“Over 30 years of Family Law Experience”
734.513.6808
39111 6 Mile Road, Suite 120
Livonia, MI 48152

FAQ

1. How long will my divorce take?

2. Under what circumstances will the court order payment of alimony, and how long?

3. I heard of a bizarre divorce case where ....[fill in the blank]. How is that possible?

4. Does the wife get the house in every divorce? What percentage of the assets am I supposed to get?

5. What if I owned this house (or other asset) before the marriage?

6. Do I have to give my spouse half of my pension when we divorce? Or conversely, Do I have a right to part of my spouse's pension?

7. I don’t have a regular pension, but I have a 401(k) Plan (or an SSIP, etc.) How does the division of that work?

8. Does a father stand any chance of getting custody of the children?

9. How much will this divorce cost?

10. How long do I have to have lived in Michigan in order to file for divorce here?

11. Can I leave the house and go live in an apartment, or can my spouse then “get me for desertion”?

12. What if I inherited some money during the marriage?

13. CHILD SUPPORT - Can my spouse “negotiate” the amount that he/she will pay for child support?

14. Does the husband have to pay the wife’s attorney’s fees?

15. If there are children, can I move a long distance away after the divorce?


 

1. How long will my divorce take?

If you and your spouse have children together, the law requires (theoretically) six months. Your divorce will probably take about seven months if it is in Wayne County (assuming that everything goes fairly smoothly and that everything is resolved by the time of the first Settlement Conference). However, some of the judges are starting to follow the practice of Oakland County, where it is sometimes shorter. In Oakland County, it might take the six or seven months; or it might be done in as little as four months if the parties have come to agreement on everything by that time. The law says that parties with minor children must wait at least six months from the date of filing before the divorce can be granted; but the judge has the power to shorten this up somewhat in special circumstances. Some judges routinely find "special circumstances" if the parties agree.

If there are no children, the divorce will probably take about three months. The law requires at least sixty days, but the case usually takes about three months, even if everything goes fairly smoothly.

Occasionally, a CASE CAN TAKE AS LONG AS A WHOLE YEAR. Some people who have been separated for months (or even years) have met other people and are eager to marry the new mate. However, it is not advisable to make wedding plans based upon an estimate of how long the pending divorce will take.

Back to top ^
 

2. Under what circumstances will the court order payment of alimony, and how long?

First, remember that alimony (now officially called "spousal support") is support for a spouse and is not to be confused with child support. (Child support is obviously for the support of the child and is usually easily calculated, once we know the incomes of both parties.)

It is different for alimony. Although various formulas have been proposed to "calculate" alimony, there is not any official formula. There are about thirteen different factors that can affect alimony; but the most important ones are: (A) the length of the marriage; and (B) the difference in the incomes of the parties. If you have been married only few years, then alimony is unlikely. However, contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement of a specific number of years of marriage in order to qualify for alimony. If there is a great difference in incomes, the court might order short-term alimony on a relatively short marriage. Many years of marriage plus a large difference in income will usually equal alimony for a longer time. But, again, there are many other factors: The education of the parties; the health of the parties; the length of time that one person has been out of the job market, etc.

Back to top ^
 

3. I heard of a bizarre divorce case where ....[fill in the blank]. How is that possible?

Divorce cases with unusual results typically have unusual facts; and it is highly unlikely that you know all of them, even if you personally know one of the parties from that case. Divorce law is made up of a lot of general rules and a lot of exceptions. The judge has wide discretion in reaching what he or she believes is a fair settlement of the whole case. Every case is unique.

Back to top ^
 

4. Does the wife get the house in every divorce? What percentage of the assets am I supposed to get?

First, no; the wife does not always get the house in the divorce process, even if she gets physical custody of the children. In general, in the property and asset division process, we start off with the idea that each party will get half of the assets. (Sometimes that means half of the debts, too; but sometimes the debts are divided in proportion to incomes, except for mortgages.)

Suppose that the parties agree that the wife is to have physical custody of the children. The wife might then say that she would like to keep the house so that the children can keep living where they are used to living. That's okay, as long as she "buys out" the husband's half of the equity in the house. The equity is the difference between the value of the house and the amount still owing on the mortgages (including any equity loan mortgages). So, suppose that the house is worth $200,000, but there is a mortgage balance of $120,000. That leaves a net asset (equity) of $80,000. If the wife wants the house, then she is probably going to have to pay her husband $40,000 as his half of the equity. She might do this by refinancing the mortgage right away; or the judge might allow her a substantial period of time to do it. Again, it depends on the specific facts.

