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Family Law

Family law encompasses a myriad of legal matters relating to family issues. Family law rulings help resolve family conflicts involving marriage, divorce, cohabitation, paternity, alimony, child support, custody and visitation rights, adoption, and much more.

Child custody is often the most emotional and difficult issue in family law cases. The courts consider what’s in the best interest of the child when they determine who gets custody with the child. To get custody over your child, you must be judged favorably on these factors:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  • The ability of the parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance. Also, the ability to continue education in the religious creed of the child, if any.
  • The ability of the parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining this continuity.
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  • The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • Domestic violence, whether or not it occurred in the child’s presence.

In a divorce case, the court will consider all the factors on a case-by-case basis. The wishes of the child are a factor, but they are not the deciding factor. It is important that you have a child custody lawyer that understands the law so that the rights of you and your child are protected.

In order to file for a divorce in Michigan you must first meet certain rules known as “jurisdictional requirements.” Simply stated, you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for the last 6 months. You must file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse have lived for the last 10 days.

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. This means that a couple may get divorced for any reason or no reason outside of the marriage simply not working. Fault, however, may be taken into consideration when deciding custody or in dividing property. It’s therefore important to consult with an divorce lawyer about your case.

After you file for divorce, your spouse has to answer the complaint. They also have to answer any motions that were filed with the complaint. Depending on whether or not there are children, Friend of the Court may also be involved. The length of the process can vary from a few months to over a year.

What is a premarital agreement?
A premarital agreement, also known as a prenuptial agreement or “prenup,” is a binding legal contract between two people who intend to marry. The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to protect the assets of each party, and to create clear provisions for the arrangement of property and inheritance of debts upon divorce or death of a spouse. A premarital agreement may also include provisions for child custody and child support, however, the court generally does not consider these provisions to be binding. From our offices in Michigan, a premarital agreement lawyer at Robert Vitale and Associates can assist you in drafting a contract that is agreeable to all parties involved.

Are prenuptial agreements necessary for every couple?
Prenuptial agreements may not be necessary for every couple.  There is a common misconception that prenuptial agreements are only necessary for the very wealthy, but persons with fewer assets can also benefit from an agreement.  Our prenuptial agreement and family law lawyers in Michigan encourages you and your partner to think about creating an agreement if:

  • One party owns a home, stock, or other assets that could be profitable
  • One party is a business owner
  • One party may be receiving an inheritance
  • One party is significantly wealthier than the other
  • There are children from another marriage
  • One party has a large amount of debit or a history of financial instability

While it may be uncomfortable to talk about the drafting of a premarital agreement, a lawyer from our firm can further explain the benefits and importance of having a contract to protect financial assets.
What is usually included in a premarital agreement?
There are several financial and property stipulations that may be laid out in the drafting of a prenuptial agreement. All assets and debts of both parties need to be accounted for.  If assets are withheld, the court may not honor the agreement if a divorce is pursued.  Additionally, provisions are laid out for the following:

  • What will happen to inheritable financial assets partners earn while married
  • What will happen to assets acquired and debts incurred both before and during the marriage
  • What happens in the event of the death of a spouse
  • How assets should be divided between children of all previous and current unions
  • Other financial aspects that our Michigan premarital agreement lawyer will discuss with you and your partner

An award of spousal support is ordinarily made within the context of the division of the parties’ property and assets. Under appropriate circumstances, a trial court may provide for temporary spousal support while a divorce case is pending, or may order support to be paid retroactive to the date the complaint for divorce was filed. A spousal support award may take into consideration the amount of marital estate, and whether one of the spouses will have to liquidate assets awarded in the divorce in order to maintain a reasonable lifestyle. Where one spouse has sufficient income to preserve his or her share of the property settlement and the other does not, spousal support may be appropriate.

Spousal support is usually awarded either in the form of periodic payments or “in gross” (in a lump sum). Periodic payments are usually described as “rehabilitative” (short-term payments to help the recipient spouse get back on his or her feet), or permanent (ordinarily lasting until death, remarriage, or further order of the court). Awards of periodic alimony are normally subject to subsequent modification by the court, whereas awards of alimony in gross ordinarily cannot be modified after judgment.

Factors to be considered by a trial court in awarding spousal support include:

  • Past relations and conduct of parties
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age of the parties
  • Ability to work
  • Present situation of parties
  • Needs of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • Ability to pay alimony
  • Source and amount of property awarded the parties
  • Prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others
  • General principles of equity (fairness)

There are at least two sets of unofficial spousal support guidelines available in Michigan. Courts will usually entertain calculations made under the guidelines, but the guidelines are not binding on the court.

After a divorce agreement has been signed, it is sometimes necessary to make changes. But ex-spouses are seldom amenable to modifications. If you need a child support modification or other change to a divorce decree, you need a strong, experienced family law attorney.