Blending families is not an easy task with children. It will take time and patience as well as lots of love. I learned lessons from when I remarried and from my children years later. Here are the top five tips that I learned while working on blending two families into one.

  • Communicate. Each child will have his or her own attitude about the new family. Consider the age and relationships that have been built prior to living together as one under one roof. Ask your children individually what sacrifices the child expects to be made during the initial months and by whom. If you need to consolidate two households’ belongings have a family meeting to clearly discuss what is expected; what can be kept; what must be discard, sold, or donated; and what will replaced with new. Talk with your ex-spouse about any expectations and try to reach an agreement for the children calling the new parent “Mom” or “Dad.” This early conversation can minimize any hurt feelings, when the children start referring to the new stepparent as “Mom” or “Dad.” If both of you agree that the children should not refer to new parent as “Mom” or “Dad,” then share that information with everyone. Discuss your expectations surrounding discipline by the stepparent. While you are having this conversation, this would be the time to discuss what each of you expect the new parent’s role to be when it comes to making decisions for the children.
  • Allow the children to decide. When it comes to stepparents, each child will have their own pace on accepting the new parent. Allow the child to move at his or her own pace. Do not force any names that the child is not comfortable with. Remember the children already have a mother and father that the children love and have bonded with. Do not be hurt if your child does not love your new spouse as much as you do. This is someone you choose to start the next chapter of your life with. Do not allow your children’s cautious affections toward a new parent to determine how you feel. I learned that the older the children are, they may never decide to develop a parent-child relationship with you as the new parent but may embrace one of friendship.
  • Insist on respect. This would apply to all family members. Everyone needs to show one another respect. Respect in privacy, boundaries, and time frames. If you are the stepparent, it may be important to the older child that you ask if it is alright for you attend something that a parent typically attends. Insist that while your children may not feel the same as you do about your new spouse that the children always show respect.
  • Limit your expectations. Do not set a time frame for how quickly your children will warm up. For some, it will be quick, and others will take a while. Your blended family is not the Brady Bunch. Do not expect that the parenting styles will mesh easily. When I remarried, we had different expectations on parenting the children. I expected that I would continue my parenting style since only my children were at home and he expected that I would adopt his ways. This would have been easier if we had followed the first tip and communicated well in advance.
  • Make new family traditions together. This is important around the holidays. Each family will have traditions and blending those traditions into new ones will be important. When I was blending families, we had a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve. But as holidays are shared, this may not always be possible. Communicate with the children and have family councils to determine what the new traditions for the blended family will look like.

When you give everyone an opportunity to voice his or her concerns, fears, or expectations, then work together to find common ground everyone will have felt like they were heard and valued as a member of the new family. Just like marriage, a blended family takes work. The only difference is now that there are more than two people working on the process of blending two separate families into one.

On Tuesday, September 8th, I woke to discover that the right half of my face was losing its muscle tone. I did not know in the early morning hours that I was beginning to manifest physical signs of having Bell’s Palsy. I knew it did not look right. I quickly sent a photo to my husband and sought his opinion that in fact something was amiss. I trusted his advice because he is a former paramedic and still works in the medical field. He quickly texted me back as he was out of town to go to the emergency room right away.

Because I had a few strange symptoms over the weekend, I opted to call my primary doctor’s office first. “Perhaps this was not so bad,” I rationalized because I was thinking through steps clearly as I dialed the doctor’s office. After a few minutes on the telephone with the nurse, she gave her opinion of what the strange symptoms sounded like to her– it was possibly Bell’s Palsy. However, she wanted me to be assessed in an emergency room in case it was much worse than I was first experiencing or describing to her. Her final words to me on the telephone were, “Do not drive there yourself. Do you need an ambulance?” I assured the nurse that I could find a ride and would not need to waste valuable resources, such as an ambulance for something as benign sounding as Bell’s Palsy. Four hours after I first woke up and noticed something different in my face, I arrived in the emergency room department. Seven hours later and after five doctors and numerous neurological tests, it was confirmed – I have Bell’s Palsy. I was sent home with instructions on what to do while I waited for my body to heal itself. There was no medical intervention to do other than take some steroids, anti-viral medications, and care for my right eye and vision while I hope for a speedy recovery.

