Our Grand Rapids Divorce Attorneys Can Give You the Answers You Need
A divorce can be a stressful and difficult experience for everyone involved. However, an experienced family law attorney can help ease some of the strain by guiding you through the legal process and ensuring that your rights and interests are protected every step of the way.
The Grand Rapids divorce lawyers at Kraayeveld Law have more than three decades of combined experience representing people throughout the region in divorce and related family law matters. We work diligently to resolve property division, alimony, child custody and support and other issues in an efficient and respectful manner. Our firm has a strong track record of successful resolutions for the people that we represent.
Our lawyers have had significant success avoiding long, drawn-out court battles for many of our clients by pursuing informal negotiations and mediation. These alternatives to litigation often allow divorcing spouses to avoid some of the tension and uncertainty associated with family law cases. We are also experienced litigators who stand ready to fight for our clients in the courtroom, when needed.
We are pleased to stand by clients in Grand Rapids and throughout West Michigan in their times of need. Below are answers to a few of the most common questions that are asked about divorce lawyers and the divorce process. However, they are in no way intended to replace the most up-to-date advice that a divorce attorney can provide. If you have questions or concerns about your specific situation, please contact our Grand Rapids divorce attorneys.
How do I know my attorney can handle my case?
Research your attorney’s qualifications. Consider whether your attorney specializes in family law or has a general practice. Ask your attorney how many years he or she has been practicing family law. How many trials does your attorney conduct annually? If your attorney never takes any cases to trial, then you should expect your attorney to accept a settlement regardless if it’s fair. Does your attorney have colleagues who can assist during busy times or when your attorney is unavailable due to a scheduling conflict or illness?
What is a no-fault divorce?
Decades ago, Michigan law provided that a divorce could only be granted if one spouse was at fault for the break up of the marriage. Common reasons of fault were adultery, imprisonment, insanity or abuse. A lot of time, effort and money was spent on proving fault. Fault is no longer required to obtain a divorce. Fault still is an issue when determining property division and spousal support.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
The minimum waiting period for a divorce without minor children is 60 days and for a divorce with minor children, the waiting period is six months. Many divorce proceedings take longer than these minimum waiting periods; especially, when the parties have disputes to be resolved.
Can my spouse and I hire the same attorney?
No. Attorneys must abide by an ethical standard. These rules provide that the attorney cannot represent opposing parties. If you and your spouse agree on everything, one of can hire an attorney to draft the divorce judgment and both of you can sign it. In most cases, we suggest that both of you have an attorney review the judgment. The cost of a review is minimal and provides peace of mind.
What is the difference between legal and physical custody?
Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions on behalf of your child whereas physical custody refers to where the child lives. Most parents share joint legal custody; not all parents share joint physical custody.
Does the mother automatically receive physical custody of my child?
It depends. If you were never married and you never signed and filed an Affidavit of Parentage, the mother is deemed to be the custodial parent. For all other fathers, who were either married or filed an Affidavit of Parentage, when a petition is filed with the court, the judge will review twelve best interest factors to determine who will receive custody of the child.
What is the Friend of the Court?
The Friend of the Court is an agency that assists the court with investigations regarding child custody, parenting time and child support. The Friend of the Court also helps parents with disputes regarding these issues and enforcement of custody, parenting time and child support orders.
The Friend of the Court asked for my income information. Do I need to give that?
You probably should. If you think there is a good reason not to provide your tax returns and proof of income, you should discuss your reasoning with an attorney before you fail to provide the requested information. If the Friend of the Court does not receive your income information, they may calculate child support based on the other parent’s allegations regarding your income, prior income findings, subpoenaed monthly income which may distort your annual earnings, or they may impute income.
Will my spouse receive my retirement funds that I earned prior to our marriage?
It depends. Although assets obtained or earned prior to the marriage and that are kept separate are considered separate assets not to be divided, the judge may award a portion of those assets to a spouse if the judge finds that the asset was co-mingled or if the spouse has a need for those assets.
What is the best thing to do if I believe the other parent is alienating my child from me?
