Last month, we tackled teen dating
violence head-on. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When I was a
child and young adult, domestic violence was not something that was talked
about. It was still a skeleton in the closet. It was not spoken about and
friends were not brought home out of fear that it would happen again. Those who
lived daily with domestic violence did so in silence and feeling alone.
However, today that is changing.
Now, we are saying “No More” to violence in relationships, whether dating,
married or divorced. There is an organization called No More Project that is
fighting to end domestic violence and sexual assault. You can visit their
website at www.nomore.org and learn more
about domestic violence, sexual assault, and how you can help end the violence.
But to end domestic violence, we
need to shine a light on it that is so bright that there are no shadows to hide
in. One-third of women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault
during their lives. As a child growing up in a house with domestic violence, I
did not understand that we were not the only family where this happened. I did
not understand that other families in my own neighborhood were experiencing
this as well. I did not know the impact of the domestic violence I witnessed
would have on the choices I would make as an adult. It is just not one third of
women who are experiencing this, but their children who witness the violence
and aftermath of it.
In addition, 65% of those who come
forward say that no one helped them. The biggest key in ending domestic
violence is to do something and not simply stand by silently observing. Be a
friend who listens and helps create a plan to leave in safety. Be a friend who
watches young children, so papers can be filed at the local court for personal
protection orders. Educate yourself on different ways you can help. No More
Project has a page dedicated to providing tips and scenarios. You can access it
If you have a friend or family member who is in a violent relationship and they are ready to break free, be their support as they go through the process. Accompany them to hearings, appointments, or offer a safe place to stay. If your friend needs legal help in filing for personal protection orders, call our office to schedule an appointment.
When it comes to extracurriculars, one disagreement among parents is the number of activities. On occasions, parents present us with a schedule for their children that has them running from early in the morning until bedtime with no time for schoolwork.When this type of schedule is presented to our team, the question arises “How do I limit the number of extracurricular activities that my child is doing?”
When parents are divorced, the answer to this question is not always easy. Extracurricular activities have positive benefits for children. These benefits can include being able to socialize with friends, develop talents, and learn lessons that cannot be taught from inside a classroom. However, there are risks that can be associated with the participation which could leave along-lasting negative impact.
Before you file a motion to limit these activities, please consider these tips to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.
Enroll your children in age appropriate activities. Typically,these kinds of activities have minimum participation ages. Enrolling your child in something above their level can be strenuous on them and can be more harmful than helpful.
A full physical examination will ensure that your children are physically capable of participating in the sport to prevent any injuries.
Volunteer at school events. This can help you and your child make connections with other community members on a more consistent basis.
Monitor your children’s grades to ensure their education is not suffering due to time constraints and pressure. Education should come first for the children.
This will allow your child to have more time to complete school work and be active in family activities.
Ask your children why they want to get involved in certain activities and continue to ask your children if they still want to continue doing those activities, especially as they take on advanced school courses or additional responsibilities.
This will allow time for your children to keep up on their school work and prevent exhaustion from lack of rest.
When seeking the court’s assistance on deciding the number of extracurricular activities, the argument should focus on what is best for the child rather than an intrusion into parenting time. In Michigan, the courts focus on what is best for the child first and foremost.
Participation in extracurricular activities is good for a child. They should participate as they are able so that they may learn to be more well-rounded for adulthood. There are somethings that we as parents cannot teach that much be experienced. Children gain lessons from participation in these that cannot be learned at home or in the classroom.
If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent on how many extracurricular activities is reasonable, contact the team at Melissa Pearce & Associates for assistance. We are here to help you redefine your family.
Recently, we have been observing more fights over extracurricular activities for children. Sometimes, we are asked, “What are extracurricular activities, and do I have to approve each and every one that my child does?” This is a good question and dealt with as two questions in one.
First, what are extracurricular activities? In a simple explanation, this would be anything your child does outside of normal school hours. Extracurricular activities “include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments, and other pursuits.” These activities can be a program or sport sponsored by the child’s school or school district, through community education, or offered from a private studio, dance school, or instructor. Extracurricular activities can include tutoring for assistance in classes that your child may be struggling with. Often, I am asked the follow up question of why are the extracurricular activities important. The answer for each client depends on their child and the child’s unique pursuits. Sometimes, the child is highly talented in music or the arts and the parents have historically supported the pursuit from a young age. The child may be interested in developing a skill or talent. It may just be a way the child socializes with classmates and friends outside of the classroom. The reasons why a child should or should not participate are unique as each child in the world.
The next question about approving every extracurricular activity that a child does is another one that depends on the circumstances. We often inquire about how many extracurriculars is a child doing per semester. Having been a mother of children who participated in extracurriculars from marching band, dance, sports, church activities, summer camps, theater, driver’s education, and after school clubs such as chess club or Spanish Club, I understand how busy children’s lives and the intrusion upon family time and homework. But each child who participated in an extracurricular activity, they learned life lessons that could not be learned in a traditional classroom. For instance, those who participated in sports learning how to deal with competition, cheating, and recovering from losing the game. For the children, who participated in activities involving the arts, they learned about the dedication and time it takes to improve a talent, skill or passion. Others just had fun socializing with their friends. Some of the children were able to list their extracurricular activities on college applications.
Guidelines for approving the activities were often known from the moment the child started participating. There were rules that were set early on and required the child to meet to continue participation when it came time to renew. As far as intruding on family time, it happened but was a sacrifice as a parent I chose to make as I knew the alternative was not the life I wanted for my children. Extracurricular activities kept the children busy and off the streets unsupervised where their own choices lacking experience and wisdom could get them into trouble. From working after school, the children began learning about the importance of a job, managing money and saving for what you want. All the extracurricular activities helped develop the children into who they are today.
Whether your child participates in extracurricular activities and which ones is a conversation that you need to have with the other parent and your child. Ask why does the child want to do this activity? Work together to set boundaries for participating. For instance, I required my children to actively participate throughout the duration of the activity or risk the opportunity to do others. When the children were in high school and able to work, I would require contribution toward the cost, especially when I realized that the child may not be appreciative of what it took to participate. The child had the choice to participate again the following season or year. It was not something I mandated to the children outside of completing their commitment, even if they grew to hate it.
But what worked for my family and children may not work in every family. It needs to be a family discussion and parents need to agree to how many per semester or quarter a child may do. The finances need to be discussed. I know firsthand how expensive dance and acting lessons are and the cost may be prohibitive to some families.
Speaking of cost that is another conversation to have. How will divorced or unmarried parents share in the cost of the extracurricular activities? Are there opportunities for the parent to volunteer to reduce the financial cost? If so, which parent will volunteer and how will their effort be accounted for?
If your child wants to do extracurriculars, have a discussion with the child and other parent. Reach agreements on what will and may happen. Determine the limitations. It is easier than filing a motion to have a third party determine what your child can do after school is over.
If you are in a disagreement with your child’s mother or father on participation in extracurricular activities that you cannot resolve on your own, call us today for assistance. We may offer insights you have not thought of or can assist you in presenting your case to the judge.
The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year in America. When it comes to cashing in on the day’s deals, the motto is “If you snooze, you lose.” For serious bargain-hunters, the day is the ultimate shopping extravaganza that requires a strategic plan, including store maps and item locations, that’s hatched days in advance. For those parents that fit the image of a “mama bear,” the goal is to snag up the must have item on the child’s list at a bargain price.
The combination of too-good-to-be-true deals and shoppers anxious to be first to purchase limited supply items can be dangerous, though. Overzealous and sleep-deprived drivers can make roads and parking lots dangerous. Unfortunately, Black Friday brings out thieves, pickpockets, and others, who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.
No matter when you leave the house in search of Black Friday deals or saving your holiday shopping for the last minute, use the following safety tips to create your own holiday safety plan. A carefully thought out holiday safety plan is key to giving yourself the gift of peace during this holiday season.
Purchase a pre-paid card to do your shopping with. Consider purchasing more than one and limit the card to $200, so your entire holiday budget is not on one card.
Limit the number of cards you take into a store and know how much you plan to spend.
Lock the cards in your glove box.
Keep purses zipped, closed, and close to your body in the front. If possible, carry keys, cash, and credit cards all separate from each other.
