When it comes to children and divorce, there can be confusion on legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, child support and medical support. Each one of these is a separate issue that must be resolved before the Judgment of Divorce is entered. This blog is introductory on what each one is, and we will explore them in further depth in upcoming blogs.

Legal Custody.

First, legal custody means that a parent has the right make important decisions about your children, such as where they go to school, what religion they are, and major medical decisions. There are two ways this is handled in Michigan. The first way is that the court can award sole legal custody to one parent. This is become the exception more than the rule. The second way is that the court can award joint legal custody to both parents. This is when both parents would have to work together and agree on each of the decisions. If the parents cannot agree, then either one can petition the court for a decision.

Physical Custody.

Physical custody is who the child lives with after the divorce is finalized. If parties can agree, then the physical custody can be one that consider both parents’ work schedules, distances to school, ability to transport back and forth to school for each parent, extracurricular activities of the children, and any unique of the children or parents. The schedule should promote what is best for the child and not necessarily what is the most convenient or desired outcome for either parent.

Parenting Time.

Parenting time is the time the non-custodial parent (the parent who does not have the child living with him or her most of the time) spends with the child. For parents with joint physical custody, this would be the time the child spends in his or her house. Each county has a version of standard parenting time. However, the parties can craft a parenting time schedule that is best for children and considers work schedules, distance to school, ability to transport the child to school, need for childcare, and extracurricular activities. For some parents, parenting time may be supervised for a period of time and would be dependent on the circumstances for those parents and children. Parenting time cannot be denied if child support is not paid.

Child Support.

Child support is money a parent pays to help meet his or her child’s needs when the parent is not living with the child. The court orders the support based on the Michigan Child Support Formula. Support may include payment of the expenses of medical, dental, and other health care, childcare expenses, and school expenses. If either party receives state assistance in any form, then the parties cannot deviate from the child support formula. Child support cannot be denied if parenting time is not occurring.

Medical Support.

Medical support is a form of child support that is often provided through an employer’s health insurance plan. Child support agencies will send a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) to the employer to order coverage for an employee’s children. The medical support language is contained within the Uniform Child Support Order. It will designate if one or both parents will maintain medical insurance on the children. It will also set a limit of the parent’s income to be used to obtain the medical insurance. If the cost of medical insurance exceeds the limit, the parent can petition to not have the insurance. If both parents are carrying medical insurance on the children, then one parent’s insurance will be primary, and the other’s will be secondary. The order will determine how much each parent will pay toward any uninsured medical expenses not covered by the insurance.

Each one of these areas are considered separately from the others. Although some areas can affect another area. For instance, the number of overnights exercised by a parent for parenting time will impact the amount of child support. However, which parent has legal custody will not change the outcome of child support including medical support.

If you have minor children and are considering divorce, call us to learn more about how a divorce will impact your children and what you can do to minimize that impact.

One of the top reasons that I hear that individuals do not hire an attorney to represent them in a divorce action is that they are afraid of the total fees. Potential clients are worried that attorneys who charge an hourly rate can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars. For some individuals, this is not financially feasible, or the marital estate cannot justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on attorney for a marital estate worth just a few thousand. I agree that when your family is living paycheck to paycheck and barely surviving that the cost of an attorney can be more than the family budget can afford.

However, there are some new trends in legal representation that can provide the assistance of attorney at a reasonable cost. Those trends are flat fees, unbundled services, and limited scope representation.

First, flat fee is an option available to attorneys. However, the hourly fee has been the staple for attorneys representing clients in litigation. Now, there is trend for attorneys to analyze exactly how long a case can take, determine the value of the representation to the client, and calculate a flat fee. Flat fees can offer clients a set price for the attorney’s services in the representation.

Next, attorneys can offer unbundled services. Instead of hiring an attorney for full representation. You may be able to hire the attorney to draft documents, advise you on a particular issue or to review a document. This is a fraction of the cost of full representation. Some attorneys even set flat fees for the unbundled services that they offer.

Finally, the option available is limited scope representation. This is when an attorney can be retained for a portion of the legal case. You could hire the attorney to represent you at a motion hearing or for a parenting time review only.  This requires a special appearance to be filed by the attorney, so the opposing counsel, the opposing party and court know that the attorney is not fully representing you in the litigation.

When you interview an attorney to represent you in you divorce or postjudgment ask them if they offer any of these services.

