Family Law

Before filing for divorce you must develop a strategy. Unfortunately some individuals meet with their attorney, sign divorce pleadings and have only the vaguest notion of what they have begun. Divorce laws in Michigan are logical, understandable and make common sense when properly explained.

It is essential for the successful handling of your divorce to define the goals which are to be achieved and develop from the outset a strategy designed to achieve your desired results. When asked how his/her divorce is proceeding an individual should not have to answer "I don't know… my attorney is not returning my calls." When handling divorces for clients we are prepared and seldom need to request adjournments or delays.

When faced with divorce an individual must consider their current and future financial security. Short term marriages seldom present difficulties since Judges uniformly attempt to return each party to his/her financial position held at the time of the marriage. Longer term marriages present questions such as issues relating to children, identifying assets, valuing assets, liquidity questions (e.g. must the marital home be sold?), pension issues, methods used in dividing debts, etc., and require your attorney's attention.

Division of Property and Debt

When considering division of property the question as to whether property is "marital" or "separate" is crucial. If property was inherited or brought into the marriage questions arise as to whether it has "merged" into the marital estate. Although Michigan has No-fault Divorce, marital misconduct may be considered when a Judge determines what is a fair and reasonable division. Many debts in one party's name are actually joint and debts in joint names may be separate.

There are many types of pensions and retirement plans and several methods available to evaluating and dividing them between the parties. Large inequities can result if your attorney does not know the difference between a "defined benefit plan" and a "defined contribution plan." The date selection for coverture is crucial and this important "detail" is often overlooked. If tax implications are not considered (e.g. dividing a Roth IRA funded with both pre-tax and post-tax monies) a party may have a significant "surprise" several years after the divorce is final.

Michigan's current housing market has brought to light the dangers in not carefully analyzing awards of real estate. The marital home is often the most valuable asset in the marital estate and the days of assuming that the value is twice the SEV (State Equalized Value) and that liquidity is "not-a-problem" are over.

In summary, an individual spends the majority of his/her adult life acquiring a marital estate. The process in accurately evaluating and dividing assets and debts requires an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable in Michigan Divorce Law.

Complex Financial Issues

There are a limited number of divorce issues which require special legal expertise. When one party obtains an advanced educational degree during marriage it is not unusual that the parties spent years living a "spartan existence" while anticipating the enjoyment of financial rewards in the future. When divorce interrupts this process it would be unfair for the "degreed" spouse to reap all the benefits (e.g. medical practice, law practice, engineering position, etc.) without compensation being paid to the "non-degreed" spouse whose efforts contributed significantly to the education obtained; it is also unfair for the "non-degreed spouse" to expect a "free-ride" for his/her lifetime.

Situations exist where substantial growth has occurred in a closely held business resulting in a wide range of opinions from various experts as to the true value of the closely held business. In cases such as these, the special skills of an experienced divorce attorney are necessary to distinguish between "income" to be considered in support matters and what is the value of a significant "asset" to be considered in the division of assets.

Divorce Advice in Lansing

Our firm believes that divorces are successfully resolved in accordance with a well-planned legal strategy. Planning makes it possible to isolate the most important divorce issues and formulate the most effective arguments.

Our divorce advice is based on years of experience. Knowing what to fight for is only half the battle; the other half is knowing how to prove your claims. Mr. Bissell and Ms. Klavenski possess the trial skills to litigate a divorce when negotiations have been unsuccessful in an efficient and professional manner.

Family and Elder Law of Mid-Michigan, P.C. manages cases of Separate Maintenance and if you are considering extinguishing the obligations of your marriage and are considering divorce or separation in Lansing, we urge you to contact us to discuss the best options for your situation.