Effective April 14, 2015, changes in MCL 600.2529 will require the payment of the $80.00 Friend of the Court fee upon the filing of a Complaint regarding custody, support or parenting time of a minor child. Previously this fee was collected at the time of Judgment. New complaints of this type include the $150.00 filing fee and the $80.00 Friend of the Court fee for a total of $230.00.
Truefiling.com will be modified accordingly so please make sure to select the correct document type based on if the case was filed prior to April 14, 2015 or after that date. Please see the attached memo from the State Court Administrator’s Office for further details.
"Gray Divorce" is a growing trend. in 2013, researchers Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin sociologists at Bowling Green State University, working under a grant, wrote Working Paper WP-13-03, published in March 2013 as The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce among Middle-aged and Older Adults, 1990-2010. They explored the significance of later life divorce. The authors said: "As early as 30 years ago, researchers argued that divorce among older adults would be a growing trend." These studies gave several educated guesses why this would occur.
Remarriages are more likely to end in divorce than are first marriages
The stigma of earlier times regarding divorce has disappeared
Females, who are more likely to be employed and have greater autonomy now than in the days of Ozzie and Harriet , have greater freedom to seek divorce and live independent of a husband.
People are living longer. This increases the likelihood that a marriage (or re-marriage) might end in divorce as opposed to ending by death of a spouse.
Many people have greater expectations in life and want marriage with a spouse who is a real partner. If spouses "grow apart," one or both is more likely to see divorce and re-marriage or life as a single to be more appealing than an empty sham marriage.
On the way to the Forum . . . well, while reading the New York Times . . . I wandered "off the page" and found a blog called ACODTimeForSerenity. It's a blog that was written by an adult child of divorce. The author, "Serenity," writes about the difficulties experienced by people whose parents divorced when they were adults. Because I am seeing greater numbers of older adults divorcing these days, I thought I should call this blog to my readers' attention.
"Gray Divorce" is a growing trend, says Ina Jaffe on NPR: "Older Americans' Breakups Are Causing A 'Graying' Divorce Trend." Jaffe, however, focuses an how divorce coaches are helping the divorced seniors with group therapy (or "coaching") combined with meet-ups and "dinner and a movie" groups. So much for the parents . . . but what about the kids? The adult kids? Do they have a hard time with their parents' divorce? You bet. Here's one lesson Serenity writes about that applies no matter what the age of the children those divorcing may leave behind in the wreckage . . . whether they are adults or not.
CNN published an article about the top ten mistakes people make when in the middle of a high net worth divorce. As a family lawyer for thirty years, I maintain that the most important mistakes were listed at numbers 7 through 10! In fact, whether your situation is a high net worth divorce or not, these mistakes are reasons why most divorces cost the parties too much money because they give up assets they either don't know exist or to which they mistakenly believe they have no rights. Am I saying that people should represent themselves in a "simple" divorce? No I am not. In a future post, I will tell you why DIY is not a good idea for most people. The biggest mistakes people make in a divorce? These are the ones, I believe:
1 [formerly 7]. Listening to Friends: “My neighbor got a divorce and she got millions”; “My friend got a divorce and he didn’t have to pay a dime”. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone’s case is different. Therefore, do not compare your case to anyone else’s. There are different judges, laws change and opposing counsel changes. No two divorces are alike. Deal with yours according to your specific circumstances, and with proper counsel and advice, you will come out ahead.
Family law attorney Ronald W. Nelson of Lenexa, Kansas, has graciously agreed to be today's Guest Blogger.
An interesting question was raised in an ABA Family Law Listserv discussion recently concerning whether a 1994 judgment of divorce dividing the parties' property (specifically a business) was still enforceable.
Here's what Ron said about trying to enforce a 21-year-old judgment. The point of his advice is: "People, don't sit on your rights!" A take-away for lawyers is this: You should always provide clients with information about the time limitations for enforcement of judgments so that they will take steps to enforce and not be left with an empty basket.
