FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- How do I start a divorce?
Once you have determined that there is a breakdown in the marital relationship and that there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved you should contact an attorney experienced in Family Law. If you contact us, you should be prepared to bring the following documents with you:
- All bank statements of accounts held either between you and your spouse.
- Tax returns for two prior years.
- All bills the household pays. This includes mortgage statements, car loans, credit cards, and utility bills.
- Your last two paystubs and your spouses last two paystubs.
- Your health insurance card if you have one.
- Statements of retirements accounts, such as pension, 401k, and IRA statements for you and your spouse.
- Can I still come to the appointment to file for divorce if I do not have all of these documents?
Absolutely. Most people do not have all of these documents, particularly their spouse’s paystubs and retirement statements. If you do not have those we will get those through a legal process called Discovery.
- How should I choose and attorney?
First you should be sure the attorney is licensed and in good standing with the State Bar of Michigan at www.michbar.org. You should then call the attorney and ask if they are experienced in family law. Ask them to review your case and tell you where you stand. A good attorney is straightforward. Be ware of an attorney that tells you what you want to hear and promises results that cannot be obtained. Also be ware of an attorney that is not definite about their fees and their hourly rate.
- How much money is required at the first appointment?
Please call us and we will tell you the amount. It can range typically from between $1,500.00 to $2,500.00 depending on the whether you have children and whether you have assets to divide.
- I just received a “summons and complaint” that states my spouse has filed for divorce. What should I do?
You must file and answer within twenty-one days of receiving those documents from a process server. Failure to timely answer will cause a “default” which means the judge could decide your entire case without considering your position. Never let this happen. If you receive a summons and complaint call a divorce attorney immediately.
- How much will my divorce cost?
Attorney fees for divorce may not be much more than the initial retainer if the divorce is not contested. That means you and your spouse can one way or another agree, as difficult as it is, on issues such as child custody and child support an asset division. We know from experience where our client will stand in a contested matter. We will advise you if it is worth agreeing with your spouse and settling the case or if it is worth the expense to pay us to contest issues in a divorce with a hearing before the judge. We are very clear and straightforward about our fees. We feel that is the fair way to operate and a copy of our fee agreement can be found here.
- How is custody of my children going to be decided?
This can be complicated but basically the court will award joint legal custody to both parents and physical custody to one parent with parenting time to the other parent. The parent who gets physical custody is usually the “primary caregiver”, that is the parent who takes care of the children, cooks their meals, makes sure their homework is done, drives them to their activities, etc. The court may also order fifty percent custody to one party and fifty percent to the other party, such as one week at one house and one week at the other parent’s house. This can be difficult for some parents and should only be considered when both parents are living in the same school district.
- What about custody before my divorce is final?
A court will enter a temporary order for custody while the proceedings are pending. Always consult an attorney before you agree to anything in the temporary order because it will provide a basis for the permanent order.
- How is child support determined?
A child support manual whose updated version is here is used unless there is good cause to award a different amount. The parent pays child support to the parent who has physical custody of the children. Support payments are deducted from the paying parent’s paycheck. Like a temporary custody order a temporary child support order should be entered while the divorce is pending. The temporary child support order normally provides the basis for the permanent child support order. Child support can always be modified if there is a change of circumstances such as the parent paying looses his or her job.
- How are assets divided?
Most every court prefers to divide assets fifty percent between the parties. Assets include the marital home, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. The parties will each be entitled, in normal circumstances, to half of each asset. A party may receive more, however, if the court determines it to be fair or the court awards more assets instead of spousal support. Some assets are difficult to value such as a business, professional practice academic degree, or license.
- What is spousal support and will I pay or receive it?
Once known as alimony, spousal support is an award to one spouse of an amount to maintain the other spouse’s livelihood and ends when the receiving spouses remarries or cohabitates. Spousal support is determine (as so many things in a divorce are) on a case by case basis according to several factors and this list is not exhaustive:
- The length of the marriage;
- The disparity of income in of the parties;
- The need of the receiving party;
- The ability of the parties to support themselves;
- The age and health of the parties.
Such a situation must be addressed on a case by case basis so please give us a call to discuss it further.
- This process it extremely stressful, sad, and disappointing. Do you have any advice about that?
Divorce is one of the most difficult and painful experiences a person can go through. Now is the time to develop a support group of sympathetic and understanding people including those who have been through a divorce. This group can be your family, friends, or a church ministry. Also, paid therapist and counselors can provide excellent help and are professionally trained. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
- How long should the parties live together in a divorce proceedings?
Presumably the parties are wishing to separate or are already separated. But there is no reason they cannot live together and sometimes do to share expenses. If one party will not leave the other party should file a motion to order that party to leave. For example, a party who has temporary custody of the minor children can file a motion and the court will likely order the other party to leave because the party with temporary custody needs the home more (obviously) than the other party.
These are just a few questions you may want answers to. Please call us at (248)474-0670 and ask us any other questions.