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Family Law

FAMILY LAW / DIVORCE

OVERVIEW

 

This multi-faceted legal specialty can require an attorney who is a good legal mediator. In all family matters these legal situations can become complex and emotional with long term effects. It is crucial to have an experienced and assertive attorney that can accomplish the goals of their clients quickly which is one of the main reasons divorces can become costly. The negotiations need to be concise and one must be fully armed with legal back up and experienced in utilizing all aspects of family law in their clients case to get the job done. Judy Coleman at The Coleman Justice Center has 25 years of experience within the same jurisdiction in family law of mediation and all aspects of family law. She gets the job done. She has prevailed for well over a hundred clients just in family law alone.

• DIVORCE - A legal dissolution of marriage in many states, a divorce is the termination of a marriage by a legal proceeding or in a court.

• CONTESTED / UNCONTESTED DIVORCE - These two different kinds of divorces is whether or not both parties agree or disagree with how they will leave and what they will get to keep, regarding any assets / liquid assets, bank accounts, investments, businesses, residual income, including arrangements with their children that are involved in the divorce (support, visitation, custody, vacations/holidays, grandparent visits, etc.), the parties cannot agree on at least one issue, while in an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to all terms of the breakup.

The State of Michigan has its own statutory grounds for divorce. Grounds are typically classified as fault or no-fault divorce. Some states offer both as available grounds, while other states have done away with fault divorces altogether; for example New York State does not have any no-fault divorces. Some divorces may involve multinational laws that govern countries. Always know all of the legal jurisdictions that may apply to your situation and that apply to your attorney as well.

• FAULT DIVORCE - A fault divorce requires particular wrongdoing by one of the spouses, followed by evidentiary proceedings to prove the wrongdoing. Each state defines their own via statute of what grounds can constitute a basis for finding fault in that state. Common grounds include adultery, abuse, cruel treatment or extended imprisonment.

• NO-FAULT DIVORCE - A no-fault divorce, neither party must prove the other engaged in wrongdoing. A spouse can be granted a no-fault divorce based merely on the marriage being irretrievably broken or the parties having irreconcilable differences.

 The Coleman Justice Center is very experienced in all family law including:

• CHILD CUSTODY
• CHILD SUPPORT
• MEDIATION
• ALIMONY

• CHILD CUSTODY - There are two types of child custody, joint child custody and sole child custody. means that both parents share the responsibilities of the children and should work together to approve any major decisions related to the children’s lives.  For this reason, most courts encourage joint custody, whereby one parent is still the custodial parent (where the child lives most of the time, sometimes called the “residential parent”) and the other parent is the noncustodial parent (the parent with whom the child has visitation with on a regular basis, sometimes called the “nonresidential parent”). Sole custody of a child, which is granted in some situations, is where the primary care giver (custodial parent) does not need to work with the other parent to develop plans of how the child should be raised or to make big decisions on medical procedures or little decisions such as after school activities. However, many courts are now moving towards allowing the non-custodial parent certain rights regarding high risk sports and/or serious medical procedures.

All child custody cases involve the following:

• History of violence by either of the parents.
• The relationship between the child and each parent.
• The home environment each parent can provide for the child.
• The recommendation by an expert witness.
• The preferences of the child (normally only if over age 13 and mature).
• The wishes of the parents.
• The mental and physical health of all parties involved.
• How the child adjusts to his/her environment in school, home or the community before and after the custody guidelines are set.

Child custody can be modified under these following conditions:

• A change in a parent’s work schedule.
• A parent’s relocation resulting in too great a distance for regular exchange
• A child’s preference (if the court judges the child mature enough to provide input).
• A parent demonstrating unreliable behavior.
• A parent interfering with the current parenting plan.
• A parent relapsing into substance abuse.

• LEGAL CHILD CUSTODY - When one parent has the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, safety, education and welfare of a child.

• JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY - When the child resides with both parents in a way to ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, that does not mean the child’s time must be equally divided with each parent. the timelines can change andthe parents can decide on a set regular  schedule or a varying schedule with vacations and holidays.

• PHYSICAL CHILD CUSTODY - Refers to with whom the child will live and where the child will live. That person has the responsibility to provide a primary home for the child, including basic necessities like shelter, food, clothing, and proper care and supervision.

• MEDIATION - Mediation is when an unbiased party called a mediator, normally an attorney or counselor, allows both parties to tell their story in an informal setting and will then attempt to reconcile the two parties interests by finding common ground and helping the parents negotiate come to an agreement. Mediation is a surprisingly effective means of working out child custody disputes and used in divorces.