Ron Nelson said, "Simply put, an unexecuted judgment becomes dormant after five years, and shall remain dormant for an additional two years." Thus, a plaintiff may neglect his judgment for seven years, lacking a day, and then revive and put it in force for five years more.” Riney v. Riney, 205 Kan. 671, 680, 473 P.2d 77 (1970). If, however, a party neglects his judgment for over seven years, the judgment extinguishes and becomes unenforceable. The relevant statute mandates the Court to release the judgment of record upon request, stating that it “shall be the duty of the judge” to release a judgment which has exceeded the seven-year deadline. See K.S.A. 60-2403(a)(1) (emphasis added). The statute does not allow for courts to make findings as to whether a judgment may linger beyond the seven-year threshold, nor whether its enforcement is a discretionary issue. The Kansas Supreme Court has clearly explained what occurs when a judgment exceeds the seven-year threshold, whether or not a motion to release the judgment has been filed: “Once a judgment grows dormant . . . and is not revived pursuant to K.S.A. 1990 Supp. 60-2404, it becomes absolutely extinguished and unenforceable.” Cyr v. Cyr, 249 Kan. 94, 97, 815 P.2d 97 (1991).
Am I the only one frustrated by how old the data is by the time the U.S. Census Bureau releases statistical reports? Here's an interesting one. The most recent report on longevity of marriages, a 2012 report based analysis of the 2009 Census reports, reports that more than 50% of marriages are surviving over the long term. (These statistics are based upon data from 2009--more than 6 years old).
So what do you think? Is the glass more than half full? As a family lawyer (or a husband or wife hanging in there) . . . can we be optimistic about long-term marriages? Attorney David Sarnacki of the Sarnacki Law Firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan recently posted this poem that must surely echo the thoughts of those hanging in there in long-term marriages. Thank you, David for this poem, so full of life, so full of commitment, and reality:
All mid-life divorces require some time and attention to details regarding social security benefits available to former spouses. I routinely advise my older clients that a spouse may collect social security benefits based upon a former spouse's earnings record provided that certain requirements are met. The most basic of those requirements is that the marriage was of at least ten years duration. Interestingly, when a former spouse does obtain benefits based upon a spouse's higher earnings record, that doesn't affect the former spouse's SS benefit by a penny.
But how many people don't protect themselves and lose a lot of benefits they could have had if they'd only learned more about their potential?
Developing a parenting time plan for children usually is not easy. It is especially difficult in a high-conflict case. As family lawyers, we should give our clients realistic expectations about the kind of parenting time plan they can count on if the county in which the case is pending has a standard parenting time plan.
We also owe it to our clients--and especially to their children--to encourage the development of parenting time plans that are sensitive to early childhood development.
As Professor Shaun Martin of the University of San Diego School of Law says on his Blog, California Appellate Report:
"It's tough to figure out who to root for here.
"In the red corner, we have Maryanne Sorge. In the blue corner, we have Joseph Sorge. Maryanne and Joseph were married, but are now divorced."
After their divorce, Maryanne, the ex-wife of Joseph, who is a wealthy businessman, sought a modification of a child support order after she learned he'd sold his business for $100 million. Joseph challenged the modification on the grounds that he had invested millions in a start-up company and had significant losses. He wanted the trial court to base his support on the income he actually had, not imputed income. The court determined that it could use the high earning capacity Joseph could have had rather than his actual income in calculating child support. Sorge also appealed the award of sanctions and also of attorney fees.
It seems that Joseph was pretty steamed after a trial court judge ordered him to pay his ex-wife's attorney fees in a post-judgment child support modification. Sorge was ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees for his ex-wife's attorney during and after a bitter child support modification motion. Subsequently, he was ordered to pay about $60,000 for her appellate attorney fees. Plus sanctions . . .
Unfortunately, separation and divorce affect U.S. Servicemembers as well as the public. Many military spouses lack the ability to retain legal counsel and may resort to a Do-It-Yourself Kit. I do not recommend this for many reasons.
If a military spouse can afford counsel, counsel still has to make service of process on the SM. If this is a simple case--for example, a 1-year marriage, no assets, no children, no support case--service of process may be informal simply because both parties want to end the marriage. The defendant service member may be cooperative in ending the marriage. The judgment would have to include a provision that states that the servicemember was advised of his/her rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and intentionally, knowingly waived those rights.
According to the Associated Press today, France is considering a process of divorce by mutual consent bypassing judicial oversight or intervention. France's Social Affairs Minister Dominique Bertinotti reports that more than half of divorces in France are uncontested. She says that divorces could be handled by court clerks who are "highly trained in the law." Bertinotti reportedly posited that "simplification is a good thing."
"Uncontested"--what does that mean? Does it mean that a couple truly agrees upon the property divistion? Does it mean that each of the parties is truly aware of the nature and extent of marital property? Does it mean that each of the parties has been fully informed of his or her property rights, right to support, rights concerning child custody, parenting time and support? Does it mean that each of the parties is operating without undue coercion or duress and in the absence of domestic abuse? By domestic abuse, I do not mean to limit that term to physical abuse only.
I've often been heard to tell potential clients that "it doesn't matter that you don't want a divorce. Your spouse can get a divorce for any reason or for no reason at all because Michigan is a 'no-fault' state." And that is sad, but true. All that is required is testimony that "There has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."
Recent discussions among Michigan family lawyers reveal some confusion about how a divorce action can be initiated in cases where elderly parents are not living together (or are living very unhappily together) and one of the parties is suffering from dementia. Lack of competency to file for divorce is an issue--one that I'm afraid will arise more frequently given the advancing age of Baby Boomers. The Michigan Court of Appeals, in an unpublished decision, has now answered that question.
Judge Paul Garfinkel of the 9th Judicial Circuit Family Court, Charleston County, SC, allowed me to share the following comments he made prior to a recent custody trial. As a family law practitioner for over 20 years, I find these words extremely insightful and wise.
COMMENTS FROM THE HONORABLE PAUL GARFINKEL PRIOR TO A CUSTODY TRIAL
"I want to make a few comments to you about how important it is to your family to resolve this case. I know that both of you sit here today; each of you are convinced of the merit of your own case and the righteousness of your own position. However, asking your attorney to convert your convictions and beliefs into evidence that will result in a verdict in your favor is asking for what I believe the most difficult task that a trial attorney can be required to do.
A recent discussion among Michigan lawyers raised the question whether a parent who was subject to the jurisdiction of an adjoining county in an earlier filed child support case could lawfully file a divorce case in an adjoining county. Oddly enough, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided a case just days later holding that, yes, the divorce could be filed in another county. The case is Dixon v Dixon, Docket No. 308253, decided March 21, 2013 (Unpublshed)
In Dixon, an Oakland County, Michigan trial court entered a child custody and parenting time order in a child support case in 2008. Subsequently, the parties married in 2009. Fast forward a few years. Husband filed for divorce in Wayne County, Michigan. Wife argued that the Wayne County trial court did not have jurisdiction to enter its custody order in this case because a custody order existed in Oakland County entered in the 2008 child support case. The court of appeals disagreed, stating
Is there a family lawyer out there who hasn't had a client clobbered at trial by a printout from a Facebook page? Facebook postings can be the family lawyer's nightmare and the divorce or custody client's downfall.
A recent article in the New York Times explores new privacy concerns for Facebook users. It's not enough to "un-friend" someone so that he or she cannot access the client's Facebook. New technology can allow friends, enemies and strangers to access information on a Facebook page.
According to Sengupta: “One of Facebook’s cleverest heists is the word ‘friend.’ It makes you think all your Facebook contacts are really your ‘friends.’ They may not be."
The American Bar Association has published a new resource that will be helpful for those lawyers practicing in locales with clients whose marriages have been contracted according to Shariah law. The book is titled Practicing Law in Shariah Courts: Seven Strategies for Achieving Justice in Shariah Courts. It describes the Shariah courts of Northern Nigeria, and offers advice for counsel practicing in Shariah courts worldwide, particularly in cases involving women. The author, Hauwa Ibrahim, is entering her fifth year at Harvard University. Prior to joining Harvard Divinity School Ibrahim was a Radcliffe Fellow and was a jointly appointed Fellow to the Human Rights Program and the Islamic Legal Studies Program.
Ibrahim provides valuable insight into practicing law in Shariah courts, and answers some questions that arise from being on the field, and also from her experience of seeking justice under these laws both legally and spiritually. Ibrahim discusses the delicate and flexible boundary between the rule of law and individual interpretations of Shariah Law that may unjustifiably cause individual and social ills.
Going through a divorce? Married or cohabiting and miserable? Or are you a family lawyer whose
client, during the divorce process, is walking on eggshells, just trying to keep the equilbrium . . . trying to manage . . . trying to avoid emotional, psychological and financial abuse that is so harmful to himself or herself or the children?
Here's a link to an interesting test to determine how bad things really are. It's a short online test that takes about 3 to 5 minutes to complete. It may provide the impetus for you (or for your client) to get some counseling to begin to develop some techniques and coping skills to help her (usually, but not always her) deal with a narcissist. Walking on Eggshells
I often represent service members who have family law issues. I'm sure no one will disagree, though, that SMs don't usually have the financial resources for expensive divorce litigation. If the issues are not complex (for example, do not involve child custody or parenting time, or do not involve a claim regarding any rights to retirement benefits because the marriage is very short and it's easier in the long run to offset a retirement claim against another asset), there are times when SMs can help themselves. It's not something I recommend that an SM do, however, without first taking a careful look at the issues and perhaps scheduling an appointment with an experienced family law attorney.
Recently Justice Matthew Thorpe, commented about accusations of fault that have come before him in divorce petitions to support allegations required as grounds for a divorce in England. Justice Thorpe said that there would have be no need for the painful allegations and investigations if the government had enacted past proposals to allow no-fault divorce. The current system, said the judge, "seem to represent the social values of a bygone age.”
Under current English law, there are only five grounds for divorce, including adultery and abandonment. Grounds for divorce alleged in about half of the cases now filed fall into a general allegation of "unreasonable behavior." In this category, one party has to accuse the other of acting so unreasonably that living together has become intolerable.
Now here's a novel thought: Husband and Wife decide to try to save their marriage. They find a marriage counselor. They attend a few sessions. One of them drops out, saying: "This isn't worth it." The other spouse continues marriage counseling in one-on-one sessions. Can this possibly work to help the couple save their marriage?" According to Ellen Bernstein, writing in the Wall Street Journal, yes--one-on-one marriage counseling can work.
Bernstein's expert had a short explanation for why this one-on-one marriage counseling can work:
Donna Ferber, Framingham, CT psychotherapist, is today's guest author. This article emphasizes how mothers and fathers in high-conflict divorce situations can minimize some of that conflict for the sake of their children's well-being.
The continued post- divorce acrimony that plays out in the arena of parenting is the probably the most aggravating and stressful part of divorce for all involved. Parents struggle with a sense of wanting to make this transition easy for their children but when left over marital issues continue to play out in the co parenting arena, the adults often throw up their hands in frustration. The continued conflict is worrisome as it is the fighting, not marital status, that hurts the kids.
High-conflict divorce exposes both parents and also their children to a lot of stress. Little ones who were already potty-trained may suffer lapses. Youngsters can be clingy, whiny and may go back to thumb-sucking or insist upon having a bottle for comfort. Kids who were previously OK sleeping alone may seek comfort in Mommy's bed or Daddy's bed at night. Kids in school can suffer a loss in performance. Anybody who has been through it or watched another go through it knows that conflict and stress can negatively affect everybody. What is a parent to do to help kids through this stress?
Sometimes parents feel like they will never be able to talk to the other parent again, and often a “no contact rule” seems like the only answer. But if parents aren't communicating about the kids--health issues, school issues, scheduling arrangements such as extra-curricular activities or doctor appointments--then no effective co-parenting is going to happen.
Today's guest author is Donna Ferber, an award-winning writer and psychotherapist from Farmington, CT.
When going through a divorce, keeping your children’s well-being in the forefront of your mind is critical. Whether the children ultimately have an experience that is traumatic or manageable is a direct result of how well their parents’ behave. Some parents even stay together “for the sake of their children” but their behavior is so appalling that the kids beg their parents to split up. Whether you stay together or not, your children learn from and emulate your behavior. You are role models for healthy relationships.
A client sent me a link to this article about abuse of children during divorce proceedings by a narcissistic parent. Here's a preview:
The emotional abuse by a narcissist is pervasive and insidious. It impacts not only the narcissist’s spouse but his or her children as well. Once divorce proceedings begin, the narcissist’s abuse will likely escalate. Narcissists will use any means possible to gain control of the situation or to make themselves look better. Children become perfect pawns for narcissistic parents to use against their spouses. Identifying how narcissistic parents abuse their children is the first step to devising strategies to minimize abuse and help children cope. Read more here on Parenting News Network.com
A client sent me a link today to an article that seems very appropos in many divorces where domestic abuse, including physical, emotional and economic abuse are occurring. Often, it's not until the divorce is in progress that an abused spouse will recognise or acknowledge the abuse. Some of the worst abuse come from a narcissist. See here the Mayo Clinic's description of the narcissistic personality disorder.
Often, a narcissist's emotional abuse towards a spouse escalates during divorce. The good news: abused spouses can minimize the impact of abuse by learning what games narcissists play--but only if they learn to recognize the symptoms and learn how to defend against and deflect the abuse.