If you are looking for a law firm that does offer these options in divorce representation, email us at info@melissapearcelaw.com to learn more.

If you are beginning the divorce process, the holiday season can bring up emotional stress.  In the past, your family may have enjoyed holiday traditions as a family.  However, things will change, and the holiday season will be spent without children present or celebrated on alternate days to accommodate parenting time schedules.  Children will adapt if their parents are handling the change with composure. In the weeks leading up to the holiday season, discuss how you plan to celebrate the holidays once the divorce is final.   If your children are old enough, have a family meeting to discuss the change in the holiday family traditions.  Reassure them that celebrating the holidays with each parent separately is fine and that many of their classmates have two holiday celebrations.

The first holiday during a divorce will be fraught with memories of previous holidays and traditions you once shared. Expect to feel sad and remember that your children will be experiencing their own set of feeling.  Have open discussions with your children, if appropriate, about how the change is affecting them. Use this year to make new traditions. If you have always spent Thanksgiving with your spouse’s family, consider visiting yours for a change. Consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen or having a Friendsgiving. When dealing with a divorce, try not to focus on how things were, but how you can redefine or improve your holiday traditions.

One of the most important things to discuss about this holiday season is parenting time. Part of dealing with divorce, especially when you have children, is not letting bitterness color the holiday for you or your children. The other thing to remember is to not speak ill of the other parent to your kids as children can self-identify with the other parent.  Refrain from complaining to your children about having to “share” them for the holidays as children have a right to be a child. If your children are old enough to understand what is happening, chances are they already feel guilty about not being able to see both parents on Thanksgiving.

While a life transition like divorce can consume your thoughts and emotions, remember the holidays are meant to be a time of peace. The very definition of Thanksgiving is “giving thanks.” Take some time to sit down and write out what you are thankful for. Life transitions are never easy, and there may be days where all you want to do is escape the situation. By taking little steps at a time, you and your children will be able to adapt.

If you are struggling with post-judgment parenting time or other issues, the team at Melissa Pearce & Associates is here to help bring back the peace in your holiday season. Call us today at (248)329-0344 to discuss your options.

Lately, I have been receiving questions about whether one spouse can receive any portion of the other spouse’s separate property. The answer is not always clear at first as it requires an investigation into how the property was held throughout the marriage. Clients do not like to wait until after an investigation and analysis to learn whether or not their pre-marital property is protected from the other spouse’s claims. Here are some tips that you can take to maintain the classification of your pre-marital property as separate property not subject to division in a divorce action.

  1. DO NOT ADD YOUR SPOUSE’S NAME TO YOUR PRE-MARITAL BANK ACCOUNTS, DEEDS OR TITLES. When you add your spouse’s name to accounts, deeds or titles that you had prior to the date of marriage, you change how the property is owned. Once your spouse’s name is added to the property, it becomes owned jointly between the two of you. If you want your spouse to inherit the property upon your death, designate him or her as the beneficiary or the person to whom title will transfer upon your death.
  2. DO NOT DEPOSIT INHERITED MONIES INTO MARITAL OR JOINT BANK ACCOUNT. If you receive an inheritance, your spouse is not entitled to any portion of those funds unless you commingle the money with funds held jointly or earned during the marriage. If you have a separate bank account and deposit your weekly paycheck into that account, the account is classified as marital as the pay is earned during the marriage. If your bank account was held in your name alone before the marriage, open a new account for your paycheck after the marriage. By preserving the pre-marital bank account’s classification as separate, you are able to deposit the inherited funds directly into this account. However, if you added your spouse’s name or deposited your weekly paycheck into the account, open a new bank account in your name alone to hold these funds.
  3. DOCUMENT HOW THE MONEY FLOW. When pre-marital property is sold during the marriage, it is key to document where the funds were deposited, what they were spent on, and whose name is on the account. This is called “tracing”. If we can trace the funds used to acquire property during the marriage to separate pre-marital funds, then your spouse may have no claim to the new property acquired during the marriage.
  4. KEEP CLEAR AND ACCURATE RECORDS. One of the biggest struggles I have discovered is in tracing how property was acquired. A spouse may claim that the property was purchased with funds realized from the sale of separate property or funds gifted from parents. However, there is no clear trail of where the funds were deposited and where the funds came from to purchase the property in question. If you can prove how the funds flowed through the accounts, you can show how to properly classify the property as either pre-marital and separate or marital. If you contributed toward your spouse’s separate property’s maintenance, repair, or improvement, then create the paper trail that shows what the monies were used for and how much.
  5. SHARE YOUR RECORDS EARLY ON WITH YOUR ATTORNEY. One of my biggest pet peeves is finding out from my client at mediation that the property in question was owned before the marriage. Sometimes, I am learning that my client knew his or her spouse owned the property in question before the marriage. If you know when the property was acquired and it was separate, tell your attorney. If you know the property became commingled with marital property, provide your attorney the documents early on that prove this happened.
  6. CREATE A PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENT. If you are truly worried about your property being seized by your soon-to-be spouse, create a pre-nuptial agreement that clearly states what each spouse owns prior to the wedding day. This agreement should state how the property will be treated upon death as well during a divorce proceeding. Note that if you are presented with a pre-nuptial agreement, take it to an independent attorney to review to ensure that the terms are fair and equitable to you.