• CHILD SUPPORT -The income of the parties and the amount of time children are with each parent usually impacts the amount of child support that will be paid, including whether the child support guidelines are deviated or if the guidelines are followed. Child support is for the support of the children (support for each child is considered). Strict laws are in place and enforced under Michigan’s child support laws for the protection of the children.  However, in some cases when high income wage earners have their income and other financial resources taken into the child support formula then the child support recommendation will be much higher then is reasonably necessary for the support for a child.
 
• ALIMONY - Also referred to as “spousal support” and is an important element in the divorce process. Alimony is an amount of money that a spouse will pay to the other on a monthly basis in order to support them and the amount of the payments are separate from any property settlements. The amount of the alimony payments are determined by a judge and is aimed toward helping both parties maintain the lifestyle that they are accustomed to. There are many factors that a judge will take into consideration when determining who gets the alimony payment and how much. If there are children that are minors involved then the child support can alter the alimony / spousal support.

How many years was the marriage?

There is no set rule as to how long a marriage has to last in order to qualify for alimony payments. Important factors that are considered: When one spouse has relied on the other for support for ten years or longer and has not pursued a career of their own or has limited marketable skills.

Imputed income for unemployed parties?

Another important factor in determining alimony payments is a spouse’s imputed income which reflects a person’s ability to make payments. If you are currently unemployed or under-employed and it is deemed that you could be making more money if you tried harder, a higher alimony payment could be granted to the non-working spouse or one with a lesser income.

The conduct of all parties?

Even though Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state, a judge will look at the behavior of the couple to determine who is to get spousal support and how much. If infidelity or drug or alcohol abuse can be proven, the guilty spouse will have their alimony payments reduced accordingly.

ALIMONY / SPOUSAL SUPPORT CAN CHANGE - Alimony payments are not permanent regarding the amount or the duration, these factors can be altered from periodically if there is a change in either party's circumstances.
Alimony payments are usually scheduled to end when the recipient gets remarried, dies or secures employment that allows them to contribute to their own support.
 

FAMILY LAW TERMS/DEFINITIONS

 

ALIMONY: see “spousal support”

ADJOURMENT: Postponement of a court session until another time or place.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Also called ADR. Any method used to resolve disputes other than traditional trial proceedings. For example, mediation. ADR programs speed up the disposition of civil cases.

APPEARANCE: The official court form filed with the court clerk which tells the court that you are representing yourself in a lawsuit or criminal case or that an attorney is representing you. All court notices and calendars will be mailed to the address listed on the form. When a defendant in a civil case files an appearance, the person is submitting to the court’s jurisdiction.

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES: Each state has child support guidelines which must be followed in awarding child support. The guidelines are typically a formula. There are only a few circumstances when the court can award child support higher or lower than the guidelines.

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE: a common law marriage comes about when a man and woman who are free to marry agree to live together as husband and wife without the formal ceremony. to be common law married, both spouses must have intended to be husband and wife. Only certain states recognize common law marriages.

CONTEMPT: failure to follow a court order. One side can request that the court determine that the other side is in contempt and punish him or her.

CUSTODY-SOLE & JOINT: refers to the legal arrangements for whom a child will live with and how decisions about the child will be made. Custody has two parts: legal and physical. Legal custody is the decision-making part: physical custody refers to where the child lives on a regular basis. Generally, the parent the child does not live with will be allowed to have regular visits with the child. Parents can make any custodial arrangement that is in the best interest of their children. The standard for custody is "best interest of the child".

DEPOSE: To testify or give under oath or sworn affidavit. (referred to as “giving a deposition”)

DEFAULT: a party's failure to answer a complaint, motion, or petition.

DEFENDANT: the person the case is brought against.

DISCOVERY: a way for getting information from the other side or other people. The process of investigation the truthfulness or finding out the facts from the other person.

Examples of discovery are interrogatories (written questions) and depositions (questions which are usually in person and recorded).

DISSOLUTION: the legal end of a marriage.

DOCKET: the cases on a court calendar.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE:  the legal basis for a divorce; the law sets out specific reasons for a divorce which have to be proven before the court can grant a divorce.

MARITAL PROPERTY: includes all property acquired during the marriage, even if it is not titled in both names, with some exceptions.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT: Money a court requires one spouse to pay the other spouse for support before and/or after the divorce is granted. If you do not ask for alimony at the final hearing, you can never get it in the future.