Divorce

How do Courts Treat Property Owned by a Party Prior to Marriage in Making a Property Settlement?

As a general rule, a party who brings property into a marriage, and keeps that property separate from marital property is awarded their pre-marital separate property in the event of a divorce.  There are two exceptions to this rule:

1.  the spouse contributed to the “acquisition, improvement or accumulation of the property MCL 552.402, or

2.  the award to the spouse out of assets acquired during the marriage, also referred to as marital property, is “insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance” of the spouse and any children in his or her care MCL 552.23.

In the two situations outlined above, a court will invade a party’s separate, pre-marital assets.

PRACTIPAL TIPS ON HOW TO KEEP PRE-MARITAL PROPERTY SEPARATE PROPERTY

1.  If real property, keep it titled in your name alone.

2.  If cash, stock or other securities, place it in accounts in your name alone.  DO NOT ADD YOUR SPOUSE’S NAME TO THE ACCOUNT.

3.  Pay any real estate or other taxes on pre-marital property with funds from pre-marital or separate assets.

4.  Use pre-marital funds to “fix-up” pre-marital real estate.

5.  Have a pre-nuptial agreement drafted and have both husband and wife sign it before the marriage.

6.  DO NOT COMMINGLE PRE-MARITAL PROPERTY WITH MARITAL PROPERTY.  Once a spouse’s name has been added to a deed or bank account, it is hard to argue to a court that the parties’ intention was that the property not be considered marital property.

What Should I Look For When Hiring A Divorce Attorney?

Choosing the right attorney is perhaps the most important decision you make once you have decided to seek a divorce.  You and your children’s future and security are on the line, and it is vitally important to make the right decision.  The following is a list of things to consider when hiring a divorce attorney:

1.  DOES THE ATTORNEY SPECIALIZE IN DIVORCE?  Not all lawyers are created equal.  You want to hire an attorney who specializes in divorce, custody and family law in your geographic area, and is familiar with how the court system operates in your vicinity.  You want an attorney who knows the law, the judges and the court personnel.  As a general rule, a lawyer who specializes in one area of the law is more knowledgeable than one who has a general practice that handles many areas of the law.

2.  IS THE ATTORNEY EXPERIENCED?  It is important that a divorce attorney be experienced.  Ask a divorce attorney how many years they have been practicing and how much of their time is spent on family law/divorce matters.

3.  TESTIMONIALS:  Is the attorney well thought of by his/her former clients?  Do they speak of him/her in glowing terms?  Do they say that they would recommend him/her to their family, friends and colleagues?

4.  IS THE ATTORNEY ABLE TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU IN A MEANINGFUL WAY?   An attorney should be able to communicate information to you in a clear, concise and straightforward manner.  If an attorney cannot explain to you what is happening in your case in a manner that you understand, he/she is not the lawyer for you.  Does the attorney have a policy about returning phone calls promptly?  How are you to be informed of new developments on your case in a timely manner?

5.  DO I FEEL COMFORTABLE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ATTORNEY?  Divorces are personal.  You will be divulging details of your personal life that you may have never told another soul.  Divorce attorneys hear about a couple’s relationship.  They hear about physical and emotional abuse.  They hear about problems with children.  You need to trust your attorney.  You must feel you can approach your attorney on any subject.  If you do not feel comfortable with an attorney, keep looking because that attorney is not for you.

6.  DO I AGREE WITH THE ATTORNEY’S “ACTION PLAN” FOR MY CASE?  You and your attorney should be in agreement as to the approach to be taken on your case.  Divorces are difficult enough and no client needs the added stress of continually being at odds about how the case should be handled.  If you and the attorney do not agree on a plan of action for your case, look for another attorney more in tune with you.

7.  HOW DOES THE ATTORNEY CHARGE?  Most attorneys charge a non-refundable retainer, as well as an hourly fee.   These vary based on the circumstances of the case and the experience of the attorney.  The attorney should be able to explain in detail, his/her billing practices.  No attorney is able to predict the actual cost of the case since there are too many variables outside the control of the attorney, however, if the attorney is unable or unwilling to fully explain their billing practices, you should look for another attorney.

8.  CAN AN ATTORNEY GUARANTEE THE OUTCOME OF A CASE?  While an attorney can advise you as to what generally happens in divorce cases, they cannot and should not guarantee any results.  If an attorney does,  find another attorney – fast!

Loraine R. Kuhn is a divorce attorney with more than 30 years of experience.  She specializes in family law matters.  For a free consultation, contact her at (248) 593.9090.

 

 

 

How Courts Determine Child Custody

How does a court determine who should have custody of minor children?

In Michigan, custody is determined by determining what is in the “best interests” of the minor children.  To determine what is in the best interests of the minor children, the court looks at the following factors:

(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

What is the difference between sole custody and joint custody?

Sole custody means that one parent makes all important decisions regarding the minor children, with the other parent only having parenting time (visitation).  Joint legal custody means that both parents share decision-making authority as to important decisions affecting the welfare of the child, including decisions regarding medical care and education.  Joint physical custody gives both parents the rights of physical custodians, however does not necessarily mean that each parent has the child 50% of the time.  Joint physical custody arrangements can vary from one parent having all but alternating weekends, to 50-50 arrangements and everything in between.

To determine what is the best custody arrangement, you should discuss the facts of your case with a skilled, family law attorney.  Loraine R. Kuhn, attorney at law, has been handling custody cases in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Livingston Counties for over 30 years and can help you determine what type of custody arrangement is in the best interests of your minor children.

For a free consultation, contact Family Law attorney, Loraine R. Kuhn at 248-593-9090.

Loraine R. Kuhn’s office is conveniently located in Bingham Farms, MI, near the I 696 Freeway and close to Southfield, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, West Bloomfield, Novi, Northville and Livonia.

How is Child Support Determined in Michigan?

Michigan Child Support is determined by application of the Michigan Child Support Formula. These guidelines take into account both parents’ income and the number of days the minor child(ren) spend with each parent.

However, determining child support is not as simple as one might think. In addition to salary, the knowledgeable family lawyer knows to look at retirement and other benefits to determine if these should also be included as “income” for child support purposes. If a spouse is self-employed, business expenses must be scrutinized to determine if these are really as claimed or simply disguised income to the business owner which must be used in determining child support. Tax returns should also be reviewed to determine other income sources.

If you have a child support issue, Loraine R. Kuhn, Oakland County Family Law Attorney can assist you in determining the proper child support which you should pay or to which you are entitled.

30500 Northwestern Highway, Ste. 200 Farmington Hills, MI 48334-3177