It is best to begin using these tips from the first day of marriage. However, if you are just learning them, start compiling the records now. If you need help in analyzing your property or want to learn how to protect a specific piece of property, send us a quick email at info@melissapearcelaw.com.

The Dangers of Domestic Violence

“Why doesn’t she leave him?” This was the topic of a Ted Talk that I watched recently. In that talk, Laura Morgan Steiner shared her story of being abused by her first husband. The abuse not only included physical beatings but also having loaded guns held to her head as he threatened to end her life. She stated that she did not initially view herself as a “victim of domestic violence” but as someone who deeply loved a man struggling to overcome his demons from an abusive past. She thought she could help him. She finally left him after a “sadistic beating” one night and then she told everyone who would listen. In the final minutes of her talk, she lists some tips on how to help your family or friends leave.

The first thing to know is that it is incredibly dangerous to leave an abuser. The final step in the domestic violence pattern is “Kill her.” Laura Morgan Steiner stated that over seventy percent (70%) of domestic violence murders happen after the woman ended the relationship. Other outcomes include long-term stalking, denial of financial resources, and manipulation of the family court system to force the children to spend unsupervised parenting time with the man who regularly beats their mother. There are steps you can take to help your family member and friend leave an abusive relationship even in the face of danger or the prospect of unsupervised parenting time for their children.

How Can You Help the Abused?

The first step is to support her confidence in her ability to leave and to leave safely. I have recently spoken to several individuals trying to break free and the reason that they say that they lack confidence to leave is access to financial resources. Abuse is not physical but includes control over finances. If your friend has been restricted from working, understand that this was a way to control her financial freedom. In order to know that she can leave, she must be confident that she can financially support herself and her children without living on the street as he will have repeatedly told her that she could not survive without him. This fear of being worse off without him than with him is what may be preventing her from having the confidence that she can leave.

The second step is to develop a clear and safe plan for her to leave. This might not happen on your timeframe. She may need to save money, often a dollar here and five dollars there to build up enough funds to leave and not worry about the money. She will need to know how to leave safely, where she can go, what she needs to do to keep him away, and what can she do. All this planning will be scary for her. Offer to help research what is available in her area. Help her set up a secret bank account where she can deposit funds. Research what she needs to do to file a personal protection order. She may have spent years to be told what to do, what to wear, and where she can go. Breaking free and making her own decisions will frighten her. Remember, as she plans, she will need her confidence buoyed up by your loving support and not judgmental statements of contempt for her circumstances or choices.

The third step is developing a commitment to leave. Leaving is frightening. Your friend will remember everything that he said he would do if she left him or how inept she is and cannot make it on her own. She will need you to bolster her commitment to leave. Ask your friend why she wants to leave and when she wavers remind her gently of her words that she said for wanting a better life. She may have told you that if he hits her one more time. Do you know if those words were her commitment to leave or words that she said to pacify you? Unless she has begun planning to leave the relationship, you cannot be certain of her level of commitment to leave. It is not uncommon for the level of commitment to waver as she struggles with the love that she feels for him and her need for safety. This is not a black or white situation for her, your friend is seeing the relationship in shades of grey that are affected by his words and actions as well. The best thing you can do for her is to not bully her into leaving or offer ultimatums to her.