Have your keys in hand when leaving a store.
Don’t overload yourself with bags when leaving a store, it makes it difficult to defend yourself.
Remember safety in numbers, avoid walking alone, especially in the dark.
On the road and parking lot:
Lock all doors and roll windows up.
When shopping, keep gifts hidden in the trunk or from view.
Avoid parking next to vans or large trucks.
Always park in a well-lit area.
Check the area around your car for anything suspicious when approaching.
If going to an ATM at night, use the well-lit drive-up ATM at banks only and keep your receipt.
The firm of Melissa Pearce & Associates wishes everyone a safe and joyous holiday season.
You are scheduling your first family vacation with your kids since your divorce. How do you plan this vacation with your ex in mind? What do you or do you not tell them or do in that vacation? Here a few tips on how to make your vacation planning go smoothly:
1. Do not tell your children first!
You have planned a vacation to Disneyland and want to share the news with your children. Your boss has approved your vacation time and it will be scheduled for the upcoming holiday break from school. You know the children will be excited, but when should you tell them. The best tip is to wait to tell the children until after you have spoken with the other parent and all details are set.
2. Review the custody and parenting time sections of your Judgment.
Before you ask for the time off for vacations with your children, read over the custody and parenting time provisions in your judgment and orders entered after the judgment. Do you understand the limitations listed in the paragraph on the Hague Convention? Are you traveling to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention? Do you know where to find those countries? Read the provisions for holiday parenting time. Are your plans within your schedule time? Have you allotted enough time to deal with canceled flights or other delays due to weather? How much notice are you required to provide the other parent? What information must be shared pursuant to the terms of the judgment? If any of the provisions or terms are unclear to you, you may need to consult an attorney to determine what you will need to do.
3. Talk to the Other Parent
Before you book a flight or reserve a hotel suite, talk to the other parent. If you need extra days to accommodate travel, ask how you can arrange this. Be willing to give up some of your time around your travel to have the time you need. Put any agreements reached with the other parent in writing and follows the terms of your judgment. If you are deviating from the terms of the judgment, put those in writing and have both parties sign, in front of notaries preferably. If there is a disagreement about your proposed travel plans, contact an attorney for assistance in working out the disagreement.
4. Give Advance Notice
Provide advanced notice to the other parent of your intended holiday or vacation plans. Do not wait until the time specified in your judgment or the last minute. If the other parent is not in agreement or is holding the passport hostage, you will have enough time to seek the assistance of an attorney. If the other parent refuses or disagrees with your travel plans, you will have plenty of time to bring a motion before the court.
5. Provide all the Information and a Tentative Schedule
Giving notice in advance and talking to the other parent should include all the information and tentative schedule, even if your judgment does not require it. Being generous with this information may ease fears or anxiety that can lead disagreements. Provide this information in writing, an email is fine. This provides proof of the information communicated, if it is later needed. Be sure to answer the following in your notice:
Where are you going and for how long?
What are your travel plans?
How will you travel? By plane, car, train or bus? Be willing to provide the details of your travel, including airline, flight number and flight schedule.
Who is going with you and the children?
Where do you plan on staying? Provide all the information.
Have you made reservations or booked flights yet?
Do you need the child’s passport or immunization records?
What is the schedule like and when can the child and other parent communicate during the trip? Is communication with the other parent the best for the child?
If you are providing copies of confirmations or receipts for any reservations or bookings, feel free to redact any information that details with costs or account numbers.
6. Get Paperwork Early
Determine if the children will need a passport or visa. If this is the case the other parent normally must sign the appropriate paperwork. If the other parent has the passport, you will need to obtain it from them. If the other parent refuses to sign paperwork or turn over the passport, you will need time to file a motion with the court. There should be time to allow for enforcing the court’s decision, if the other parent is defying the court’s orders. This may take weeks or months to accomplish, so waiting until two weeks before the schedule trip may be too late.
A sample email notice to the other parent may look like the following:
As you recall, I have Spring Break next year, I have a vacation planned for this school break with the children. I have not informed the children yet, but I want to surprise them with it after speaking with you. Below is the information for the proposed plan.
On Saturday, April 4, 2019, the children and I will leave at approximately 7a.m. from my home. We will fly out of Detroit Metro to Orlando on United. I am looking at a 9 a.m. flight that will land around 11 a.m. in Orlando. This will be a direct flight. I will provide you with the exact times and flight number after I have booked the flight. We are staying for five nights at Disney All-Star Movies Resort, address and telephone. On Wednesday, we will drive down to Miami, Florida and stay in my parent’s condo, address and telephone. We will return to Orlando to catch our return flight home on Sunday. After retrieving our luggage, getting a quick dinner and driving, I expect that the children will arrive at your home around 8 p.m. The children will give you a call when we land and when we are on our way to your home.
Please contact me as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns. As always, I will have the children contact you in the evenings. I will have my cell phone with me the whole time, if you need to reach us.
You are not required to provide this information to the other parent (unless your judgment or order says differently); however, this act of good faith and spirit of cooperation may may co-parenting around the holidays easier. Finally, this behavior, even if not witnessed by the children, will last far into their future as the children will know that they had two parents who loved them and worked together for their benefit.
If you or a love one his having trouble planning their vacations with the other parent in mind, call us today. We can help make redefining family easier.
In our last few blogs we have discussed what is holiday parenting time and what holidays are observed. But what happens if a holiday is important to your family and it is not listed in the holiday parenting time schedule. There are some holidays celebrated across the generations as part of one’s ancestral culture or religion that may not be recognized by the mainstream. This does not mean that a divorce will now end this tradition for your children. Here are some tips to handle those unscheduled holidays.
Ask the other parent to allow you to spend time with children. If the tradition has been ongoing, talk to the other parent. Ask that she allow you parenting time to celebrate this holiday with the children. You may have to remind her of the importance the holiday has been in your lives and reinforce your desire to continue its celebration with the children.
Document agreements in writing. When the other parent agrees to allow you parenting time with the children for a holiday, document your agreement in writing. You do not need a formal written order to document your agreement for one year, but if you are looking to make celebrating the holiday an annual tradition with the children, adding it to the court-ordered holiday parenting time schedule will remove the uncertainty for the years to come. Both you and the children can count of being able to celebrate as a family. If it is a special occasion that you have requested, then exchanging text messages or emails that clearly state you both agree and what are the logistics may be enough.
Show gratitude to the other parent. If you have received an agreement to celebrate an important holiday with the children, express your gratitude to the other parent. The parent could have denied you this opportunity, but instead showed respect for your traditions. This olive branch should be recognized, and gratitude expressed for the kindness and respect being shown to you.
Inform your attorney. The best approach about handling unscheduled holidays that are important to you and honor family traditions is to communicate those holidays to your attorney. If your attorney is unfamiliar with the holiday, you may have to explain the importance of the holiday to your attorney. Request that your attorney includes the holiday in the negotiations for holiday parenting time. Insist on mentioning the holiday in any mediation summary or trial brief that the attorney will have to write during your case. You may have to educate others why continuing this holiday tradition is in the children’s best interests.
Celebrate the requested holiday with your children. If you have taken the steps to have parenting time on an unscheduled holiday, give the other parent advance information about how the holiday will be celebrated. Share what time you will pick up the children and when the children will return home. If the children need special clothing or equipment, communicate this. Finally, show up to celebrate the holiday. The other parent should not be asking you if you are coming to pick up the children for a holiday that you specifically requested.
If you are having difficulty being granted time with your children on holidays not recognized by the Friend of the Court but have a long tradition in your family, call us today. We understand that in our diverse society there will be holidays celebrated that do not make the standard Friend of the Court holiday parenting time guidelines. We are here to help you preserve and pass on the family traditions to your children.
When it comes to holiday parenting time, there are only four holidays besides the Christmas break that are recognized in the State Court Administrative Office’s Michigan Parenting Time Guideline. Those holidays are Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. There are also provisions for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The guidelines state that parties are free to choose up to four (4) other secular or religious holidays. However, many county Friend of the Court offices have a standard holiday parenting time schedule.
Sometimes our client have felt that they are required to follow the standard schedule for their county. This would be true if an Order from the Court states that the parties must follow the standard schedule. This will happen if the parties are unable to agree how to share parenting time. However, parties can work together to create a schedule for holidays that meets the best interests of their children within a judgment entered by consent. In this type of order, the parties are agreeing to continue to raise their children and exercise parenting time schedule that they have agreed upon that can deviate from the county’s standard schedule.
Often, this deviation occurs to celebrate religious or secular holidays that are not recognized by the court system. Secular holidays, such as Halloween or Martin Luther King Day, are not recognized by some counties and can be included in the holiday parenting time schedules. Parties are free to alternate the holidays, split the time on the holiday, or allow the parent that observes the holiday to exercise additional parenting time. The key in choosing to add non-traditional holidays to the parenting time schedule is to preserve family holidays and traditions in the lives of the minor children.
For instance, extended family members may gather at one house on Halloween and take all the children trick-or-treating in that neighborhood. Often, the costumes may be themed throughout the whole family and include the family pet. In these cases, finding ways to still walk around a neighborhood with the minor children in costumes will demonstrate how to have healthy relationships with extended family members to children. If the parties are unable to be civil for a few hours, then alternating the holidays can teach children to share as they observe their parents and extended family amicably sharing time with the children.
If you are worried about continuing your families’ holiday traditions after a divorce or break up, call us today. Our team understands the importance of preserving family traditions and maintaining consistency for children. We are ready to help you redefine your family.
The legislature in Michigan recognized that the best interests of children living within the state who are affected by either the divorce or separation of their parents is best served by having and preserving a strong relationship with both parents. Children have a right to parenting time with both parents unless the court determines on the record by clear and convincing evidence that exercising parenting time with one parent would endanger the children’s physical, mental or emotional health (MCL 722.27a). Parenting time includes weekday dinners, weekends, and holidays.
Holiday parenting time is the time that a parent spends with the children during a specified holiday, such as the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Holiday parenting time will take precedence over regularly scheduled parenting time. This may result in one parent have two or three weekends in a row with the children because of the holiday day parenting time schedule. The standard holidays observed across the state as part of holiday parenting time include Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas (Winter) Break, and Spring Break.
Each county will have a standard holiday parenting time that county Friend of the Court office will use. However, parents should be work together and create a holiday parenting time schedule that maintains the family traditions that the children have grown up with. Some parties will include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the children’s birthdays, religious holidays, other extended school breaks, and Halloween in their parenting time agreements. Holidays are rotated on an annual basis with extended school breaks such as Christmas break and summer break being equally divided by the parties. Many of the Friend of the Court office across the state have published their standard parenting time schedules online. Wayne County even breaks parenting time down by age.
The best parenting time schedule for children of any age is one that considers the child’s age, extracurricular activities or anticipated extracurricular activities, the distance between the parties’ home, the parties’ work schedules, and the observed holidays of the family. By agreeing during your divorce or custody proceeding on a parenting time schedule that includes the celebrated holidays for your family the joy of the holiday will continue after the judgment has entered.
We know how important it is for children to experience holidays with only the joy, awe and wonder that a child has. We educate our clients how to preserve this childhood excitement for holidays as the family structure is redefined. Our firm’s unique approach to redefining family can help you find a holiday parenting time schedule that serves your child best interests and promotes a strong healthy relationship with the other parent. Call us today to see how we can help you redefine family.
You have been to mediation with your attorney. The mediator helped both parties reach an agreement on all the issues in the divorce case, including division of personal property, division of debt, determination on what to do with the marital home, and all issues involving the children. The first question asked by many clients is “What’s next?”
The first thing to happen is that the mediator will record the agreement. Most mediators do this on a tape, but a handful will type out the settlement agreement. If the mediator records the agreement on a digital recorder, then a transcript or copy of the recording is forwarded to both attorneys for the parties. If the settlement agreement is typed out, the parties and their attorneys review it for accuracy and then sign the document. This written document then is incorporated and merged into a Consent Judgment of Divorce. Both parties state under oath that each have entered into the agreement voluntarily and knowing that the matter could have gone to trial where the judge could award more, award less or about the same as the agreement reached.