But what does Bell’s Palsy have to do with divorce?

It is the emotions of when I first discovered something was wrong with my face through the next few days that reminded me of what it felt like when my ex-husband stated he wanted a divorce. The emotions that I experienced with both were very similar in what I had felt and how they progressed. I have learned over the past nineteen years that while situations that lead to divorce may vary, the feelings progress almost the same for the person who learns that the marriage is not so happily ever after.

First, there was the denial of what I was seeing. This cannot be happening was the first thought. I feel fine and do not think I am having a stroke. Similarly, when the signs that a marriage is falling apart or in trouble appear, one tries to rationalize away or deny what is being noticed. Justifications are made for why a spouse is now working longer hours or away from home more often. We justify the lack of daily communications to our spouse having a bad day or just needing a bit more space. We fail to really notice that something is happening – there is a wedge or emotional distance developing between the spouses.

Next, there are feelings of inconvenience. “I do not have time for this” or “Why today? I am super busy today.” These are sayings we mutter to ourselves as if there is a perfect time to learn that our marriage or life has gone so far off course from what we imagined. Often times, anger will quickly follow on the heels of inconvenience. Anger over destroying our plans or ruining holidays start to develop as we mentally grasp the words we have heard, “I want a divorce.” We often get angry at the other person for not being honest with us or waiting too long to tell us how they truly feel. We resent the lack of communication and fail to recognize our own hand in the results that we are now noticing. When these feelings are not properly expressed or dealt with, they can grow into something more.

It is how we initially react to the news of a health crisis or a life changing event that determine how we will handle the long-term effects of it. If we cannot consult with a trusted friend, family member or professional to confirm “Is this not right? Does this seem odd to you too,” then we can talk ourselves out of taking the next step that we need to take. When something blindsides us, we may initially feel shock that it is happening. That shock can prevent us from taking the critical next step. But by having a trusted person around to help us, we stay on course when the timing of reactions is critical.

Then in the days that follow the initial news, we still need to have our trusted person. Our trusted person helps move us through and past the emotions that follow the initial news. We can experience fear, uncertainty, and doubt about what to expect next. Depression may start to take hold. It is important to voice what the fear, uncertainty or doubt is before it turns into a depression. When we say what we fear, are uncertain of or doubt, the answers to ease those mental troubles begin to appear. Often a trusted professional holds the answer that we need, while for some it may be a friend who has gone through it before.

For me going through the initial two days of Bell’s Palsy, that trusted professional was a staff member from the ophthalmologist’s office. They called late in the day on Wednesday, September 9th to schedule the appointment to check my eye in a few weeks. But I was already noticing some problems. The “any old eye drops” were not helping and my eyesight was getting fuzzy. It was hard to read even with my prescription glasses on. During a quick five-minute telephone call. I learned that I needed something more than just “any old eye drops.” Because my right eye cannot blink, I would likely need to add eye drops more than three times a day. I would probably need to use eye drops every few hours to keep my eye from drying out given that I spend eight hours a day on a computer. I needed lubricating eye drops without a preservative, because the preservative in the big bottles of eye drops can damage your eye if used too often in a day. But it took courage to speak up and say everything is not fine and what the doctors said to do in the emergency room was not working. I had to voice my fear about what was happening with my eyesight.

This is why it is so important to communicate during your divorce with your attorney because nothing I have seen in my practice has been cookie cutter. No two divorces have been exactly the same. Each divorce I have handled since I started working in the legal field in 2001 has had something that is not like the others. While the steps in how to proceed through a divorce are the similar, the solutions are often uniquely tailored to the family and their needs and circumstances. It has required listening, understanding, and applying the client’s unique facts to the law to provide the answer each client needed to know.

If you have been recently served with a Complaint for Divorce and feeling similar emotions to what I described, schedule a 30-minute consultation today with me via video conference at Let’s find the answer you need together.