The final step in deciding to leave is the exercise of courage. This will take time for her to muster and exercise. She may test her own courage in small steps, such as developing a plan, confronting her abuser, seeking out professional help, saying something to a friend about what is happening, or saving money in secret. If each one of these steps works out for her without repercussions, then she will move forward toward leaving him. But if she fails in any exercise of courage, it could reinforce what he tells her about how weak or stupid she is. If your friend comes to you and tells you of the abuse that she has been enduring, do not judge or tell her what to do. Ask what you can do to help her. Reaffirm her worth as a person. Offer to be a safe shelter for her, if you can or research where she can go after she leaves. With nearly 20 people every minute experiencing domestic violence by an intimate partner. This equates to about 10 million women and men each year. It is bound to affect someone that you know and love. She may not have the courage to tell anyone, but she needs to know no matter what you are there for her. Since October is domestic violence awareness month, take one action to learn more about domestic violence and what you can do to help a friend in an abusive relationship.

Who owns the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects? This is a question that is asked quite often. Arguments are made that the children’s property belong to the parent who purchased the items for the child. This is often followed up with statements that the purchasing parent can prohibit those items from being taken to the other parent’s house. I have heard stories of children wearing a designated outfit on exchange days due to prohibition of taking anything from mommy’s house to daddy’s house and vice versus.

Joint Legal Custody and Children’s Property

In Michigan, when parents have agreed to or are granted joint legal custody, language is typically added to the Judgment of Divorce to define what joint legal custody means. One of the paragraphs defining joint legal custody states as follows:

That the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects shall be the property of the child and not the parties. This means that the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects may move back and forth with the child between the parties’ respective residences as the child so desires and neither party will impede this process. Furthermore, neither party may enter the residence of the other to retrieve any property belonging to the minor child.

I Bought the Children’s Property. Can I Restrict It’s Movement?

This language attempts to settle the question of who owns the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects. There is no restriction on the child on which house property can be moved to. The child decides and neither parent should do or say anything to hinder the child from freely moving property. If you are having disagreements over the children’s property, pull out your Judgment of Divorce or custody order and see what it says. Do you find the above language in your judgment? If so, then the property belongs to the child and she can decide where to take it. If you cannot find the above language or something similar in your judgment, then contact an attorney to find out what you can do to resolve the dispute and minimize the conflicts around the child. If you need help, contact us today for a free 15-minute telephone consultation.

You made the decision to file for divorce or you just received divorce pleadings, what do you do next? While most people understand that the next decision should be to consult with an attorney, they forget the second step to take. That step is to take a vacation – from all social media accounts. Social media has become the telephone of today. We are able to share our joys, struggles, and sorrows quickly and with all of our “friends” at once. The problem is that sometimes the filter on what to share and what to keep private is lost. So, when you receive or file papers filed with a courthouse, take these following steps.

Where Are You Logged Into Social Media?

First, log off all social media accounts at your work. I have heard stories of people being fired because of the drama in their life. The last device you should be logging into your social media accounts from is the office computer. Not only can your employer download software to the computer to monitor everything you do on company time. But when you are logged into your social media accounts, the employer can review those accounts.

Second, log off all social media accounts on every device that you logged in. It is easy to just “stay logged in,” but when everything you do and say is subject to scrutiny. Do not make it easy on yourself to post something because you are frustrated or angry.

Control Your Social Media Posts!

Third, stop posting everything on social media. Many people do not realize that anything you say when you are a party to a court proceeding is admissible in court. You said or wrote it and there is no hearsay exception to keep it out of court. This means if you left your account signed in on someone else’s device and they posted to your account as you, it is admissible and you will have to prove that those words were not yours, which can be hard to do. If you posted something out of frustration, it can have a negative effect with the judge. Remember, what you post on the Internet is out there forever. If you have a new significant other, now is not the time to share it with the world.

Fourth, unfollow and block your spouse from your accounts. The fact that you received court pleadings shows that there is a breakdown in your relationship. I guarantee that their attorney will ask for screenshots of everything you post that is negative. Do not make it easy.

Fifth, do not accept any new friend requests. Your spouse or ex-spouse may have their friends or family trying to “friend” you after you remove him from your friend list. The person may have created the account with a false name and photo. If you do not know the person or recall how you know them, do not accept. If it is a long-lost friend trying to reconnect, think twice before hitting that accept button. It may be a good idea to wait a few weeks before accepting the request. If you have not talked in years, a few weeks will not make a big difference.

Finally, do not delete the accounts or anything already posted. Deleting content or the account can be viewed negatively by the court as if you destroyed evidence. Just because you deleted it does not mean that it is gone forever from the Internet. A good attorney will know which resources to pull it back up. Screenshots capture posts and preserve them even after it has been deleted. If you feel like a post may be damaging, share it with your attorney. This will give them a heads up and the attorney can start to plan what to do about it.

