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Handling Your Michigan Divorce: Advice from a Divorce Attorney

When people divorce, money is most oftentimes the largest issue. (Custody, when minor children are involved, is also a major issue.)  Litigants (the parties to a divorce), will do anything they can out of spite, greed, vengeance, anger, or hurt, not to give his or her soon-to-be-ex their rightful child or spousal support.  Sometimes, they will even try to prevent an equitable or equal division (depending on which state) of the marital assets.  Jokes about whether it’s “cheaper to keep him/her” are created for a reason.  Divorce can be expensive. Some people would rather pay their attorney more money to argue their matter than to pay their soon-to-be-ex their rightful share.

The Impacts of Spousal Support After a Divorce

“Alimony” or spousal support may be awarded by the court to one of the former spouses, based on an agreement between the couple or a decision by the court. The division of marital property is a different issue from spousal support. Spousal support is generally negotiable and decided on a case-by-case basis. Many states look to guidelines or formulas in rendering a fair amount and length of time for spousal support. Spousal support is related to the lifestyle you have lived during your marriage.

Even when dividing marital assets or debts, sometimes you fight really hard for your fair share, and what is allowable under your state’s laws, even when the other side will not negotiate in good faith. Usually, the party who prevails in a fight over spousal support and/or the marital estate, is the one who can fight more aggressively, over the longer period of time; and, to do that, you need money to pay your lawyer. Sometimes lots and lots of money. Many times, the prevailing party in a fight over money, especially if the court deems them to have been “wronged” by the other party’s not following the law respecting the division of marital assets, can be awarded attorney’s fees.

Advantages of Being the Party to File for Divorce

Filing for divorce in some states usually gives that litigant the advantage, especially when the other side is unaware of the divorce proceedings.  For instance, the person filing first has the advantage of “secreting” certain marital assets, changing beneficiaries, selling or purchasing properties or other investment accounts, incurring debt, etc.  Once legal proceedings are initiated, typically the filing party initiates orders so that neither litigant can do those things mentioned, and generally, a mutual restraining order against dissipation of assets is entered.  Once this or similar order is entered by the court, a party can be held accountable if they buy or sell assets, incur debts, change accounts or beneficiaries, hide funds, etc.

The best way to arm yourself against this type of unethical behavior is to know anything and everything there is about your family’s financial picture during your marriage. Many people let the other person handle the finances in their relationship.  This arrangement can work if you feel comfortable enough communicating and asking questions. Do not be afraid to clarify what you do not understand and learn what you must to protect yourself.  If your partner has nothing to hide, then they will be forthcoming with all information about their income, bonus structure, debts, tax returns, investment accounts, and personal and real property.  If your spouse is an owner or partner in a business, an officer of a corporation, or something similar, you should find out more about that particular entity and your spouse’s affiliation or ownership with that business. You should take the time to review this information at least monthly; weekly, if possible.  So, if your partner decides they want out of the marriage and then you are shocked when served with papers, you will already have known the entire financial landscape of your marriage.  If they have tried to “hide” certain assets prior to filing, you will absolutely know and then can take the necessary steps to account for this amount of your share of the marital estate, claim the spousal support you are deserved, and any other relief that is rightfully yours.

Steps to Take If you Feel Your Marriage is Heading Towards a Divorce

Too many clients allow fear or denial of their situation to inhibit their ability to arm themselves with knowledge about their finances. Some people are okay with simply being “taken care of.”  This can back-fire, though, when divorcing.  The stress of a divorce is difficult enough; do not let the lack of information about finances add to that stress. If you think you may be headed for a divorce, gather as many statements, copies of invoices, tax returns, pay stubs, etc. as you can. It takes a lot more resources, legal fees, and costs to determine the complete financial picture of a litigant once a divorce has been initiated than prior to the divorce being filed. Also, some spouses assert control over the other party with money. If you do not feel comfortable asking questions and expressing your concerns about your finances, then perhaps you have deeper issues in your marriage that need addressing.

Make sure your name is on deeds, titles, financial plans, documents, etc. Find out who your family’s CPA or tax attorney is.  Call them. Ask questions. Make sure you know if your spouse has any estate planning documents, including revocable or irrevocable trusts, life insurance, and annuities, foreign investments, or accounts. Also, understand the amount of money it takes to run your household. Know all there is to know about the expenses and debts.  Obviously, all this advice should be heeded before a divorce is initiated. If not, make sure you have an aggressive lawyer who can fight for everything to which you are entitled under your state’s laws.

Contact Top Bloomfield Hills Divorce Attorneys Today

Divorce proceedings will, no doubt, continue to evolve. If you are looking for a law firm which keeps up-to-date with the evolution of divorce proceedings, look no further than the Cronin Law Firm. We will fiercely advocate for your rights while attempting to negotiate an amicable separation wherever possible. Contact us today for your free consultation today.

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