Ladies and gentleman, we did it. Another school year completed, another summer upon us. I have a piece of advice – be reasonable with your co-parent this summer. Your kids should enjoy a summer break and holiday with their other parent just like they should with you. Certainly, you should not be taken advantage of, but, try not to sweat the really small issues. Remember, if you give them a tough time about a summer holiday, break or vacation, they are going to do the same right back, creating a never ending, and, unnecessary cycle of pettiness and unpleasantness. If you have any questions about summer parenting time or other divorce issues, please contact us.
Are you the payer of child and/or spousal support and wish your payment(s) were less and lower? Thinking about quitting or reducing your employment/working hours and that will do the trick? Not so quick. In Michigan, there is a legal principle called the imputation of income. Obviously, the Courts cannot force someone to physically go to work and make money. That said, the Court can calculate your income to an amount it believes is fair, reasonable and/or justified. For example, you make $100,000.00 per year and quit your job. If you go to Court saying I cannot pay support, the Court will say, “Too bad, if you don’t want to work at that job, thats on you, but, you don’t get to quit, not work and have an income of $0.” Similarly, if you elect to work less than you can/should, the court can impute you at a higher income for support calculation purposes. What does all of this mean? If you want to attempt to lower your support payments, speak with a family lawyer about (1) negotiating directly with your spouse or (2) assessing the filing and success of a Motion to Modify Support before the Court and the Friend of the Court. If you have any questions on this or any other divorce issue, please contact us today.
We advise every Emmer Law PLC divorce client during the divorce, and, in writing in the final Judgment of Divorce, to seek advice and counsel from a tax professional or accountant. Emmer Law PLC and Attorney Max S. Emmer do not provide expert tax advice, and, always instruct clients to seek that out as there are significant changes to your tax returns, filings, statuses and credits upon divorce (especially with shared minor children). Should you have any questions, please contact us.
For better or worse, we live in an era where social media in not just prevalent, it is ubiquitous. Despite many positives, social media, unfortunately, provides permanent evidence of what people do, say, feel, believe, and experience in their day-to-day lives. Often times, it is not mere rainbows, ice cream cones, and backyard soccer games.
Ideally, my clients would delete social media before they file for divorce, keep it inactive the entirety of the divorce proceeding, and, maybe reclaim their profiles a few years later. But, oh well.
If, after this, you feel compelled to continue actively using your social media profiles during your divorce, my professional and personal advice would be:
- DO NOT post any pictures, stories, tweets, or comments of you with other potential dates, romantic partners, paramours, or suitors.
- DO NOT post anything controversial (and, yes, for these purposes, we’re going old dinner party rules in leaving sex, religion, and politics in the don’t post silo).
- DO NOT post anything about your current spouse or the divorce. The only exception here is if you and your current spouse expressly agree to make a brief, joint post/announcement on social media to friends, family, and others. Nothing more.
- DO NOT post anything related to drinking (even social drinking), drugs or excessive partying or nighttime misadventures (even if legal).
- DO NOT post about your shared children in any way that could appear as slighting, boxing out, or in any way putting the children in the middle of the divorce.
Let me be clear – my advice is not meant to infringe upon your right to live your life freely and independently. It is, rather, to ensure you do not provide ammunition to your soon-to-be-ex and their attorney to make a mountain out of a mole hill for any little thing; I assure you they will be looking. This is also for the benefit of your children – do you want them (or their friends) seeing anything about you or your soon-to-be-ex regarding this private, sensitive, and ongoing family matter? Of course not.
Post something political – Your current spouse may argue you will try to radicalize/politicize the child.
Post with another man/woman – Your current spouse will say “Who is this? Were you with them during our marriage?” or “I can’t trust them with the kids, who knows who they even hang out with or bring around.”
Post something about your current spouse or the divorce they don’t like – Your current spouse and their lawyer will argue you are bad-mouthing and harming their reputation.
Post at 1:00AM holding drinks at a bar? Current spouse’s lawyer will argue you are more concerned with partying and being out than creating a suitable home life for your children.
Does all this sound far-fetched, ridiculous, or sensational? Welcome to the world of family law and divorce.
Living (or at least appearing to live) a private, uneventful life during your divorce will, I promise, save you from a great deal of headaches and scrutiny.
If you have any questions on this or any other family law and divorce issues, please contact us.
Understanding how your money works at the beginning of and during divorce.
A common fear at the beginning of a divorce is that the person filing will not have access to bank accounts or funds if they decide to start the divorce process. This can be an impediment to filing and a major source of anxiety. While this article is specific to laws and standards of the State of Michigan, it may have relevant information for all people going through divorce.
The last several people contemplating divorce who reached out to me all had this same paralyzing fear. They desperately wanted to file for divorce but were overwhelmed because they did not have access to marital funds. They worried about hiring an attorney while reasoning, “Who would work without a retainer?” They worried how they would manage to pay their living expenses after the case was filed and asked themselves, “How will I fill my car with gas or pay for my kids’ extracurriculars?” They felt stuck.
After working with divorcing clients for nearly 25 years, I know these concerns are understandable but should not prevent someone from filing. In order to get a handle on the specifics, I recently sat down with Oakland County Michigan family law attorney, Max Emmer, Esq. for guidance. The following are excerpts from our conversation.
How do you pay for an attorney?
Jacki: Max, first things first. What do I tell someone who says they want to file for divorce but don’t have access to money for a lawyer?
Max: Credit cards, today, are the most common form of payment for retainers and attorney fees and costs for a host of reasons. Many people do not have access or have $3,000.00 – $5,000.00 or more on hand or in a checking account to give to a lawyer. Credit cards are easier, more efficient and seamless to commence representation, especially since so much now is done via phone, email, Zoom and e-signature.
Ethics of paying for an attorney without informing your spouse.
Jacki: Is it okay for one person to charge legal fees on a credit card without informing the other? Clients are often worried about taking a misstep or getting “in trouble” for spending money on the divorce without getting consent from their spouse.
Max: Both parties have the right to legal representation and should have the same access to resources and funds for legal representation. While no lawyer will likely start a case without an initial retainer paid, if there is a disparity in funds or access, your attorney can formally (via a Motion with the Court if necessary) or informally (via a discussion with your spouse and/or their lawyer) to ensure access to marital funds for attorney fees and costs. Sometimes, clients get a loan or use a credit card of a family member or friend to initiate a case if they have concerns about their spouse seeing a bill before they speak with them or file.
Paying regular expenses like bills and spending money during divorce.
Jacki: What about daily living expenses? If you are not the primary wage earner or you do not have access to bank accounts or even credit cards, how is that handled?
Max: Once a divorce is filed, in theory, the parties’ finances and marital estate should remain as unchanged as possible. For example, if Party A was paying the health insurance before, Party A continues to pay the health insurance until a separate agreement is reached or the divorce is finalized. If bills were paid from a joint account before, that account shall remain open for bill paying until otherwise noted. If parties do wish to make a mutually agreed change to the status quo, they should memorialize that change with their attorneys. That could be done informally between the lawyers, or an Interim Order could be filed with the Court. If, for some reason, one party does not have access to sufficient funds for day-to-day expenses during the divorce, they can file for interim support (child and/or spousal) so those needs can be met.
How do you pay for unusual, one-time or big-ticket expenses during divorce?
Jacki: What about expenses that are non-recurring or unusual? For example, what happens if a bathroom repair is needed or if a trip is scheduled while the divorce is proceeding?
Max: I think parties should use their most reasonable judgment. If a toilet is broken, can a party call a plumber to fix it? Yes. Should a party undertake a $45,000.00 home addition during a divorce without discussion or approval? No. Anything more than a routine expenditure (say, $1,000.00, more or less, depending on the couple and their finances) should be discussed and approved.
Jacki: That makes sense! I always encourage clients to reach out to their attorney if they are unsure about any larger expense.
The most important takeaway from my conversation with Max was that even someone who is unfamiliar with or does not have access to the finances should not be afraid of moving forward with a divorce. Michigan courts anticipate those types of problems and already have mechanisms in place to prevent problems from occurring.
The prospect and notion of grandparenting time has become a hot-topic in the realm of family law in recent years. What rights do grandparents have to time with their grandchildren? Well, in Michigan, it really depends. In certain situations (i.e. a pending or entered divorce, the death of a parent/child and/or parents who are married and do not live together), then grandparents have more defined rights. If there is merely a dispute between parent and grandparent, grandparents have a major up-hill battle to climb. For more information on this or any other family law/divorce topic, please contact us.