Reaching this agreement at mediation does not end the divorce. One attorney, typically the plaintiff’s attorney, will draft a Consent Judgment of Divorce based on the agreement that the parties reached. The document is exchanged back and forth as the attorneys and parties ensure that the language of the proposed judgment reflects the agreement accurately. On the day scheduled for trial, the court will hear the testimony of the parties that provided the reasons for the divorce and that a final settlement has been reached by the parties. There is a date certain issued by the court for the parties to return a judgment, if it is not ready on the scheduled date for trial.
But what happens when one party during this process decides that he or she will not sign the judgment. The refusing party believes that refusing to sign the judgment will halt or slow the process down and in effect delay the divorce. However, that party is mistaken. In Michigan, when one party abruptly changes his or her mind after reaching a mediation settlement, the other party can request the court to enter the judgment without the refusing party’s signature if the judgment complies with mediation settlement.
When this happens, the judges in southeast Michigan, which our attorney has appeared before, have entered the judgment after questioning the refusing party’s attorney to determine if the proposed judgment does comply with the settlement. This is an awkward moment for our attorney as an officer of the court, because as an officer of the court, she must be truthful with the court while advocating for the client. Often, the reasons provided for refusing to sign a judgment have nothing to do with language but have been based on another motive. But when there is a dispute over the language, it is resolved by the judge and the judgment enters without one party’s signature.
If you are going through the divorce process without an attorney and are about to enter mediation, call our office for assistance. We know how to guide you through the process and how to assist you when the other party decides to back out. It is not too late to obtain the assistance of an attorney who knows how to redefine family in amicable ways.
You have just been served with papers for divorce. Your mind immediately envisions scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer v Kramer. This vision you have may not happen in southeast Michigan. Most divorces in southeast Michigan are not resolved by the court, but rather by the parties during mediation. In Oakland County, parties are required by the court to attempt mediation with a trained mediator before proceeding to trial.
In 2016, there were 3,416 divorces filed in Oakland County. Currently, there are six judges sitting on the family court bench. This means that each judge is handling roughly 500 new divorce cases per year. If every case was resolved though the court process alone, a divorce could take years to finalize. However, mediation allows the court to handle this many new filings and gives the parties final say over the terms of the divorce judgment.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can resolve a divorce case outside of the court process. Mediation involves the use of a third party who is neutral, referred to as the mediator. The mediator is trained and often will be another attorney who has practiced in family law. The mediator is familiar with the local judges, how the judges will typically rule on a given issue, and what relief the judges typically does not grant. The choice of the mediator is often agreed to by the parties or their attorneys. If the parties cannot agree on a mediator, then the court will select a mediator from a blind draw for the parties. The cost of mediator’s fees is typically shared equally by the parties.
Mediation can occur in many ways or forms, but the most common used in southeast Michigan is facilitative mediation. The mediator may have both parties and their attorneys in the same room or may have them in separate rooms. The choice of how the mediation occurs is determined by the mediator in advance of the parties’ arrival. Both parties present their issues in a written brief called a mediation summary. This is often prepared by the parties’ attorneys and present one party’s positions and requests for relief to the mediator. After considering both sides, the mediator makes suggestions to each side on how the issues can be resolved. Reaching a resolution on the issues at mediation is voluntary. Neither party is required to agree to the mediator’s proposal.
One reason that parties prefer to mediate a divorce to a final resolution is that mediation is cheaper than litigating the matter through a trial. There are other reasons such as giving the parties control over the terms of the judgment that will benefit all family members. Other reasons include that the proceeding is less formal than trial, the proceedings are confidential, and the conflict experienced early in the process is diminished as each party is heard and able to express their concerns.
However, mediation is not always right for everyone. If one spouse is hiding assets, then mediation would not be ideal. The court may determine after a hearing that mediation is not appropriate for the parties when domestic violence is present. Mediation may not be appropriate when one party is using fear, threats, or intimidation to achieve desired outcome or prevent the other party from freely communicating.
Deciding whether your case is right for mediation is a discussion to have with your attorney. For more information on mediation in divorce cases, contact Melissa Pearce & Associates at (248) 676-8976. Our client coordinator is ready to schedule your pre-engagement meeting.