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Kalamazoo Family Law Blog

Exploring a legal separation

Legal separation is more than just a stepping stone to a divorce. Some couples might treat it as merely a part of the divorce process, but separation is an important legal process in itself. A legal separation is a court order that stipulates the rights and obligations of a couple that has decided to live separately. Spouses may choose to live apart from each other at any time during the marriage, but it is the formal declaration by the court that makes a separation legally official.

Paternity cases can be complicated by many definitions of father

We have written before about how challenging paternity cases can be in Michigan. Observers offer many explanations for why that is the case. Some suggest that the state's child custody and visitation laws are somewhat outdated.

In apparent response to that, lawmakers in Lansing are considering at least one measure this session. The bill, which would establish joint custody as the model presumed to be in the best interests of children, is still working its way through the process so it's impossible to know how things will play out.

Cutting family ties while still a minor

There comes a time for many children when they think life would be better if they cut ties with their parents. This writer knows of one young boy who was so angry at his mom over something that he announced he'd run away. His mom, calling his bluff, said, "OK, I'll help you pack and make you a sandwich." The boy walked around the block before returning home.

That's how such confrontations between loving parents and their children usually resolve. However, there may be times when conditions at home are such that it makes sense for a minor to think about getting out from under. Whether the conditions are right for pursuing this emancipation is something that deserves careful assessment before any decisions are made.

Looking at another case of parental alienation in Michigan

We’ve previously written on this blog about the issue of parental alienation and the damage it can do to children’s relationship with the alienated parent. It’s a difficult issue to deal with, regardless of the other circumstances involved.

A recent article looked at a Michigan divorce case involving the issue of parental alienation. The couple had an on-again, off-again relationship prior to ending their marriage in 2009, with the mother taking the couple’s children and the father being granted visitation rights. Two months after the divorce was finalized, though, the mother sought to end her ex-husband’s parental rights, claiming he failed to exercise them.

House bill proposes joint custody proposal in Michigan

Child custody is among the most important issues parents of minor children have to address in the divorce process. When parents are cooperative and can agree on child custody matters, the process is certainly easier. When they cannot, the process can be quite difficult, and a judge will have to step in and make a decision in the best interests of the child.

As readers may know, states differ in how they treat the issue of joint custody. Although joint custody is known to be good for children after divorce, whether it is in the best interests of the child depends on the circumstances. Here in Michigan, unlike some states, there is no presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child, though family law judges are required to order joint custody if parents agree to it, unless it isn’t in the best interests of the child. The law could, however, soon be changing. 

Looking at the basic requirements of prenuptial, postnuptial agreements in MI, P.2

Previously, we began looking at the topic of marital contracts, both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. The basic difference between the two, of course, is that prenuptial agreements are entered into prior to marriage, while postnuptial agreements are entered into during the marriage itself. That makes enough sense, but one important point about postnuptial agreements is that, by law, they must not be made in contemplation of divorce or separation.

The reasoning behind this requirement is the public policy that marital agreements must not become a means of undermining marriage. Whether or not you agree that this is a danger, the rule is that divorce or preparation for divorce must not be a motive for entering into a postnuptial agreement. When a spouse can provide evidence demonstrating to a court’s satisfaction that divorce was a motive, these agreements can be set aside. 

Looking at the basic requirements of prenuptial, postnuptial agreements in MI

In our previous post, we looked at the potential benefits of prenuptial agreements, even for couples who do not have a lot of wealth prior to marriage. As we noted, there are a number of issues prenuptial agreements can address, but a prenuptial agreement is only effective if it meets certain legal requirements.

For one thing, prenuptial agreements must be made in writing, which makes oral prenuptial agreements ineffectual. Prenuptial agreements must also be entered into voluntarily by both parties after they have received full disclosure of the other party’s assets. Coercion or duress, as well as fraudulent hiding of assets, are issues to watch out for in negotiating prenuptial agreements. 

Prenups potentially useful for more than just the wealthy

It is fairly common knowledge that prenuptial agreements are useful tools for protecting assets in divorce. Unfortunately, many people assume that it is only those with significant wealth who should really consider entering into a prenuptial agreement. In other words, there is an assumption that prenups are really only useful for rich people.

While prenuptial agreements certainly can be a useful tool for those with a lot of assets to lose in the event of divorce, the scope of who may benefit from a prenuptial agreement is wider than is commonly assumed. For one thing, the assets a couple has prior to marriage are not the only assets they should take into consideration. After marrying, one or both spouses may start a business, come into inheritance, or contribute to the appreciation of one another’s separate assets. Prenuptial agreements can help ensure these assets remain separate in the event of divorce.  

Bill to establish presumption of joint custody in MI officially introduced in Legislature

In our last post, we began looking at plans to propose a change to Michigan custody law in favor of a presumption of joint custody. As we’ve pointed out, Michigan currently only presumes that it is in the best interests of children to have a strong, ongoing relationship with both parents after divorce. 

The bill, which was introduced earlier this month, would require judges to presume that joint custody is best for the children. This presumption could be overcome if there were evidence showing otherwise, but the burden would be upon the parent or party opposing joint custody to show that joint custody is not best for the children. 

Michigan child custody law and the presumption of joint custody, P.2

In our last post, we looked briefly at how the issue of joint custody is addressed under current Michigan law. As we noted, Michigan law directs judges to presume that it is in the best interests of children to have a strong, continuing relationship with each parent after divorce, but it does not currently include a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child.

Michigan lawmakers may soon have the opportunity to consider a change to Michigan law that would add a presumption in favor of joint custody. The measure would still allow judges to come up with other custody arrangements in circumstances when joint custody is not in the best interests of the child, such as when one or both parents are unfit. It also allows parents to decide in favor of an alternative arrangement. 

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Kalamazoo Family Law Blog | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC