common, with cruises or resort destinations catering to the single lifestyle. Many include events aimed at connecting people through dances, social events, and excursions. However, many newly divorced people are not ready for the possibility of a new connection and could feel left out of the bigger social scene on such trips.

People who do not wish to travel alone generally book a vacation with one or more close friends. The emotional support that comes from such a trip can help with the feeling of loneliness that often follows a split, and the vacation itself serves as a distraction from the stress and challenge of the divorce process.

Vacations with one or more friends can provide the financial benefits that traveling as a couple created before divorcing as well. Sharing a cruise ship cabin or hotel room can reduce costs, which may be especially important after the newfound expenses that accompany post-divorce life.

In many cases, traveling with a friend who has been through a divorce themselves can be helpful and therapeutic. Even just being with someone who “gets it” can be beneficial.

As summer vacations are booked, travel agents are hearing more and more people give divorce as their reason for traveling. Along with the break from stress and responsibility, travel can provide a recharge and reset, allowing newly divorced people to come back with a different view and better grasp on their path ahead. Divorce may be the best reason for many people to book a trip.

If you are facing divorce, it’s important to be prepared and educated about the modern options and potential outcomes surrounding the divorce process. In West Michigan, please contact the experienced divorce lawyers at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.

The British Monarchy, Marriage, and Divorce

The British Monarchy, Marriage, and Divorce

There is a general fascination with the British Royals and their lives, loves, and even deaths. Most people have dreamed about what it must be like to never want for money, or to be treated like a King or Queen. However, money and power cannot buy happiness, and several members of the royal family have been the subject of high-profile news stories for that very reason.

The most famous, of course, is arguably Princess Diana’s split from Prince Charles. Her marriage was the stuff of dreams for many people around the world, and her divorce created more subject matter for the tabloids than even the ever-enduring Bat Boy could hope for. However, many people do not realize that Diana’s divorce was not the first for the Royals. It was just the most well-known at the time.

Before Diana and Charles, the biggest stir in the House of Windsor came about in 1936, when the future King Edward the VIII fell in love with Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman from Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1936, the Church of England and British Monarchy forbade marriage when the divorced person’s spouse was still living. Wallis Simpson had two husbands who were alive and well, making marriage impossible for Edward. However, Edward was so smitten that he abdicated the throne, giving up his right to the rule in order to marry the woman he loved.

It turned out that her entire reason for chasing Edward in the first place was to land herself in the big chair and become the next Queen of England, so Edward’s decision did nothing to stoke the fires of her love. She did, however, follow through with the marriage in fear that pulling out at the last minute would make her the most hated woman in England. She remained Edward’s wife until he died in 1972. Simpson herself lived to 89 while living in seclusion in Paris.

Because Edward’s brother, George the VI, was made King in his place, the shift placed Elizabeth squarely in line to occupy the throne, and to look rather stately in a tiara. Because of the royal views regarding divorce at that time, the destiny of the entire royal family changed forever.

There were a few other marital upsets before Princess Diana and Prince Charles separated in 1992, but none quite so newsworthy. Because divorce was traditionally such a difficult subject for the British monarchy, most of the breakups took place well out of the spotlight. Or, as far out of the spotlight as possible, anyway.

Times have changed and we are flooded daily with news about Prince Harry’s upcoming marriage to American actress Meghan Markle, who is herself divorced. Markle untied the knot after a short marriage to actor and producer Trevor Howard. Due to the Church of England’s and Royal Family’s softened stance on divorce, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appear to have a real chance at happiness.

After centuries of unbending rules and traditions, even the House of Windsor and the Queen of England herself have acknowledged that love is imperfect and relationships may not last. The public view on divorce has made it into a non-issue as well instead of creating the stigma it once did. Today’s views allow people who can no longer find common ground to be released from unhappy situations without ending up on the front page.

Although we hope for all marriages to last, it is unrealistic to believe every single one will be a fairytale romance.

If you find yourself facing divorce or considering the process, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

New Divorce Trends - Online Apps

New Divorce Trends – Online Apps

There are many new trends in modern divorce that would have seemed far-fetched even ten years ago. Nesting, or bird-nesting as it’s also known, has grown in popularity. It is an arrangement whereby children live in a single home while their parents rotate in and out.

Cohabitation is also on the rise for divorced West Michigan parents. Cohabitation means that two parents continue to live together under one roof even though they have divorced. This practice allows both people to save money while continuing to provide a more stable home environment for their children.

Another current divorce trend is the creation of computer and smartphone applications which help divorced parents manage details such as visitation schedules and shared expenses. Post-divorce parenting apps can help ensure appointments are kept and arguments are avoided.