If you have been served with divorce papers and are worried about your social media accounts, call our office today for a free fifteen minute telephone consultation.

Occasionally, I have seen judgments that contain language for parenting time as being “reasonable and liberal upon agreement with the parties.” While the goal of this type of parenting is promotion cooperation in setting up a flexible parenting time schedule, it should only be agreed to under thoughtful consideration of several factors.

The Four Factors of Flexible Parenting Time

First, reasonable and liberal parenting time can allow for flexibility in scheduling parenting time for both parties, especially when one parent has a changing work schedule that will not work with specific parenting time. This type of flexibility can allow the children to be with one parent who is not working in lieu of attending childcare. But in order for this flexibility to work both parties should commit to adopting a flexible schedule and deciding that denial of parenting time will be limited to issues of child safety, stability, or health. The issue with having parenting time contingent upon the agreement of the parties is that the potential exists for one party to control the parenting time of the other by arbitrarily deciding to deny requests for parenting time. Such a parenting time arrangement can increase conflict between the parties, particularly when one party is consistently denying requests for parenting time.

Second, reasonable and liberal parenting time can result in frequent changes in the parenting time schedule. Young children may need a specific schedule that they can count on spending time with each parent. Frequent changes in parenting time schedules can disrupt young children’s sense of stability and result in emotional issues. Before agreeing to reasonable and liberal parenting time language, parents must be confident that the children are capable of handling the frequent changes in schedule.

A third factor to consider is what will the custodial or primarily physical custody parent (“primary custodial parent”) says that reasonable and liberal parenting is. If the primary custodial parent says that reasonable and liberal parenting time means two hours for a weeknight, alternating weekends, and specific alternating holidays, then that could be the schedule the court upholds. The primary custodial parent can change the meaning of what reasonable and liberal parenting time means as conflicts increase between the parties. If there is a potential for ongoing post-judgment conflicts between the parties, then adopting a reasonable and liberal parenting time schedule is not advised.

A fourth factor should be the needs of the children in developing strong and healthy relationships with the other parent. Consistency can provide the foundation that young children may need to form their own opinion of what is healthy development of bonds to each parent.

If these identified four factors or other factors that are relevant to your situation give you pause to think about adopting a reasonable and liberal parenting time schedule, then consider the adoption of a specific parenting time schedule. While some parents view the rigid details of a specific parenting time schedule to be harsh, it can provide the children and the court with details to know what is expected from each parent and at what time. It removes the potential for unilateral control and can minimize the post-judgment conflicts between parents.

Can I Change Parenting Time After My Judgment?

Parenting time is not something that once it is written into a divorce judgment is set in stone. It is modifiable while the children remain under the age of eighteen (18). While the children remain young, parents can agree to modify or change the parenting time to benefit the needs of the children and submit their agreement to the court for entry and to supersede a prior order. However, if the parents cannot agree on a modification to the schedule, then either party can move the court to enter an order modifying the schedule.

If you have a parenting time issue and need assistance in resolving it, contact our team and learn more on how we can help you move forward to positive parenting time with your children.

The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time for children. They are excited to learn who their new teacher is and if any of their friends are in their class this year. They may look forward to the annual school clothes shopping sprees or want to pick out their new school supplies. However, when parents are divorced, the new school year can bring about anxiety for children, especially when their parents do not get along amicably. Here are the best tips I have discovered to start the new school year off on a positive note for children.

  1. Use technology to share information. With the choices we have today, co-parenting can be made easy and information shared openly, even when you do not want to talk with the other parent. There are apps for the phone and computer that allow parents to communicate without having to have face-to-face conversations. Parents have the option of using a shared Google calendar, Our Family Wizard, CoParenter, AppClose, TalkingParents, WeParent, 2houses, or Truece to share information. The key to all these apps is that the parents agree on which one to use and both have signed up for an account. Some of the apps charge yearly fees and others are completely free. Some of the apps will allow parents to add third parties to the group, such as the children, grandparents, or professionals that are assisting the family. If you do add a professional, notify the other parent of who has been added. Do your research and agree on which application to use to communicate. Reach an agreement for a deadline to respond by, so everyone is clear on what is a reasonable time to expect a response, if one is needed. By using an agreed upon method of communication, parents can send messages or upload information for the other parent without worrying about interrupting work.
  2. Review your court order.  The start of the new school year is a good time to pull out your judgment and review its terms. If you have had post-judgment issues resolved during the previous school year, pull out those orders as well. If you have joint legal custody, remember that the other parent needs to be include in decisions regarding the child’s education. Decide if the school should be provided with a copy of the judgment or order. This may be necessary if one parent has restricted or supervised parenting time, the court has limited one parenting from picking up the children, etc. If the school should have a copy, provide it with the completed school forms.
  3. Plan for attending school activities in a positive manner. When parents do not get along or fight every time they talk, plans should be made for attending school activities. Decide if the parents will alternate months on helping in the classroom or attending field trips. Talk to the teacher about options for parent-teacher conferences. Are the teachers willing to have two separate conferences? Ask if a parent can attend by telephone, if that parent does not live close to the school district? For school concerts and plays, both parents can sit on opposite sides of the room and not speak to one another. The important thing to remember is that the child can experience the support of both parents without feeling like the child has to choose or is waiting for a blow-up. For some activities, each parent may have to decide to put their differences aside for a few hours.
  4. Properly fill out school forms and alert school personnel to our family dynamics. When filling out the school forms, list each parent’s name in the appropriate slot with their known contact information. This lets the school know who the legal parents are and how to reach them. If you have remarried, identify your spouse with the appropriate title. It can be helpful to let the teacher know how the child prefers to address stepparents. Agree on who the emergency contact individuals will be.
  5. Plan to share the cost of school supplies. Start discussing how to share the costs of supplies after the Fourth of July, if it is not clear in your court orders. Will costs be shared equally, or pro rata based on the parties’ incomes? Understand that the items being purchased are for the children and not property of the parents. The children should be allowed to freely move their school supplies between houses and school as the child needs. Discuss on the requested supplies for the classroom will shared. There should be discussions and an agreement as to whether one parent will do the shopping and the other parent will reimburse or if each parent will separately purchase their share.
  6. Allow the other parent to enjoy the first day of school. Discuss with the other parent if they would like to jointly attend sending the child to the first day of school. It may not be possible due to work schedules or distance between homes but be willing to extend an invitation. If the other parent cannot join in sending the child off to the first day of school, then share photos from the first day in a shared account or in social media that the other parent can see. Remember this is a day for the child.
  7. Discuss ahead of time what extracurricular activities the child can participate in throughout the school year. The start of a new school year is a good time to discuss how many and which extracurricular activities the child can participate in. A good starting point is what is written in the court orders regarding activities. Discuss with the other parent if there is a limit to the amount of funds that you can contribute toward extracurriculars. Extracurricular activities can include sporting teams, dance, after-school clubs, scouting, band, orchestra, or music lessons. If there is a disagreement about the child participating in a winter or spring sport, now is the time to bring the matter before the court for its assistance in resolving the dispute. If you wait until the start of the season, the child may not be able to participate that year.
  8. Decide how to handle school emergencies and unexpected school closings. Discuss with the other parent what information to communicate to the school on who to contact when there is an emergency or school unexpected closes. The discussion should include how the unexpected school closing impacts the parenting time schedule and an agreed upon time to exchange the child if one parent picks up from school outside of his or her scheduled parenting time. Decide now if there will be a group chat that will be used when an emergency or unexpected school closing happens.
  9. Sync up the afterschool and bedtime routines. Both parents should be open to establishing the same routines for after school and at bedtime. Providing your children with joint routines and rules for both houses will minimize the time it takes children to re-acclimate to each parent’s house rules and expectations.
  10. Talk to your children.If your children are old enough, ask them what extracurriculars that they want to do. Find out what routines work best for child to accomplish everything that the child needs to get done. Hold your older child responsible for transporting schoolbooks and supplies between both houses.

The important thing to remember about starting off the school year as divorced parents is that your children still have two parents who love them and want to support their education. If you have joint legal custody, you need to work jointly with the other parent on education decisions. Minimize the number of third parties that are brought into your discussion until it is necessary. Then those third parties should be brought in to either elicit their input or to provide information that the third party needs to perform their role.

If you are experiencing unresolved conflicts with your ex-spouse, do not hesitate to contact our office at (248) 329-0344 for assistance in reaching an agreement that is best for your children.

