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Fowlerville Michigan Family Law Blog

Helping your children prepare to welcome a new sibling

Preparing to adopt is an exciting time and one that also brings unique challenges for you and your family. If you already have children living in your home, you will need to help them prepare for the addition of a new family member who will undoubtedly have a different background and life story. At Gormley and Johnson Law Offices PLC, we have helped many families in Michigan as they are working through the adoption process. 

While your children may be excited about the prospect of gaining a new brother or sister, they are also probably hesitant and wondering what their new sibling will be like. Of course, you can set your children down and provide them with basic details including the age and gender of the child, as well as activities that he or she enjoys. But what about the emotional and mental preparation? According to the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition, the time you spend discussing adopting a new family member and listening to your children and their concerns about the change in your family's dynamic will be critical in their ability to feel excited and confident about welcoming another boy or girl to your family. 

Goals can keep you focused during child custody situations

People who are coming into a co-parenting situation might not know exactly what it will entail. While there are many things that can help you to do this, one of the most important is for you to set goals. These goals should cover all aspects of parenting so that you can focus on them no matter what is going on at the time.

While you might need to change these areas up a bit to meet your needs, this list is a good place to start. Some of these areas will require the help of your ex, but others are strictly based on your personal desires.

What are charitable trusts?

Many people have special causes they give to over the course of their adult lives. Perhaps you want to continue that giving by making sure a Michigan charity or foundation receives some of your assets after you pass away. With the help of some smart estate planning, you can do just that through the use of a charitable trust.

A charitable trust is, like any other trust, a legally recognized entity that holds money for beneficiaries. As FindLaw points out, anyone can form a charitable trust, not just the affluent and the famous. You also have the option of deciding exactly when to gift assets to a charity. With a charitable trust, you can pass along assets while you are still alive or after you die.

What is a QDRO?

During a divorce in Michigan, it is necessary to divide shared property fairly between you and your ex-spouse. Some assets may be easier to divide than others. For example, with a shared checking or standard savings account, it may be a simple matter of closing the account and dividing the money equally, but the same does not hold true for a retirement account because tax penalties can arise from early withdrawal. Division of retirement savings accounts often requires the court to issue a qualified domestic relations order.

To understand what a QDRO is, it is helpful to first understand what a domestic relations order means. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a domestic relations order is a decree, order or judgment made to provide benefits to a child, dependent, spouse or former spouse in the form of marital property rights, child support or alimony. A state agency with the authority to make such decisions, usually a state court, issues such an order pursuant to applicable domestic relations law for the jurisdiction.

What happens during probate?

Probate is the process of proving a will's validity and distributing assets to heirs. It can often be a complex process, especially when the deceased owns a lot of property or has a number of assets in his or her name. The Balance explains what you can expect during the process, so you and your family will be properly prepared. 

The first step involves authenticating the will, or proving that it is indeed valid. This establishes that the deceased actually signed the will and that there are no newer versions that would take precedent. Next, an executor will be named by the court. This person is responsible for overseeing all tasks related to the will, including paying back creditors and asset distribution. 

What is harassment?

Many people in Michigan may have a narrow perception of what constitutes harassment. In fact, harassment encompasses a broad range of different behaviors. Many of these behaviors can involve criminal punishment. Some may carry felony charges, while others are only misdemeanors. 

According to FindLaw, harassment laws vary from state to state, but generally speaking, harassment consists of threatening behaviors that put you in reasonable fear of your own safety and/or that of your family. Such behaviors may include excessively contacting with you without a legitimate reason or menacing you with a weapon. In some states, stalking constitutes harassment, but in Michigan, stalking is a separate offense. 

Blended family vacations come with challenges

When you get remarried after a divorce, there are a lot of areas in your life that you will need to evaluate. You might be focused on things like making sure the blended family is getting along and that rules are clearly established. There is another area that can prove to be challenging – planning a family vacation.

Getting things in order to have your children and your new spouse's children go on a vacation can be a complex undertaking. You will have to figure out how to schedule things across three homes instead of two. You also have more than one child custody order to review. This means that you need to get started with the planning as early as possible.

Reasons to update your will

If you have a will in Michigan, it is important to update it in certain situations. Big milestones are obvious reasons to make changes, but there are also reasons that may not be as obvious, so it is important to review your estate on a regular basis to make sure everything is planned for correctly.

Wise Bread discusses the more-obvious reasons for updating a will, and these typically have to do with the addition or deletion of a beneficiary. Marriage and the birth of a baby both present new loved ones who you probably want to include in your will. While state laws may dictate that some assets go to your spouse or children upon death, a will outlines exactly how you want to distribute things. Divorce also presents an opportunity to update your will, as you probably do not want your ex to be a beneficiary. If a beneficiary passes before you do, you will need to make new arrangements as to where property and assets go.

Can you modify a child custody agreement if you move?

Even though your divorce has been finalized for some time now and you and your ex have had a smooth ride with the child custody agreement that was arranged, you have been considering relocating to somewhere else. Now, you are wondering whether or not the courts in Michigan will agree to modify the original agreement based off of the merits that you are moving and may no longer be able to abide by the arrangement that was outlined initially. 

Courts are certainly open to modifying court orders based off of a person's circumstances and the reasons for why they are requesting a change. However, you should be aware that this type of approval may take some time and will require you to be forthright in sharing your reasoning for requesting a modification. According to verywellfamily.com, the court will take into consideration several factors before they agree to modify anything. Some of the areas they will look at including the following:

  • The location where you are moving and whether or not continuing the visitation schedule as it is will be possible. 
  • Your personal reasons for moving and whether or not they are in the best interest of your children. 
  • How much of a disruption your move will create for your children and if there are alternative options that would be a better solution. 
  • The degree to which you and your ex are able to communicate effectively and whether your move will make communication more difficult. 

What you can do to gain joint custody

As a parent going through a divorce in Michigan, you should keep in mind that you, your spouse and the court system all want what is in the best interests of your children. Generally speaking, the law presumes that close contact with both parents is in every child's best interest, and we at Gormley and Johnson Law Offices agree.

Many couples are able to resolve their divorce settlements without litigation through a process of negotiation. If this fails, however, the matter will go to court. In either case, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of gaining joint custody of your children.

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