Some of the available divorce-related apps are listed below.

Our Family Wizard

Our Family Wizard provides divorced parents with a place to maintain records of all of their important information which can be accessed by each parent, their attorneys, and even provided to the court if necessary. The app can be accessed from computers or smartphones and, as stated on their site, “Helps keep Children in the Middle” by eliminating uncertainty and clarifying communication. The app even tracks access by each parent and allows reports to be generated.

Click Here for more information on the Our Family Wizard website.

2Houses

2Houses is similar to Our Family Wizard and provides divorced parents with a place to communicate, store and share information, and track all of the family resources necessary to effectively share parental responsibilities. The service includes calendars, expenses trackers, and messaging. There is also an information bank which can house important information such as emergency contacts, medical information, and more.

Access the 2Houses website here for more information.

Talking Parents

Providing an alternative communication platform to text and email, Talking Parents maintains an independent, third-party record of all important communication between parents that can be used to avoid or resolve disputes. Talking Parents helps parents maintain a positive co-parenting experience by keeping communication clear and civil.

Follow this link for more information on the Talking Parents website.

Divorce Force

Accessible from computers and smartphones, Divorce Force connects users with other people going through the process of divorce or those dealing with life after the fact. Divorce Force is an online community and support group focusing on education and support, where people can ask questions and share experiences with their identity protected. However, the site and app also feature other family management resources such as shared calendars.

Visit the Divorce Force website for more information

Sesame Street: Divorce

As part of their Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce initiative, The Sesame Street team has created a multimedia resource to help parents communicate the many issues of divorce with their children. Primarily intended for parents with children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old, the Sesame Street Divorce toolkit includes downloadable videos, printable guides, and even songs. The focus of the toolkit is to help kids know they are loved and never alone, and to help parents navigate conversations on the tough topics related to divorce. More information is available on the website and through smartphone apps that provide additional tools and resources for parents and children.

Visit the Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce website here

Divorce Coping Tip of the Day

For a bit of stress relief, there is even an app for your smartphone that will provide a Divorce Coping Tip of the Day. Created by the author of two books on divorce, these tips are full of advice and practical assistance instead of venom and ill-will. Although some references are specific to the United Kingdom, the advice is good for anyone who might benefit from a little like-minded support. And, some comic relief.

Click Here to find the Divorce Coping Tip of the Day app.

The Internet Age has created the ability to provide an application for almost any need, so it should come as no real surprise that apps are also available to help people with the challenges related to divorce.

If you are considering divorce or need more information regarding the process, please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Johnsen Wikander is not affiliated with, nor had any influence in the creation of, any of the above-noted resources.

EZ Divorce Websites – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

EZ Divorce Websites – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

An internet search for West Michigan Divorce Attorney or Grand Rapids Divorce will also reveal a number of do-it-yourself websites where couples wishing to end their marriage with an uncontested divorce can prepare and file their own paperwork. If they meet the right criteria, it often appears that they just need to complete a few simple steps and can then go their separate ways.

This may be an attractive option for many couples, especially if money is already tight and there is little to no turmoil surrounding the separation. In some cases, it may even seem as if there is no reason to involve legal counsel at all.

However, as someone wise once said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Quickie divorce websites can make the legal process appear so easy to navigate that divorcing couples just need an automated guide, to check a couple of boxes, and $139.95 to legally end a marriage. However, there are many potential problems waiting for the unprepared, problems which could have expensive and even far-reaching consequences.

Many sites advertising a quickie divorce are built with a “set it and forget it” mentality. Most people would never know if the site’s online forms are kept current or in line with changing laws. If an important law is revised or new laws are passed and the related forms are not updated, divorcing couples could easily cause delays in their divorce proceedings.

Divorce procedures often differ from one county to another as well. Although quickie divorce websites appear to offer simple solutions, in reality, there are procedures that must be followed often depending on the couple’s county of residence. Mistakes in paperwork can add extra time and expense, or worse, mistakes could come back to haunt one partner or the other in the future.

Unclear or ambiguous language on documentation, particularly the final judgment of divorce, has led to many unanticipated issues with divorce cases that resurface years later.. Unclear language or misused terminology can create costly issues which need professional legal involvement after the divorce is finalized.

There are easier ways to divorce than entering a lengthy, expensive legal battle in court. Many legal teams such as the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander offer uncontested divorce options and Collaborative Divorce solutions for couples who want to separate without a fight. These options can preserve relationships and provide a more emotionally stable home for any children that may be involved. Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through this difficult time.