Because I have heard of many issues surrounding communicating between parties, I want to share with everyone some tips on how to communicate with the other parent. In the past 11 and a half years of practice, the one thing that I have seen predominantly across all divorces with children is a problem in communication between the parents. Let us face it, there is a reason people get divorced. There is a reason one of the parties filed first, or maybe both parties came to the agreement that this marriage is not working, and the best thing is to end the marriage. That decision was communicated to the other parent.

But during the divorce even when the parties agree it is what they need to do, there is one thing that I see commonly. There are raw emotions going on. Someone feels wronged. Someone feels hurt. Someone feels like he or she is about to lose everything. Communicating properly can really go a long way for setting what the rest of parent’s life with the children will look like and I’m talking to the rest of both parents’ life, not until the children turn the age of eighteen or not until the children graduate from high school.

Let us face it, parents are going to be at weddings together. Parents are going to be at the high school and college graduations together. Perhaps, parents will be attending graduate school graduations. Parents do not want their children having to go through life figuring out, especially on their wedding day.  Especially if we are talking about a daughter, she does not want to be asking, “Where do I sit my mom? And where do I sit my dad because they do not like each other, and I do not want to deal with the drama.” It is a wedding day and it should be all about the bride. That that is her big day. Loving parents do not want that to be something that overshadows their daughter’s special day. So, it is key to learn how to communicate.

I am going to share with you on every Tuesday a tip on how to communicate that I have learned, either through my own divorce, watching my parents get divorced and handle life afterward the judgment entered, or what I have learned from helping my clients navigate to what it looks like in a post-divorce world. So, the first tip I want to share with all of you is find a method to communicate that works well.

If you have a high conflict divorce, one where the two of you just cannot talk without it turning into a fight. Picking up the phone and calling is probably not your preferred method. Perhaps what you need to do is use text or emails, or even use some an app or program that will help you communicate, so you do not have to talk directly to one another. Understand just because you are co-parenting, does not mean you need to speak in person, or on the telephone to each other. You can send an email, you can send a text, but if both of you have a hard time controlling your emotions on that think about using a program like Our Family Wizard.

Our Family Wizard has been out for as long as I have been practicing law. It is a program designed to help you co parent and communicate. It has a new feature out called ToneMeter. Now, ToneMeter is a new feature on Our Family Wizard.  I have recently seen it in the last few years as a feature in their program. What it does is help parents re-evaluate the tone of the conversation before hitting send. It allows parents to evaluate what is the tone of the message?  When someone is writing in all caps, it means that the person is yelling. So, turn off the caps lock. Learn how to use proper punctuation. Write everything in complete sentences and paragraphs as if you were writing a letter to the judge. It is not helpful to write everything in one big block of text without breaks and commas and punctuation and paragraphs. A lack of proper sentence and paragraph structure makes it difficult to understand the thought process. It is basic communication. When writing something to the other parent, put each thought into a separate paragraph. Use punctuation. Take the time before hitting send to re-read the message. Does it sound and communicate the tone that is not hostile? If so, hit send. If not, maybe let it sit. There is no rule that says a message must immediately be replied to when the other parent is first to communicate. Silence is acceptable and delays are not bad.

I’ve known clients who have a “three rule.” They will tell the other parent once thing starts going downhill, especially on the phone, “Ok, I’m going to hang up the phone if you cannot calm down.” The message is repeated three times before they hang up the phone, because they do not want to engage in a fight. Sometimes when on the phone with the other parent, the children will be around or capable of hearing. So, when parents cannot communicate without resulting to a verbal disagreement or fight, it best use something like Our Family Wizard. Many of the available programs have an app that can be downloaded on an iPhone or Android. Look in the App Store or Google Play for a co-parenting app. There are many different program options out there. Some do charge, and some are free.

It is essential for both parties to agree to on how to communicate with one another. The parties should agree which program to use and how will they to use it? Sometimes when I am helping people redesign their family through divorce and I realized that this case is going to be high conflict. I will make the recommendation to them to use one of the available programs. I will present options to the parties, and we will draft that agreement into a judgment or an order so the parties will know what they are supposed to do.