When you are served with a motion from your ex-spouse after the entry of Judgment of Divorce, there are five action you need to make immediately to protect yourself. If you fail to make these actions, the judge or Friend of the Court Referee will make a ruling on the motion and typically grant your ex-spouse the relief requested in the motion.

1. READ THE MOTION. You need to thoroughly read the motion including the relief that your ex-spouse is asking the judge to do. Start off by slowly reading the title of the motion. If it is long, it may indicate what your ex-spouse is wanting to do. Look for phrases such as “Modification of custody” “modification of parenting time,” “show cause,” or anything that suggest a change is being requested. Most motions that we assist clients on either request a modification to the terms of the last order entered by the court or enforcement of the provisions of the last order. Next, slowly read paragraph in the motion. These should be number and limited to one fact per paragraph. Try not to react to what is being said, as hard as that may be. Your goal is to understand what your ex-spouse is saying. Finally, does the motion and its accompanying paperwork tell you when the court will hear the motion. Be sure to note this date and time.

2. CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY. After you have thoroughly read and understand the motion that you were served with, the second action to take is to decide whether you need to consult with an attorney, or can you represent yourself in responding to this motion. If there is some evidence that you may want to present to the court, including text messages and emails, then it may be beneficial to at least request and pay for a consultation with a family law attorney. When you are deciding to consult with an attorney, it is beneficial to find one whose practice focuses on the issue that the motion is addressing. Do not be afraid to ask the reception if the attorney helps clients who have to respond to your exact motion. After you meet with the attorney, you will need to decide if you need this person by your side and advocating on your behalf or if you are comfortable doing this on your own. In order to make this decision, you may need to assess what kind of attorney your ex-spouse has hired, if you agree with what your ex-spouse is requesting, or if you have the knowledge to properly respond and present your position to the court. During your consultation, you should discuss if the attorney provides services outside of full representation, such as just drafting a response for you.

3. RESPOND TO THE MOTION. You have options in how your respond. You can respond in writing. You can show up to the motion hearing and respond orally. You can respond both in writing and showing up to the motion hearing to orally respond. Finally, you can choose to do no response. It is our recommendation to clients that chances of a better outcome can happen when the response is both in writing and at the motion hearing. If you choose to respond in writing, you will need to know the timeframe that judges like to have the response by. Many judges will read both the motion and response prior to the motion hearing. It is our position that having the judge have time in advance to under your position as the party responding to the motion is always better than waiting to the day of the hearing.

Once you have decided how to respond, drafting a proper response will be appropriate. The party filing the motion will need to show the court that he has met the grounds for filing the motion, particularly if the motion is requesting a change in custody or parenting time. Can you clearly identify what is being cited as the change in circumstances or proper cause for filing this motion? If the reason for filing the motion is insufficient, it should be clearly addressed in your response. This is where having an attorney assist you can be helpful. Be sure to respond to each paragraph and address what your ex-spouse addressed in his corresponding paragraph in his motion. After your response is drafted, file it with the court and serve a copy on your ex-spouse or his attorney.

4. ATTEND THE HEARING. Be sure to allow plenty of time to go through security at the courthouse without being late. In smaller courthouses, this may not be an issue. However, if you attend a large courthouse, such as the Sixth Circuit in Pontiac, the lines to get into the courthouse on motion day can be quite long and waits to just pass through security could be up to half hour. Leave your cell phone in your vehicle. Many courthouses do not allow cell phones, unless you are a currently licensed attorney. If there is evidence on your phone, find a way to print it or download to a device that you can take in. When you arrive at the judge’s courtroom, be sure to check in with the clerk. If there are further instructions, the clerk will inform you at that time. In the Sixth Circuit, if a motion involves issues that the Referee could assist in resolving, you will be instructed on where to let the Referee know you are ready to proceed.

5. READ BEFORE YOU SIGN. Thoroughly read any order being entered after the motion hearing before you sign it. If an agreement was reached for summertime only, be sure that it is clearly stated in the order. Many orders entered following a motion will be handwritten by an attorney, the filing party, or the Referee. Do not leave sign this Order until it clearly states what the agreement reached was or what the judge said on record. A word of caution, if the judge made a ruling that you do not agree with, refusing to sign the order will not prevent the court from entering a written order that reflects the judge’s ruling. If you contest the ruling, you may need to consult with an appellate attorney. Remember, never ignore a motion that you have received. Your lack of response can alter your rights and responsibilities. If you want to consult with an attorney on a motion you received, schedule your paid consultation today.