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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 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.

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.

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 The Office

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 a 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

A Gentler Process, A Better Answer

Collaborative Divorce: A Gentler Process, A Better Answer

In 2014, Michigan became the tenth state to adopt laws that provide couples with a better, gentler path forward when facing divorce. Collaborative Law promotes voluntary negotiation and settlement over traditional litigation and can help divorcing couples to achieve a more private, dignified outcome.

Collaborative Divorce focuses on interest-based negotiation, cooperation, and mutually beneficial solutions instead of courtroom battles over assets and custody. Instead of approaching the case as a fight to be won, both parties agree to retain collaboratively-trained lawyers, financial neutrals, and mental health professionals in order to work toward a mutually beneficial outcome for their entire family.

Collaborative Divorce also makes children a top priority, aiming to preserve a workable relationship between divorcing parents. By creating a more cooperative atmosphere throughout divorce proceedings, the process can create a more suitable foundation for co-parenting while removing animosity, stress, and tension between parents.

Collaborative Divorce does not work in every case. At the start, both parties sign a contract agreeing to participate in a fair, honest, and cooperative process until the mutually acceptable outcome is reached. If the process fails at any point, or if either party refuses to cooperate or withdraws from the agreement, the Collaborative Process stops and both parties must resort to the traditional divorce process instead. The collaboratively-trained professionals must withdraw and cannot be involved in the litigation process.

Couples participating in a Collaborative Divorce can reach settlements while maintaining a healthy, workable relationship that puts their children’s needs first. By communicating throughout the process, couples no longer see each other as adversaries, rather as participants in a joint venture that is no longer viable. There is no need to fight, only the need to complete the Collaborative Divorce process amicably and peacefully.

It is important to understand which divorce option is best for you and your situation. In West Michigan, please ask the specially-trained Collaborative Law professionals at Johnsen Wikander if the Collaborative Divorce process can work for you. If you have questions, please contact our attorneys and let us help you through this difficult time.

The Impact of Changing Tax Laws on Divorce

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.

New Tax Laws May Affect Alimony Settlements

New Tax Laws May Affect Alimony Settlements

The end of a marriage is one of the most difficult and stressful events anyone can go through. Many people have compared their divorce to the death of a loved one or the loss of a limb. Divorce is hard but entering into divorce proceedings unprepared will only make matters more difficult.

With the extra layer of uncertainty provided by our current political climate, it is extremely important to consider the effects that changing laws and tax codes may have on the outcome of a divorce. Any legal changes that affect personal finances, and how they are handled during and after a divorce, can be especially impactful.

Currently, proposed tax changes will end a law that has been in place for more than 70 years. Since 1942, alimony payments have been considered a deductible expense on personal tax filings. At the end of 2018, that law will be cut from the books.

The impact of such cuts on West Michigan couples could be far-reaching. Aside from the increase in cost to the payer, alimony payments from divorce may now become an even more hotly contested issue in divorce cases since it is likely to push either side in the case to disagree with the amount requested.

For the payer, the law means they will carry more expense for years to come. For the payee, the law could mean that they get a lower settlement in their divorce case, potentially affecting their quality of life. This major change has the potential to drive divorce rates up for the remainder of 2018.

For couples already struggling to find even ground in a rocky case, contesting an alimony request could add one more layer of turmoil and difficulty to their divorce proceedings. Before taking steps in any direction, spouses considering divorce should educate themselves on the changing laws and the potential effects.

Anyone considering divorce in 2018 should look to an experienced divorce lawyer for assistance and to become educated regarding the outcome of their decisions. Couples could easily end up fighting over a decision that may have been clear before changes to current laws. This could affect their ability to maintain a civil relationship once their divorce is final, which is an especially disruptive outcome for couples with children.

With any divorce, both parties should consider the importance of education and preparation. Please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce lawyers at Johnsen Wikander for help in understanding current and upcoming changes and how they could affect your case.