So again, first step with communication is find a method that works to communicate with each conversation becoming a hostile one. Come back next week and I will have another great tip for you on how to communicate. It is possible to have a better life and for the children to feel like they are not caught up in the parents’ adult drama.

This month Melissa Pearce & Associates is starting a new thing. I will be recording some video tips for our clients and prospective clients. On Mondays, I will share some co-parenting tips. The tip for today is very simple: find a way to communicate.

You know you cannot co-parent with that other parent unless you are communicating. There are so many things to communicate you need to communicate from sports schedules to extracurricular activities. Right now, during the virus restrictions is a prime example of the importance of communication between parents. Parents need to communicate like basic things. I had a client who at the beginning of the state’s shut down in March needed to re-work parenting time for the health and safety of the children. This parent works in the front line: the healthcare industry. The client’s job placed the client and the children at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus home. So, the client asked the other parent to rearrange parenting time for the time being. This meant an end temporarily to in-person visits. The client communicated that the primary motivation was preventing the spread of the virus to my children, which is a very loving and caring thing to do. But my client still wanted to have contact with children. So, both parents were able to sit down and work out a schedule amongst themselves, which is a really great thing if you are co-parenting. You do not need the judge, you do not need lawyers, you do not need referees or anyone else to tell you how to co-parent because you know your children best. These two parents were able to sit down and talk about what would work and they came up with a really good video call schedule for their children to maintain contact with the other parent.

If you have young children, around the age of 2, they are not going to sit on the call for a long time. It does not have to be a long time for the video call. However, you may need to do more frequent phone calls, maybe a call in the morning and a call at night. It could just be a quick call to say good night. When talking about quick call to say good night, maybe what you do is set the child up with your iPad to have a video call with the other parent. The child holds the iPad and the other parent is on the call, and they are reading a bedtime story. You can share the pages by holding them up to the camera. It is a great way to spend time with our kids.

So, if you are going to co-parent, you need to learn how to communicate. You do not have to be best friends, but you do need to communicate. You need to communicate things about health, education, extracurricular activities, and daily problems. It can be hard raising kids, especially in those teenage years. Sometimes you just need to say to the other parent, you did this when you were married, “I need a break, maybe it is time you take the child and see if you can help resolve the issue.” Sometimes our kids just need the other parent and we need to be able to communicate that. Simply tell the other parent that you know the child is going through a really hard time and you believe that the child needs some time with the other parent. This is healthy communication. You cannot force the other parent to be on the same page or place that you are at. All you can do is reach out and communicate but if the other parent is not responding that is not your fault. It is not your responsibility. So, keep that in mind.

Remember, my tip for today is learn how to communicate and establish good communication habits with the other parent that does not bring in animosity into your conversations. There are multiple ways to communicate. In fact, come back tomorrow, because on Tuesdays, I will be sharing with you tips on how to communicate effectively with the other parent to minimize conflict in your divorce, and after the divorce is final.

Watch more of our tips on our YouTube Channel.

Your Judgment of Divorce has been entered with the court. But the entry of the Judgment of Divorce has not stopped the issues with your ex-spouse that led to the divorce first place. Now, you are being denied parenting time or being left in the dark on decisions about medical care, schooling, or childcare. How far back in time can you go to help the court understand the issues you have been having?

The courts are limited in what they can do by what the statutes and case law have said about modifying previous orders. For child custody and parenting time, there are statutes and case law that controls the actions and the sequence of those actions that a court can implement.

First, the courts are instructed by statute that a previously entered order cannot be modified unless proper cause or a change of circumstances has been shown. MCL 722.27(1)(c). The party seeking the modification only needs to show one or the other and not both.

Proper cause has been defined as an appropriate reason for the court to change custody currently exists. This would be something that is serious enough to have a significant impact on the child’s well-being. It would also be relevant to at least one of the best interests of the child factors. The moving party will likely to have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence (51% certainty or more likely than not).