Today's guest author is Mark E. Sullivan, a retired Army Reserve JAG colonel. Mark practices family law in Raleigh, NC and is the author of THE MILITARY DIVORCE HANDBOOK (Am. Bar Assn., 2nd Ed. 2011), from which portions of this article are adapted. See his contact information below.
1. RETURN OF THE WARRIORS
Empty outposts overseas mean full billets and bedrooms back at home. In view of the “new phase of relations” between the U.S. and Iraq, using Vice-President Joe Biden’s language, many servicemembers (SMs) are returning home. The redeployment of military personnel back to their stateside assignments and their homes is the result of significant drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. SMs who are returning from the Middle East are not only from the active-duty forces (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines); they are also from the Reserve Component, namely, the National Guard and the Reserves. Thus the homecoming impact will be felt nationwide, not just in communities near military bases. While reuniting with one’s family will be a joyous experience for SMs, it may create significant stresses for some. And these stresses may lead to legal consequences.
In addition to bibliotherapy that might help not only children grieving the loss of a marriage, but also one of both parties, there are many movies that take a look at dysfunctional families, issues arising in divorce, how to handle divorce and custody issues, and more particularly, how NOT to handle them. Here's a helpful list of some of those movies, with a brief summary. You might send this on to someone it may benefit.
One movie not on the list is "The Squid and the Whale." The movie is not for the faint of heart, but sure provides a good illustration to parents on how they ought to proceed in a divorce or custody matter to avoid completely screwing up their children. This is available through Netflix and video stores.
Family lawyers recognize that separation and divorce is an experience during which losses must be grieved. Not only do husband and wife grieve their loss of what may have seemed like a fairytale romance when they were younger, but if children are involved, no matter what their age, they, too have losses to grieve. As a former elementary teacher and later as a volunteer for my children's schools running two annual book sales, I became very interested in bibliotherapy--using books to help children see that they are not alone. There are lots of kids in the same boat.
The Barr-Harris Children's Grief Center, In Chicago, Illinois, has compiled a lengthy bibliography for children of all ages that parents may access. The brief descriptions of the books should help parents decide which book might offer his or her child the comfort and/or information that the child needs.
The list of books reviewed by Benjamin Garber, MD And Members of the Staff of the Barr-Harris Children's Grief Center may be accessed here.
Phoenix, Arizona, divorce attorney Scott D Stewart, who writes an Arizona Divorce Attorney Blog, recently published an article on the issues faced by older couples, usually where one or both of the spouses are over 50. He notes that Al and Tipper Gore's divorce has caused many Baby Boomers to examine their own marriages and has many of them wondering how this could happen. But it does happen, and for many different reasons. I, too, am seeing an increase in the number of my cases involving Baby Boomers.
Social Security benefits cannot be divided in a divorce, but rules about them can affect post-divorce income and standard of living. For example, if a wife is over age 62, and the couple’s marriage lasted for over 10 years, she can collect benefits after the divorce on her former husband’s earnings record without a reduction in benefits to the husband so long as she is unmarried. [If she has remarried and that second marriage ends in divorce or death of the spouse, an ex-wife may still collect benefits based upon Husband No 1's earnings record.]
The thing to watch out for is remarriage. If the divorced spouse remarries before age 60, then they are not eligible for the benefits based upon the ex-spouse's earnings record. If they remarry after age 60, they can still get the benefit on the ex- spouse’s account. This may be a reason to delay remarriage.
If the former husband dies, the wife may be entitled to survivor benefits - 100 percent of the former husband’s Social Security benefit. To qualify, the marriage must have lasted 10 years, the surviving spouse must be at least 60, and that spouse cannot already be entitled to benefits that are equal to or greater than those of the former spouse.
One of the most difficult parts of divorce for parents is "what do we tell the children?" Bottom line: You have to tell the children. Surely, you don't think they don't know? Experience shows that children know, children pick up on tensions, overhear arguments. They worry. They wonder: Was it my fault? Can I fix it? What's going to happen to me?
Author Donna Ferber shares the following wisdom about how to tell your children that their parents are divorcing. This is an "everybody in the living room" discussion. These are Ferber's tips for telling the children about impending divorce:
If possible, both parents should be present. This illustrates to the children that you will still be able to co-parent.
2. Tell them close to the time that one of the parents is planning to move out. Telling them months in advance does not “prepare them.” It only makes them anxious and worried.