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Being Supportive when Friends Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Being Supportive when Friends Divorce

Married couples are not the only people affected by divorce. Many people have friends or family members who have been through the process as well, and when divorce happens to close friends or relatives it can also cause turmoil for the people close to the couple involved.

People want to be helpful when those around them are hurting or frightened. However, being supportive does not necessarily mean getting overly involved another person’s divorce. There are plenty of problems that arise when someone gives advice, chooses sides or tries to intervene.

Although they may have the best intentions, the advice provided by friends of separating spouses may not be relevant or helpful to the divorcing couple’s situation. No two divorce cases are exactly the same; the same decisions and arrangements very well will not apply to both.

It is also hard for people to remain neutral, no matter how much they try. When friends choose sides, whether it’s because they feel more loyalty toward one spouse over the other or because they perceive some emotional or personal gain from the relationship, feelings can be hurt and may lead to resentment, making an already difficult situation worse.

Friends close to the divorcing couple may trade information back and forth as well. In the search for details or information, rumors often start. This is even more of a problem in the Information Age, when every detail of most people’s lives often end up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Rumors are problematic enough, but misrepresented information can have a detrimental effect on the situation, especially if it plants the idea in someone’s head that one of the spouses has been acting badly, by hiding money or carrying on an affair.

Unfounded concerns, that lead to rumors, can have an unexpected effect on the divorce case. In litigated or very adversarial cases, a rumor about hidden money or an affair may encourage one spouse to delay the proceedings, often creating additional expense for both parties. Very often, the more litigious a divorce cases, the higher the attorney fee bill.

Being supportive to friends who are going through a divorce does not require getting involved with the situation itself. Provide a shoulder to lean on or a safe place to turn, but allow the divorcing spouse to get their advice and legal information from the right professional.

If you are considering divorce or feel that itis your only option, 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.

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

Collaborative Divorce – A Better Approach to a Difficult Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are considering divorce, you may not be aware of the options available to you and your spouse today. Please take the time to educate yourself before proceeding with any legal action. In West Michigan, please consult with the specially trained Collaborative Law professionals and Grand Rapids area divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorce Today – No-Fault vs Fault Explained | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce Today – No-Fault vs Fault Explained

At one time, anyone filing for divorce in the United States needed to prove fault before being granted permission to proceed. Reasons for fault varied, and individuals seeking to split with their partner often found reasons to do so anyway.

In a divorce, fault could include adultery, prison time, alcohol or drug abuse and mental or physical cruelty. In many cases, when good reason could not be provided, one or both spouses chose “irreconcilable differences” as their reason for separating.

Today, 17 of the 50 states are “no-fault” states, not requiring (or allowing) spouses to blame the other for the breakdown of their marriage. Traditional reasons for divorce, such as adultery and abuse, are not recognized as reasons for ending the marriage in these no-fault states.

The other 33 states do allow a reason to be given as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, however, they do not require it. In these states, no-fault is the main reason for the divorce, and any other details provided simply fall under the no-fault umbrella.

One of the biggest differences between fault and no-fault divorce is the cost involved. Since fault requires one spouse accusing the other in order to obtain their divorce, litigation can drag out and legal fees can be significant.

When fault was required in order to proceed with a divorce case, couples often lied under oath when giving a reason for the breakdown of their marriage. By making false statements, people would often commit perjury just to be granted their divorce. The no-fault divorce designation helped the courts to more efficiently process divorce cases and reduce legal fees for litigants.

As a No-Fault state, Michigan does not require a reason for divorce. One spouse, and one spouse only, must state under oath that, “there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” The other spouse may disagree, but the filing spouse will be granted their divorce regardless.

If you are considering divorce or feel that it is one of your only options, be sure to discuss your situation with an experienced West Michigan attorney. In Grand Rapids, please contact the legal professionals at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Dropping Divorce Rates Influenced by Millennials | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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 a 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 | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The Power of Mediation for Divorcing Couples

Today’s couples have divorce options that did not exist in the recent past. Traditional approaches to divorce, which in West Michigan and other places around the country, involve two attorneys, in an adversarial position, were once the only option. New and trending options, such as Collaborative Divorce, arbitration, and mediation, provide a less stressful approach for couples who do not want to fight their way to freedom.

Instead of creating conflict, mediation places couples in a low-stress, cooperative environment where they can work together to find common ground. Mediation helps to reduce conflict and preserve relationships, often ensuring a healthy co-parenting arrangement once the process is complete.

A Dutch company has taken the mediation approach a step further by offering couples a weekend retreat at a high-end hotel where the end result is their divorce agreement. Called DivorceHotel, couples can check in married, and three days later, leave with a signed divorce.

DivorceHotel, a company and not a specific location, partners with finer hotels to offer a weekend getaway that includes meals, spa treatments, and even free swag bags. Couples looking for a softer approach to the divorce process can pay a single fee which includes their stay, meals and spa access, and the process which leads to signed divorce paperwork by the time they check out.

The approach is unusual, but DivorceHotel now operates throughout Europe and has opened in several hotels around the United States. Couples who wish to avoid confrontation and take a less stressful approach to divorce can work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome – while at the same time enjoying a relaxing “vacation.”