Change of circumstances requires proving that since the date of the last custody order, the conditions surrounding the child, which have or could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being, have materially changed. Any problems that existed prior to the last order that was entered are not relevant. In addition, the change must be not one that can be seen as a normal life change in a child’s life, such as changing schools, participating in extracurricular events, or the other parent remarrying. Evidence must be presented that the change of circumstances has had or most certainly will have an effect on the child. An effect to one parent or the other will not be enough as the court looks at the best interests of the child. The court will determine each case on its fact and how those facts relate to the best interests of the child.

Change of circumstances is the requirement that clients struggle to understand fully. Some common substantial change of circumstances may include the following: a loss or gain of employment, a sudden change in either party’s finances, a relocation of the parties or children, or a death. The key phrase we emphasize to client is that the conditions that could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being have materially changed. This means the change is not temporary or agreed to by the parties.

Understanding the two grounds for seeking a modification of an existing order leads us to the answer. Generally, the courts will only consider events that have happened since the entry of the last order to determine if the court will be able to decide on requested modification can be heard. This is the first step in seeking a modification in a current custody or parenting time order.

Child Support. It is one issue that can slow down a divorce case. But there are five things that you should know about child support before you bring your divorce to a standstill over the amount of child support being proposed or ordered.

Child Support is controlled by statute.

In Michigan, child support is codified in law. It is known as the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act, MCL 552.601 et seq. It was enacted in 1982. It has been modified six times since being enacted with the last amendment happening in 2001.

Child Support is not modifiable retroactively.

Once a child support has been entered by the court, it cannot be retroactively modified except for limited circumstances. MCL 552.603(2). This means once child support is due, which is the first of a month after an order has entered, it cannot be modified after that due date. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first exception is when child support is ordered under a temporary order. MCL 552.603(3). Another exception is when the parties agree to a retroactive modification and that agreement is approved by the court. MCL 552.603(5). Another exception is when the individual required by the Friend of the Court knowingly and intentionally fails to report, refuses to report, or knowingly misrepresents his or her income. In this situation, the court may retroactively correct the amount of support after notice and an opportunity to be heard. MCL 552.603b.

Filing a motion and providing notice to the other party can create a date for retroactive modification.

When you have a need to modify your child support order and the other party refuses, you can file a motion to modify child support and provide notice to the other party. This date becomes the first date that child support can be modified. This means that the court can retroactively modify the child support order back to the date the motion was filed, and notice was provided to the other party. Therefore, whenever there is a change in your circumstances that warrants a child support modification, you need to file a motion as soon as possible to preserve the date for retroactive modification.

Child support runs into the future.

A child support order runs into the future, but it is set on current factors. When determining a child support order amount, your current situation will be used. Your current income; ability to work or work more hours, if unemployed or underemployed; any childcare expenses; any medical insurance premiums paid, filing status on tax returns, and number of overnights exercised are all taken into consideration. However, life is never static, and neither should your child support order remain static. If there is a change in your circumstances, such as the number of overnights or if your employment changes, it is time to consult with an attorney to determine if you need to seek a modification. If childcare ends or medical insurance is no longer paid, then those amounts should be dropped from the child support calculations and the order revised.

Child support is for the support of your children.

Remember, child support is paid to help support your children. Refusing to pay your child support impacts the lives of your children. If you are having difficulty in paying your child support, be upfront with the other parent. Open communication with the other parent may make requesting a modification in support easier.

If you need to modify your child support order, call us today to learn about the different packages available to assist you.

With the Governor issuing her Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order on March 23, 2020 many are worried about how the order will impact their parenting time. As parents we know that seeing each parent is important for children. With the current crisis, maintaining contact with both parents will be even more important. Here is what you can do to help minimize the anxiety may be feeling.

The Executive Order does not mean the children will not see the other parent as scheduled.

Parents are still allowed to transport children to and from parenting time with the other parent. The Executive Order is not a reason to deny parenting time with the other parent. However, if your children are sick, communicate with the other parent and find out if the other parent still wants to take the children or if the two of you can work a make-up schedule to minimize the number of people exposed to any cold, illness or virus. Remember a cough, sneeze, or fever does not mean that someone is infected with the coronavirus. The symptoms are similar to the common cold, the flu and other illnesses we have been exposed to before this virus.

