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Clinton Township Divorce Law Blog

What should I include in my divorce inventory?

At the outset of your Michigan divorce, you probably began assessing the sources of income that you and your spouse have in preparation for the division of your marital property. However, when you are filling out the inventory of your assets, it is a good idea to dig a little deeper. After all, not all of these are monetary. At this point, it is time to think about the actual financial value and the personal value of many of the things you own.

According to Forbes magazine, you should examine your entertainment purchases. For example, as a season ticket holder at a sporting or entertainment venue, your seats could have considerable value if you are able to sell them for individual events. A club membership may also have cost a fair amount of money. Even frequent flyer miles and credit card points add up, and may be worth listing.

Mediation isn't a sprint, it is a marathon

One of the most difficult things to do when you are going through a divorce is to be patient while the process moves forward. In many cases, people want to get their divorce over and done with as quickly as possible. Trying to hurry up and rush things might be tempting, but it could lead to difficulties with the divorce.

You have to make sure that you keep your focus on setting up your new life as you go through the divorce. Decisions that you make during the divorce can impact everything about your life.

How child support may be changed

When parents are married, they may not spend time thinking about whose income paid for the braces, or how much each of them contributed to the child care expenses. After a Michigan divorce, these questions become paramount. Some situations may make it difficult for a single parent who has been ordered to pay child support to keep up. According to the Michigan Supreme Court, a modification of the order may be possible, depending on several factors. 

The Friend of the Court may review a case every three years, but if there is a change in circumstances, a parent might request one sooner. The change typically must show that income or expenses have gone up or down significantly since the original order. The evidence should show that the difference makes the current amount unfair to one party or the other. The process must not take more than 180 days from review to final ruling.

Trustees validated in protecting assets during divorce

Asset and property division can become one of the most complex (and contentious) aspects of divorces occuring in Clinton Township. That is because these matters typically go well beyond the simple question of "who gets to keep the house?" Gifted assets, retirement benefits and investment accounts are also considered. Estate affairs can also become embroiled in divorce proceedings, particularly in cases where only one side is party to an estate and thus elgible to profit from its benefits. The other side might try to argue that if an estate or trust account was valid while the two were married, it should be considered a marital asset. 

That was the claim made by a Connecticut woman during her 2011 divorce from her husband. The husband was the beneficiary of a trust that is claimed to be valued at anywhere between $69 million and $98 million. During the couple's divorce proceedings, the trustees removed the assets and placed them in another trust (to which the husband is also a beneficiary) without him knowing. Their efforts essentially equated to them protecting the trust assets from the wife (who could be considered a creditor given the circumstances of the divorce case). After the case was appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, it was asked of the Massachusetts Supremen Court (where the orginal trust was created) if the trustee's actions were allowed. The Massachusetts court determined that they were, as the trustees believed that such actions were in line with the intent of the settlor. 

Before you leave the workforce: postnuptial agreements

Leaving the Michigan workforce to raise your child can be immensely rewarding, but it may also be a decision you and your spouse do not take lightly. The effects this move makes on current financial status, retirement accounts and future earning potential may be long-lasting. At The Law Office of Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C., our team understands that these types of decisions can change the balance of marital relationships if not dealt with carefully.

Forbes magazine notes that because you will become completely dependent upon your spouse, it could create a new dynamic between the two of you if you do not make the commitment to view the single income as a joint income. One way to create this balance is through a postnuptial agreement that recognizes the value of your new role and the contributions you are making. This document ensures that even if your relationship does not survive, you will not be left without an income. This does not mean that you and your spouse are considering a divorce. Instead, by committing to your support, your spouse will essentially be renewing his or her vows to you through this agreement.

Parental abductions: how do they happen?

An alarming number of children and adolescents are abducted each year in the United States, and a large percentage of those abducted never return home again. Contrary to what many might assume, some of these kidnappers are the parents of the children themselves. Even if the suspect is the natural or adoptive parent, Michigan laws state that taking and retaining a child with the intent to conceal the child from any other parent or legal guardian is a crime that could lead to both crippling court fines and imprisonment.

The Detroit News covered one of the many parental kidnappings that occurred in Michigan in 2014, showing in an article the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs estimate that more than 1,000 American children were victims of international parental abduction in the previous year. While the number of American children who were reported to have been kidnapped by a parent did, in fact, drop between the years 2009-13, chances of children returning home remain slim. The Detroit News also shares expert information on how most child abductions take place:

  • Without the other parent's consent or court order, a parent takes a child out of the country
  • One parent travels to another country with the children, without informing the other parent that he or she does not plan to return
  • Familes travel overseas, where one parent accuses the other of domestic violence, has officials arrest that parent and petitions the court for child custody      

Take these steps if your spouse wants you off the accounts

When a divorce is likely, you may notice that your spouse begins to open his or her own accounts or begins to talk to you about getting off the accounts. What should you do, though? Do you need to take your name off the account, and if so, does that hurt you in court?

There are a few different things that determine what you can do next. Here are some tips that can help as you face this troubling time in your life.

Lies and contempt could lead to jail time

Whether or not a spouse feels that the property division is equitable and fair in a Michigan divorce, he or she has to abide by the rules of the process. This includes reporting all assets and forms of income, as well as obeying the final divorce order. Consequences of failing to do either of these two things could be serious.

According to the American Bar Association, judges see spouses who hide assets as crooks, and the outcome is likely to be an unfavorable judgment. In some cases, an order may include requiring the dishonest spouse to pay the other party's attorney fees. It could also lead to contempt if he or she does not comply.

Is your inheritance still separate property?

You know that your mother never intended for you to sell the Michigan home she left to you so you could divide the proceeds with your spouse in the divorce. However, when you start doing the inventory required for the property division process, you may wonder whether it legally counts as marital property. If so, your spouse is entitled to an equitable portion in the divorce agreement. If you have successfully kept it separate from your marital assets, it is not subject to division.

According to Findlaw, the separate or marital status of your inheritance depends on a number of factors. Your property could be subject to equitable division if you and your spouse used it as a vacation home and made updates or repairs to it using marital assets. In this situation, you have essentially shared the home with your spouse, and the property is considered commingled. If you also inherited funds that you kept in a separate account, and you used those for the upkeep of the home, you may have successfully maintained separate property. Once funds are deposited in a joint account, though, they become marital property, and should not be used on the property.

Paternity and your child

If you believe that you are the father of a child in Michigan, but you have never been married to the mother, you may be wondering whether it is a good idea to establish and assert your rights as a parent. Along with these rights come responsibilities that may seem like they will be a challenge, particularly if your relationship with the mother has been difficult or non-existent. We at The Law Office of Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C., have counseled many fathers in your situation about the benefits of parenthood.

The U.S. Administration for Children and Families explains that by establishing paternity of your child, you are taking steps toward protecting his or her health. For example, your child has a right to know what issues may be present in your family medical history. If you qualify for certain benefits, such as Social Security Disability or military health insurance, your child may also be eligible.

Lorrie J. Zahodnic

"I will hold you up until you can stand on your own two feet."

Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C. has provided skilled and compassionate legal guidance to Michiganders in family law matters for over 20 years.

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