Also, keep in mind that the parties can agree to balance one asset against another. In the example above, suppose that the wife does not have any retirement benefits, but the husband has a 401(k) plan with $80,000 in it. The parties could agree to let the husband keep his $80,000 401(k) and to let the wife keep the whole $80,000 equity in the house. (It can get more complicated because you also have to decide whether you want to take into account the fact that the money in the 401(k) plan is all pre-tax money, and that whoever gets it will have to pay tax on it someday.)

There are factors that can cause the court to divide the assets in an uneven way. Substantial fault in breaking down the marriage can be such a factor in some cases. (The fact that Michigan has "no-fault divorce" merely means that you do not have to show fault in order to get a divorce. The court can still take fault into consideration in dividing the assets, especially where one party is likely to suffer financially in an extreme way because of the divorce.

Back to top ^
 

5. What if I owned this house (or other asset) before the marriage?

Generally speaking, you keep what owned before the marriage; BUT you need to understand what that means. (Also, there are exceptions for assets that you "co-mingle" with marital assets.) If you owned the house before the marriage and then it goes up in value during the marriage, then the increase in value is usually considered to be a marital asset (which is subject to being divided) at the time of your divorce. Likewise, if you have money in a 401(k) and continue to contribute into the plan during the marriage, the increase in value will be a marital asset. And usually it will be impossible to say how much of the increase in value was from marital contributions and interest on them, and how much was from interest on the money that was already there before the marriage. So, often, the entire increase gets divided.

Back to top ^
 

6. Do I have to give my spouse half of my pension when we divorce? Or conversely, Do I have a right to part of my spouse's pension?

Unless your spouse has an equal pension of his/her own, your spouse will be entitled to receive half of the portion of your pension that has accumulated during the marriage. For years that you worked for that pension before the marriage or will work for it after the divorce, those amounts are solely yours. It gets more complicated than this, but that is a general rule.

It is divided by means of a special order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Sometimes, the spouse may be able to start receiving his/her share of the money even before you actually retire, as long as you are of an age when you theoretically could retire. If you are the spouse who is going to receive part of your spouse's pension, you may wish to consider starting to take your share of the pension at this earlier time; but keep in mind that you will receive a smaller amount per month if you take it at an earlier date.

Back to top ^
 

7. I don’t have a regular pension, but I have a 401(k) Plan (or an SSIP, etc.) How does the division of that work?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is still the tool for dividing the fund. For most (but not all) of those kinds of plans, the money can divided at the end of the divorce without waiting for a date of earliest retirement. Suppose that the husband has $100,000 in a 401(k) Plan. A QDRO could divide it so that the wife would get $50,000 immediately. Typically, it would be transferred into an IRA. Otherwise, she would owe tax on the money.

Back to top ^
 

8. Does a father stand any chance of getting custody of the children?

The short answer is “yes.” He does not have to prove the mother to be unfit. It is purely a question of what is in the best interests of the children. It certainly is true that some judges still favor giving custody to the mother; but this is changing. It depends on the circumstances. Something that we are seeing more of these days is joint physical custody. In that arrangement, the children live with each parent about half the time. Naturally, the issue of child support is dramatically affected by this. Whether joint physical custody will work in a given case depends partly on the work schedules of the parties and on their ability to work together for the children and compromise from time to time.

Also, it is not a choice between 50/50 or sole custody. In between those two extremes is an infinite variety of possible parenting-time schedules. Don't worry about what title you give it. The important thing is what the parenting-time schedule will be.

I should also note that, in addition to physical custody, there is also something called “legal custody.” Legal Custody is almost always made joint. Joint legal custody means that both parents get to participate equally in the major decisions for the children, and to have equal access to school records, medical records, etc.

Back to top ^
 

9. How much will this divorce cost?

Your initial telephone call to me does not cost you anything. In order to answer the question of fees, I really have to hear some specific facts about your case. There are some cases for which I can give you a flat rate.

But I do most cases on an hourly basis. After I have talked with you on the telephone for ten minutes, I can usually give you a general idea of what the whole case is going to cost you and how much money I will require as a retainer (deposit). The more disputes and court hearings there are, the greater the cost will be, because time is money. I charge in tenths of an hour, and I give you a detailed billing so that you can determine whether the billing seems reasonable.

Back to top ^
 

10. How long do I have to have lived in Michigan in order to file for divorce here?

The answer is 6 months immediately before the filing of the case. So, if you lived in Michigan for 20 years but moved to Ohio and lived there for a couple of years, you would still have to move back to Michigan and be here for at least 6 months in order to qualify again.