Follow your holiday parenting schedules.

Even though it may not be possible to travel to Florida or other Spring Break destinations right now, continue to follow the holiday parenting order in your parenting time order. The children have been looking forward to this time with the other parent. The Covid-19 crisis is not a reason to deny this parenting time. If it is your holiday this Spring Break and Easter, find alternate activities that you can do during the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order. Perhaps, you can pitch a tent in the backyard, go on a hike in a local park with social distancing maintained and photograph spring happenings, or rent a movie to watch and create your movie theater.

Allow the children to have more contact with the other parent.

The children may be worried about the other parent or family members, particularly grandparents, from the other parent’s side of the family. Allow and encourage your children to FaceTime or video conference with those family members. This is not a time to be limiting contact with other family members and it can be done virtually. You can sign for a free Zoom account and schedule designated times for these calls. The children can also record video messages to be sent to family members.

Limit your disagreements in earshot of children.

The normal routine for children has been disrupted. Now is not the time to engage in disagreements in front of children. They will pick upon your anxiety and anger. If you need to have a heated discussion, go outside or try sending it through email or texts. Remember that children may access your devices and read these conversations. If you need to save the conversation, consider saving it to a password-protected file

If you are having difficulty with the other parent in following the parenting time order, do not wait to contact an attorney on what to do. Here, at Melissa Pearce & Associates, we are still working during this time, even though we are doing so remotely. We can answer your questions, brainstorm possible solutions outside of the court, and offer other suggestions to assist you. If you speak with one of our attorneys, call (248) 956-6933 for assistance today.

Discussions, memes, news reports and social media are inundated with information about Covid-19. What is not being covered what are divorced parents and single parents with custody orders are doing in regard to parenting time amidst the restrictions that we are seeing. Here are some things that you can do to maintain normalcy during this time of health concerns and crisis.

Follow your parenting time orders.

These are the orders that you agreed to or the court ordered prior to the Covid-19 crisis. What is written in the order is what the courts will enforce. Some individuals are questioning the ability of the court to enforce the orders when courts are limiting the hearings that they are handling right now. Oakland County Circuit Court has issued an emergency order that the court handling essential matters, which includes divorce, custody and parenting time matters alleging an immediate threat of harm to the children. In addition, all motion hearings are adjourned through March 31st. However, the court may hear an emergency motions by telephone.

If the other parent is denying you parenting time now, find out the reasons for the denial. Is your child sick and needs to be quarantined until the illness is confirmed by medical personnel or your child recovers? Does your child have a medical issue that makes them immunocompromised and the other parent is concerned about the child being outside?

Holiday parenting time, particularly Spring Break.

This has been a big topic recently in attorney forums and message boards. Clients across the state are wondering what to do about Spring Break and the school closure. First, have a conversation with the other parent. Ask what he or she thinks should happen. Share your thoughts with them. This is good starting point. Are you both in agreement to follow the school calendar posted last fall and follow the designated days for Spring Break on that calendar? If so, follow the parenting time order that you currently have.

Can we reach an agreement now?

Yes, you are always capable of modifying the parenting time agreement for the best interests of your children. If both parents agree that multiple exchanges are not good for the children and have worked out a compromise that maintains contact between both parents and the children during this time with minimal exchanges with a return normal parenting time after the crisis passes with some make-up parenting time, then reducing that agreement in writing as a Stipulated Order to be signed by the Judge and filed with the court is the best way to document the agreement and prevent conflict later.

Solutions available now

The key to managing and following the parenting time orders is to communicate with each other about what is best for the children. If you are having difficulties communicating with the other parent, contact an attorney today to assist you. Attorneys across the state are offering alternatives means of communicating with their offices outside of actually coming into a physical office. Ask what the attorney’s firm has available for you to have an initial consult with the attorney. Here are Melissa Pearce & Associates, we are rolling out several new services and options to help our clients in handling parenting time disputes quickly and with minimal court involvement. We are creating a page that places all our Covid-19 information in one space for our clients.

If you need help resolving any parenting time issue during this crisis call us at (248) 956-6933.

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 to learn more.