Michigan Family Law Attorney
Family law matters commonly involve a change in family structure and have long-lasting consequences for every family member. Common issues including divorce, spousal support, child custody, child support, paternity, parenting time and related issues. If you live in Michigan and are thinking about filing for divorce, you should hire a knowledgeable attorney to protect your rights and ensure a fair settlement. Divorce settlements can be simple or complex depending on the facts of the marriage and the needs or requirements of the spouses. When children are involved, a divorce is more stressful and the needs of the children must be carefully considered to ensure an appropriate custody and support arrangement is entered. Post-judgment modifications are possible, but anyone facing a divorce should hire an attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of divorce, with or without children to understand and protect your rights.
If you are facing a difficult family law situation, contact Michigan family law attorney Andrew Steiger for help. He can represent you in cases of divorce, property division, child custody, child support, paternity, prenuptial agreements, estate planning and related legal matters. He will provide you with cost effective solutions and strive for an efficient resolution to your legal problem whenever possible, and provide you with realistic expectations related to your legal matter.
Divorce in Michigan is a no-fault divorce law state that allows one spouse to divorce the other for any reason. While that sounds simple, there are many considerations, especially when children are involved. The two main issues for a divorce in Michigan are the property settlement and issues related to children.
Property Settlements in a Michigan Divorce
The assets of the marriage are divided as part of the divorce judgment. Many considerations go into determining the property settlement and Michigan divorce law requires an equitable division of the marital estate. Many people assume the property is divided equally or 50/50, but that is more of a starting point and the parties or the judge can adjust the ratio depending on the facts and circumstances of the marriage. Property settlements are not intended to be used as a form of punishment for one party's bad acts, but it may be a factor in the overall review of what is equitable or fair.
Property is generally separated into two categories - marital and separate property. Maritial property generally includes property that is acquired or accumulated during the marriage by either of the spouses. This could include increases in investment properties, 401(k) plan assets, a marital home, cars, jewelry, etc. Exclusions from marital property are generally gifted property to one of the spouses, inherited property or passive appreciation of separate property. Separate property is property acquired outside or before the marriage and is not subject to division. While determining what property is separate and marital is very important, this determination is not conclusive as to how a court will divided proeprty.
The relevant period of time is also an important consideration for marital versus separate property. The courts have established that property acquired during the marriage is marital and property acquired during periods of cohabitation or dating, or otherwise when the parties are not actually legally married is not marital property. If parties are cohabitating for a long period of time prior to marriage, other property law rules may be applied to determine ownership. These laws may be less established and deny a party of ownership rights in property acquired by the other party when a couple shares or splits expenses or other costs.
Spousal Support in a Michigan Divorce
Michigan law provides a spouse to request spousal support in cases there is a large disparity in incomes or a long marriage where one spouse is financially dependent on the other spouse. Spousal support is not a guaranteed right. Michigan courts differentiate between support that helps maintain the standard of living during the marriage until retirement and support that helps a spouse transition to a new life by providing educational opportunities or other transitional assistance for employment purposes. There is a fourteen factor test, and generally the length of the marriage and the age of the parties are key considerations for determining whether spousal support if granted will be long-term or rehabilitative.
Due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, alimony or spousal support payments are no longer deductible by the payor and includible in taxable income by the recipient payee. As a result, traditional spousal support payments are no longer as desirable or beneficial from the payor's perspective when settling property of the marriage and ensuring that each spouse is taken care of after the dissolution of the marriage.
Another complicating factor is the existence of a valid prenuptial agreement. Prenups are an accepted practice in Michigan, subject to interpretation and fairness considerations. The validity of a prenuptial agreement is subject to principles of duress and fair bargaining. If both parties are represented by attorneys at the time the prenup is signed and there is a full disclosure of assets, then a prenup is likely to be accepted and enforceable at the time of divorce unless it is unconscionable or lopsided. It is essential that parties take into account changes in circumstances and definitions of key terms that a court will analysis in a divorce, including separate and marital property, which ultimately impact how a court interprets a prenuptial agreement.
Child Custody Law in Michigan
Michigan law generally provides that both parents may be involved in a child's life and have time with the child. The two different types of custody are legal and physical custody. A parent may share joint legal or physical custody with the other parent or have sole joint or physical custody. Whether custody is joint or sole has important implications for which parent may decide important issues or life events for a child and where a parent may live.
Having sole physical custody does not mean that the other parent cannot see the child, but that parent may be awarded parenting time subject to a schedule for seeing the child. Child custody arrangements may be modified after time, but depending on the reason may require overcoming a high burden of proof regarding the underlying reason why one parent deserves more or less time with the child.
Determining child custody requires reviewing what is in the child's best interest. Michigan law provides a statutory set of factors that the court must review. These "best interest" factors are reviewed and given different weights by the court depending on the facts and circumstances, but a parent should be prepared to present their best case for each factor to preserve their rights. It is best for a parent to maximize or preserve their rights rather than attempt to modify their rights in the future.
Related Family Law Considerations
Bankruptcy Issues and Family Law
Changes in family structure impact other areas of client's lives. Divorce may impact both parties' finances, causing hardship for one or both individuals leading to bankruptcy. Deteriorating finances are a leading cause of divorce and generally become worse after divorce. A bankruptcy after a divorce judgment is entered may harm the former spouse of the bankruptcy petitioner, but also may benefit a bankruptcy petitioner if there is non-dischargeable debt related to the divorce that squeezes out other unsecured creditors, but maintains the domestic support obligation. In other cases, property settlements may be at risk of discharge in a bankruptcy.
Tax Issues and Family Law
Divorce also requires a review of tax considerations and should be covered in detail in a judgment to maintain each parties' rights and clarify filing obligations. For example, the tax issues related to divorce changed significantly in 2018, involving the elimination of a deduction for alimony payments and inclusion of alimony in gross income for the recipient. Other issues related to increased tax credits and dependents have changed and require a careful analysis to increase the net cash flow of the parties after divorce while at the same time ensuring enforcement of a party's expected interest in the judgment.
Michigan Family Lawyer Free Consultation
If you are planning on filing for divorce or need a Michigan family lawyer, you need an excellent Michigan attorney who will protect your rights and counsel you through the process. Contact Michigan family law attorney Andrew Steiger at Steiger Tax Law to represent you. He will provide you with an overview of the process and your options during a free consultation. He can also help you if you have minor children and you will be seeking child custody and support. Contact him at (248) 259-6367 or email at Andrew.Steiger@SteigerTaxLaw.com.
Contact Michigan Attorney Andrew Steiger for free consultation to determine how he can help you resolve your family law dispute. Free consultation does not establish attorney-client relationship. Information is confidential and protected by attorney-client privilege.