Q: Do I need to hire an attorney?
A: In short, probably yes. Certainly you are free to appear and litigate any matter on your own behalf. However, I recommend that you choose to hire an attorney. I understand that a divorce is a highly personal and often unpleasant experience for everyone involved. I can help you through this difficult time and provide counsel. My job, as an attorney, is to help alleviate some of the stresses that present themselves. More importantly, I will fight hard to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible and one that you desire.
Q: If my spouse has decided that he/she wants a divorce, what should I do?
A: Contact me. Learning about the implications of an impending divorce can be one of the most important steps you take throughout the process- and it will likely save you time and money. If, however, you choose not to contact me or another attorney immediately, you should attempt to collect as much family financial information as possible. Do not sign any joint income tax returns if you have reason to believe they have not been properly completed. Where you have joint accounts, notify financial institutions of the possible divorce and request that no large transactions be permitted without approval of both spouses. Close out joint charge accounts, or, if you want to retain them, notify the creditors in writing that you will no longer be responsible for your spouse's purchases. If you are covered under the health insurance of your spouse's employer, verify that your coverage has not been terminated.
Q: What is alimony/spousal support?
A: Spousal support is awarded by a Court or the parties may agree that it should be paid. Sometimes an alimony award is for the lifetime of the receiving spouse (or until remarriage), but more usually, it is a temporary order. Alimony is a sum of money usually paid by one spouse to another spouse for their support and maintenance. Alimony is always modifiable unless you give up your statutory right and make it non-modifiable. Unlike what many people think, it is not a punitive order. Ideally, it is an order that courts make to provide each spouse with an equal share of the pre-separation income so that neither spouse is disadvantaged financially following a separation.
Q: What factors does a court consider in determining eligibility for and the amount of spousal support?
A: In Michigan, a court considers the following factors: the past relations and conduct of the parties, the length of the marriage, the ability of the parties to work, the source and amount of property awarded to the parties, the age of the parties, the ability of the parties to pay alimony, the present situation of the parties, the needs of the parties, the health of the parties, the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others, general principles of equity. Some are weighed more heavily than others by a court or judge, depending on the nature each specific case. A judge does have wide discretion when allocating spousal support.
Q: During a divorce proceeding, what will the court decide?
A: There are likely to be several proceedings that pertain to matters regarding the divorce. Various proceedings will pertain to several matters that will need to be resolved. These matters include: how the parties will provide and care for their children, how much time the children will spend with each parent, how financial responsibilities will be divided, how the children’s medical, dental, and health care expenses will be paid, if the children will be allowed to be moved out of state, alimony/spousal support award, what property is considered to be marital property and what is considered individual property, and how marital property will be divided.
Q: How is marital property categorized and divided?
A: Michigan courts make a few presumptions about the marital property of a couple. The first presumption is that all property and debts are marital. Second, neither party is inherently entitled to a greater share of the marital assets or responsible for a greater share of the marital debts. These presumptions may be rebutted, but the burden of proof is on the party seeking to exclude asset as separate or seeking an unequal division of the marital estate. This particular procedure is best accomplished with the help and advice of an attorney. The types of property that are frequently considered pre-marital property include: pre-marital assets, pre-marital accumulations of retirement benefits, gifts/inheritances from third parties, and pain and suffering awards.
Q: If my spouse wants a divorce and I don’t, is there anything I can do to prevent the divorce from going through?
A: No. In Michigan all divorces are considered "no fault" and once one spouse moves for a divorce, even over the other spouse's objection, a court can, by law, grant the divorce.