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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.