Back to top ^
 

11. Can I leave the house and go live in an apartment, or can my spouse then “get me for desertion”?

I have never been able to get one person to explain to me what he/she meant when saying “get me for desertion.” You do not get punished simply because you decide to live separately. However, the likelihood is that you will still be required to contribute payments toward the running of the house – for example, the mortgage payments, etc. It depends on the income of each party. If you are the main breadwinner, you may have to keep paying everything that you did before, until the case is over. However, you do not give up your rights to the house simply because you move out. Nevertheless, there are various tactical reasons for not moving out of the house. Some of those reasons have to do with custody. Some of them have to do with the later difficulty of being able to figure out exactly what is in the house. Things may disappear, and your spouse may claim that the items never existed. You might think that it would never happen, but reasonably honest people sometimes lose their sense of honesty in a divorce case; and they rationalize their actions in countless ways. It never hurts to protect yourself.

Back to top ^
 

12. What if I inherited some money during the marriage?

If you have kept an inheritance separate from the marital assets, then your inheritance will usually be awarded solely to you. On the other hand, if it has been “commingled” with marital assets (mixed in with marital assets), then a judge would be more likely to consider the inheritance to be simply a joint asset of the parties. Like most rules, this one is not hard and fast. A judge would take all of the circumstances into consideration. And, of course, the way that we try to settle a case is to anticipate what the judge would probably do if we made him/her decide the case.

Back to top ^
 

13. CHILD SUPPORT - Can my spouse “negotiate” the amount that he/she will pay for child support?

Generally, no. There is an official state formula for calculating child support. It is based primarily on the incomes of each of the parties (husband and wife) and on how many children there are. The size of other debts has no effect on the calculation of child support. Sometimes, there is a dispute about how much a person actually earns. Keep in mind that the average amount of overtime income is included in the calculation.

Back to top ^
 

14. Does the husband have to pay the wife’s attorney’s fees?

Sometimes. But it is not because he is the husband. If you earn a lot more income than your spouse does, then you might get ordered to pay a large portion of your spouse’s attorney’s fees. It just so happens that the husband often earns more than the wife.

Back to top ^
 

15. If there are children, can I move a long distance away after the divorce?

(There are two parts to this answer.)

A. First, Michigan law says that you cannot move the children's residence more than 100 miles unless you get permission from your ex-spouse or unless you obtain a court order allowing the move. This is because of the problem that such a move creates for parenting time to be exercised by the other spouse.

There are four main factors that the court considers in deciding whether to grant a request for an order allowing the move. First, does the move have a substantially helpful effect on the family, with the main emphasis being on the child? This can be a very complex question. Military service and transfer may be involved. A compulsory civil job transfer may be involved. The struggling Michigan economy is also having an effect on how judges view the need for the move. There are also many other aspects of this general factor.

The second factor is whether there is a reasonable way for parenting time to be arranged so that the other party can maintain a reasonable parent-child relationship after the move. This depends on many things, including the age of the child.

The third factor is whether the non-moving party is objecting just to try to get some financial advantage, and whether that party has been actually exercising the current parenting time.

The fourth factor is whether the moving parent is moving just to keep the children away from the other parent.

Keep in mind that this is all a balancing test. All of the factors have to be considered.

B. The other half of this answer has to do with the fact that a change of school will clearly be necessary if there is a long move, even if it is much less than 100 miles. Although one party might have primary physical custody, it is fairly routine for the parties to have joint Legal custody. That means that even the so-called "non-custodial" parent gets to make joint decisions about major issues for the children, including any change of school. Therefore, even a move of 20 miles can create a legal problem if you want to change schools for the child. Once again, if the parents cannot agree, the court must hear the case and decide whether to grant permission for the change of school. If the judge refuses to order the change, you could still move, if it is less than the 100 miles, but you would have the practical problem of transporting the children a very long way to and from school.

Keep in mind, as well, that a move of 50 miles, for example, might cause the other parent to ask the court to modify the parenting time to try to give him or her approximately the same amount of time as he/she had before the move.

Divorce courts are county-wide courts. I handle cases in Wayne and Oakland. Therefore, below is a PARTIAL LIST of cities I service, in addition to Livonia:

Belleville, Canton, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Farmington Hills, Garden City, Northville, Novi, Plymouth, Redford, Southfield, Westland and many others. If you live in Wayne County or Oakland County, I can help you.
Family Law Attorney John R. Rinn Livonia, Michigan MI Lawyer - faq

Get Legal Advice Now

* Indicates required questions
Name *
First
Last
Email *
Phone #
How can we help you? *
Preferred Method of Communication
Telephone E-Mail
Family Law Attorney John R. Rinn Livonia, Michigan MI Lawyer - cards
Evening & Weekend Appointments Available

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.