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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.

Stay Together for the Kids? Many Kids say No | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

Stay Together for the Kids? Many Kids say No

In a recent study by the British Family Law Organization, Resolution, more than 80 percent of the children surveyed between 14 and 22 years old said they would rather their parents divorce than stay together for the sake of the children.

As difficult as divorce can be, the alternative is often worse. Children often observe and sense the stress and anxiety generated by their parent’s unhappy marriage. They are not blind to the pressures and problems, or even to the mechanical relationship of a loveless marriage.

Too often, children are caught in the middle of their warring parents and are either used as a sounding board to vent frustrations or a pawn in the divorce negotiations. Some children may desire for their parent’s marriage to end for self-preservation reasons, while others may genuinely wish To see their parents happy again.

In an interesting Reddit thread, a parent wrestling with the decision to divorce or remain in a marriage for the sake of the children, posted his question to the site’s readers. Many of the responses from those who had been children of divorce created a telling picture, with the majority advising the couple to consider divorce.

Reasons given vary, but the most common were the audible arguments, visible fatigue and stress, and an overall unhappy environment in the home. By staying together, most parents had subjected their children to the very same misery that they were experiencing.

Another side-effect of a crumbling marriage was that one or both parents tend to be less present, choosing to avoid the home as much as possible. By avoiding each other, one or both spouses end up spending less time with their children as well.

Children of parents who remained in an unhappy marriage also claimed that the situation set an unhealthy example for them. Very often, behavior such as lying, cheating, and mistreatment of the other spouse were viewed as acceptable.

In any divorce, children should be a chief consideration, not a pawn or tool caught between two unhappy parents. If you are considering divorce, please discuss your options with an attorney before making any decisions that may affect your children. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you, and your children, through your most difficult time.

The History of Collaborative Divorce | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

The History of Collaborative Divorce

Divorce has traditionally been a frightening path, with spouses often fighting over what may seem like minor details while the children are caught in the middle. Traditional divorce has historically been about the individual, with little to no consideration for the other party.

In 1990, Stuart (“Stu”) Webb, a Minneapolis family lawyer, became tired of watching people fight and decided he would no longer take on divorce cases. He wrote a letter to a local judge voicing his frustrations with the traditional divorce process and outlined his ideas for a less destructive way to handle the breakdown of a marriage.

Instead of running into the courtroom to dissolve each marriage through adversarial practices, Webb decided he would only handle cases where people were willing to work through their divorce together, achieving a peaceful, mutually beneficial result.  If the couple could not work together, he would stop handling the case and let them work through the traditional channels, but with a different lawyer.

Other Minneapolis lawyers discovered what Webb was doing and began to offer the same services. Eventually, the group got together to draw up a roadmap that would standardize their practice and ensure that they were offering families a consistent solution. Although Webb is generally credited with the beginning of the Collaborative practice, other attorneys were going through similar experiences and contributed to the growth of Collaborative Divorce.

The idea of Collaborative Divorce first spread through discussions and word of mouth, slowly spreading across the country until it became a well-known, accepted course of action. In 2009, the first Uniform Collaborative Law Act was created, adopted as law by many states. Within the last few years, Michigan created its own version of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, formalizing the process for litigants throughout the state.

In a Collaborative Divorce, spouses commit to working together to make the mutually beneficial decisions regarding their assets, money, and of course, their children.

The practice of Collaborate Divorce reduces the combative and adversarial nature of divorce, offering both spouses the opportunity to work with a specially trained team of Collaborative Professionals including financial specialists, mental health professionals, and attorneys. This team works together to help a couple reach an outcome that is acceptable and beneficial to their entire family. The Collaborative method also protects both party’s privacy and helps foster and create better future relationships between spouses, especially when children are involved.

Collaborative Divorce provides a civil approach to the divorce process, very often creating a less stressful and more peaceful solution to divorcing spouses. In West Michigan, contact the trained, experienced Collaborative Law team at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through your most difficult time.

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

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

Gentler Approach to Difficult Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce and Vacations | Johnsen Wikander P.C. West Michigan Divorce Attorneys

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.