The weekend event, held at upscale hotels in New York and Los Angeles, is also available in other locations around the country. One such location is the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Sarasota Springs, NY, where fine weddings take place several times a year. The possibility that a divorce and wedding could overlap at the same location does exist.

Whether accomplished through an offering like DivorceHotel or through an experienced attorney, couples who can still communicate and are willing to work together to reach a mutually achieved agreement can keep their divorce proceeding out of the courtroom and reduce associated stress and costs.

If you are facing divorce, don’t just assume you have to go to court at odds with your spouse. Discuss your options with an experienced attorney and see if there is a better, gentler approach that puts children first and benefits everyone involved.

Mediation is just one of your options. For more information, or to discuss your divorce with an experienced Grand Rapids area attorney, please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Divorced Women on TV | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorced Women on TV

Divorced women have historically carried more of the social stigma than their male counterparts, even when they were equally responsible for the decision to divorce. Once divorce proceedings were done, women have generally been treated with unequal social scrutiny, often being treated as if they have suddenly become members of some lower caste.

This has been visible through the years on television, where divorce was never even mentioned until an unlikely hero brought it out into the center stage. At the end of an era when TV bedrooms had to show two beds and pregnancy could not even be discussed on air, Lucille Ball made a divorced woman the supporting star of her own prime-time show.

After her own divorce from Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball struggled to find her footing until she talked the network into running her new show, which featured herself as a widow and Vivian Vance, or Ethel, as she was known in I Love Lucy, as a divorcee named Viv and Lucy’s best friend. The Lucy Show was a hit, and Viv became the first divorced woman on a hit sitcom.

Years later, Maude, the title character from the 1972 show featuring Bea Arthur (long before she was a Golden Girl), went through divorce as part of the show’s script. Interestingly enough, she would return to TV as a divorced woman in the 1980’s hit, The Golden Girls.

Shortly after Maude ended, Bonnie Franklin brought the role of a divorced mother of two girls to prime time. For many, One Day at a Time, which previewed in December of 1975, was the first to spotlight a divorced woman, and to portray her for what she really was – a struggling single parent facing the same issues any other parent would face, just without the support of a spouse.

One Day at a Time is often cited as the first show to feature a divorced woman, even though it was not even the second. It was, however, the first to discuss the issues of divorce openly and honestly, placing the main characters in realistic situations, which, even though the show was technically a sitcom, could be heartbreaking and difficult. For many, that tipping point brought the subject of divorce out of the shadows and made it a normal, dinner-time discussion.

The subject of divorced women was initially broached by an unlikely source, one who broke several stereotypes and paved the way for women to succeed on television. Lucille Ball made the subject more approachable, then Bea Arthur’s Maude made it more open and acceptable.

Bonnie Franklin’s character put the subject of women in divorce front and center of our TV screens for almost ten years, showing the world that divorced women were no different than divorced men. In many ways, the show proved what most people already knew – they had to work harder, often face the same struggles and challenges, and often do so with less support than their now-absent spouses.

Every subject has its tipping point, when someone finally steps up and boldly presents it to the rest of the world. These three brave women changed the face of divorce for the rest of us, and especially for divorced women everywhere.

If you are facing divorce, there are many new options available that may not have been possible when Lucille Ball took to the screen, let alone even 5 years ago. Educating yourself is important. Please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Let us help you understand the options, such as Collaborative Divorce and Mediation.

Contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.

Weird Divorce Laws Around the World | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce and Pets – What about Bentley?

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

The family pet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce and The Office | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Divorce and The Office

The decision to divorce affects every aspect of both spouses lives, including finances, child custody, insurance, and property ownership. However, it can also affect relationships at work whether those relationships are with coworkers or superiors.

Most people do not necessarily wish to make their divorce a part of their work life on top of the stress felt outside of the office. Work may feel like a bit of a sanctuary where the decisions and divisions are hidden by a normal workload. Or, for people who enjoy what they do for a living, their jobs may provide a welcome distraction from the day to day divorce related tasks and trials

People may wish to keep the information regarding their divorce quiet for other reasons. Some people may not agree with the decision to divorce due to political or religious differences, making it harder to share at the office. Others may wish to keep it to themselves because they feel it’s not other people’s business.

However, for spouses who carry the couple’s health insurance, it will become necessary to include the boss, or human resources at the very least. Changes in insurance coverage will mean paperwork that must be handled by the employee spouse’s HR department.

Other issues could bring the news of either spouse’s divorce out into the open, such as questions surrounding either party’s income or financial status. If there is reason to believe that one spouse or the other is being untruthful about their income, an investigation into same (via subpoena or otherwise) could put the impending divorce into the spotlight for coworkers to discover.

At some point, the divorce will very likely become common knowledge – especially in the social media age. It is nearly impossible to prevent news from spreading through Internet channels, so a couple’s split will sooner or later find its way to the office water cooler.

Is it better to keep the news of a divorce quiet at the office, or face it head on? The decision will be different for all people and may be based on the specific circumstances of the divorce.

If you are considering a divorce, please discuss the legal implications of sharing information at work with a professional before putting yourself in a tough situation. Your first step should be to discuss your divorce with an experienced West Michigan attorney such as the team at Johnsen Wikander.

Please contact us today and let us help you through your most difficult time