Educate yourself. If alienation is present, your approach should be very different than ‘normal’ co-parenting situations. Besides reading materials by qualified psychologists, you will benefit from a consultation with a family law attorney specializing in parental alienation cases. Before retaining an attorney, ask him or her how many trials they have conducted changing custody regarding an alienated child; ask the attorney if they have a network of experts who can testify at trial and can provide counseling services.
What if my spouse and I don’t agree about how to resolve certain issues?
In some cases, divorcing spouses may simply not be able to reach a conclusion on some or all of the related issues. Such cases are handled through the court system, similar to other litigation. It is important for a person who is getting divorced to enter that process with a strategy. That includes determining what’s on the table in terms of child custody, child support, and alimony. It also means drawing up a full list of assets and debts, along with their value. Finally, it’s important to understand your priorities going into the divorce process and to try to anticipate your former spouse’s priorities. A seasoned family lawyer will sit down with you and thoroughly consider these issues, crafting the most powerful strategy that best suits your individual circumstances and needs.
What is an uncontested divorce?
Getting a divorce can be a contentious, complicated process. Fortunately, an uncontested divorce is a streamlined option that allows some spouses to go their separate ways without some of the conflict that can come with a drawn out legal battle.
To be eligible for an uncontested divorce, spouses must be willing to work together to resolve certain legal issues. Commonly, they will sign a consent agreement detailing how their assets will be divided, how any children will be cared for and whether either spouse will pay the other alimony or child support. The consent agreement allows the divorcing spouses to makes those decisions instead of battling it out before a judge in a series of hearings.
An experienced divorce attorney can help you identify the issues and negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution with your former spouse through the consent agreement process.
How do we divide our property?
Property division, as the name suggests, means gathering the assets and debts and determining how they will be distributed among the divorcing spouses.
Michigan law requires that marital property be divided in a way that is fair, based on the circumstances. Marital assets are those obtained by one or both spouses during the course of a marriage. That commonly includes a house, financial savings, pension and retirement accounts, cars and other property. Separate assets, on the other hand, are generally those that one spouse brings with him or her to the marriage or that a spouse received during the marriage as a separate gift, such as an inheritance, and kept the property separate from the marital estate. That property typically stays with the spouse who brought it into the marriage and kept it separate during the marriage when a couple divorces.
Courts consider a number of factors when determining how to divide marital assets. Judges typically look at how long the couple was married, each spouse’s individual financial situation, earning capacity and health status, and the spouses’ contributions to the marital estate during the marriage.
Who gets custody of the kids?
Child custody and visitation is often a contentious issue in Michigan divorce cases
State law requires courts to weigh various factors in making a child custody decision. Judges must consider the “love, affection and emotional ties” between the child and the parents, as well as each parents’ capacity to provide that kind of love and affection to the child. They also look at the parents’ ability to provide food, clothing and medical care, along with meeting other needs and the parents’ mental health and moral fitness. That’s not to mention each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent.
There are a number of steps that you can take to improve your chances of getting your desired custody and/or visitation rights. That said, it is important to consult with one of our Grand Rapids divorce lawyers to find out what you need to do first.
How does child support work?
Child support is financial assistance that one parent provides to another to help pay for expenses related to caring for the children.
Michigan law uses a complicated equation to determine child support, which is based largely on the child’s needs and the parents’ ability to pay. Judges look at parents’ income from wages and other sources. The court may also consider a parent’s ability to earn an income when that parent is choosing not to work. The court will also consider a parent’s cost to provide health insurance for the child and the payment of daycare expenses..
What about alimony?
Alimony or spousal support is financial support that one spouse pays to another following a divorce. It is generally meant to help the receiving spouse maintain a living standard similar to that which the spouses had during the marriage or in case of a shorter term marriage, short term alimony may be ordered giving the receiving spouse some time to return to the workforce or get a degree
A court faced with a request to order alimony payments will consider how long the spouses were married, the standard of living during the marriage and the spouses’ respective incomes, age, education level, conduct during the marriage and financial contributions during the marriage. They also take into account how the marital property is being divided.
How can Kraayeveld Law help me?
If you are considering getting a divorce or grappling with alimony, child support and other issues, it’s important that you seek assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney.
At Kraayeveld Law, our Grand Rapids divorce lawyers help people efficiently untangle their marriages. We take the time to understand each individual client’s unique needs and craft a legal strategy that best suits their situation.