Grand Rapids Family Attorneys
Sophisticated Family Law Advocacy in Kalamazoo and Ottawa Counties
Any dispute involving family law is bound to be highly sensitive and difficult to navigate. Some of these disputes can be resolved through mediation or negotiation, while others require extensive investigation and litigation. In either scenario, you benefit from capable legal representation devoted to protecting and advancing your interests.
Founded in 1952, McShane & Bowie has an exceptional reputation for providing dependable, solutions-oriented guidance to families throughout Michigan. Our Grand Rapids family lawyers recognize what is at stake in these cases. We use our experience, skill, and resources to advocate for you in and out of the courtroom. Whether the focus concerns complicated business valuation issues, investigation of hidden assets, complex income analysis for support, or modification of a child custody or parenting time orders, we have the skills, knowledge, and tenacity required to deliver an optimal outcome.
Our firm offers the committed, resourceful representation you deserve. Call (616) 747-7922 or contact us online to request an initial consultation.
Divorce Guidance and Representation
When married partners cannot reconcile their differences, it is necessary to untangle their lives and finances, and have assurance he/she is fully protected for the foreseeable future. In many cases conflict is expected, but it is not always inevitable. Skillful and respected counsel assists in a fair resolution of the case, often without the drama normally associated with a divorce case.
In a Michigan divorce, you will need to work with your ex-spouse to decide matters of:
- Child custody
- Parenting time
- Financial support (including child support and spousal support)
- Property division
- Attorney fees
There is no doubt that a settlement as to some or all of these issues saves time, money, and stress. Using our experience and judgment, we help you evaluate whether a matter should ultimately be decided by the court or settled. We also help you evaluate the cost and risk of proceeding to court. Undoubtedly, there are some cases or issues, which the parties cannot settle, and, in that event, a judge, or arbitrator (if there is agreement to use one) will decide the outcome.
In any divorce, our goal is to achieve your most important objectives while guiding you through the process as quickly as possible. We will regularly explore alternative dispute resolution strategies, including mediation, before pursuing remedies in the courtroom. Our team will be honest and direct as we evaluate whether we should resolve or further litigate an issue. Our legal professionals are prepared, experienced litigators who advocate your position on your behalf.
Child Custody and Parenting Time Disputes
A Judgment of Divorce will often address both legal and physical custody of a child. When a parent is awarded sole legal custody, he/she has the sole right to make all major decisions about the child’s life and development, including their education and healthcare. When the parties share legal custody, they are required to consult and agree about such major decisions. If they don’t agree, then the court will decide the issue. These types of disputes often involve whether a child should receive certain medical care or whether a child should change schools.
Physical custody of a child is not defined by Michigan statute, except with reference to “joint physical custody” which merely means that a child resides alternately for specific periods with each of the parents. Thus, “joint physical custody” does not necessarily mean equal time with the child.
While many parents ultimately reach agreement as to custody, there are occasions when the court must make that decision. To decide a custody dispute, a court is required to review the “Best Interest Factors,” a litany of considerations that include, but are not limited to, the emotional attachment between a child and a parent, the moral fitness of a parent, the home, school and community record of the child, and the willingness of a parent to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent.
Regardless of the decision as to the “label” of physical custody, a Judgment of Divorce will also include the parenting time schedule for the parents. Again, parents often reach agreement as to this schedule, but if not, then the court is charged with developing a schedule which strengthens the relationship between a parent and child, and in cases where there might be concerns as to drug or alcohol abuse, the court is also charged with developing protections for the child.
Finally, related to all of these issues, is the presence of parental alienation, whether intentional or not. The courts continually seek to restore a healthy parent-child relationship.
Our Grand Rapids family attorneys understand how custody disputes are decided in Michigan courts. We counsel you as to reasonable, expected outcomes, and advocate for what is best for your child. If you are already the subject of an unfavorable custody or parenting time order, or if you suspect that the other parent may actively be alienating you from your child, we can help you explore and pursue modifications to child custody and parenting time arrangements.
Financial Support in Michigan Divorce Cases
Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. The amount of the child support obligation is determined by the use of a state formula. The formula result depends on the income of the parties, costs of health care, costs of childcare, assignment of the exemptions, whether either parent has children from a different relationship, and the number of overnights that each parent exercises with the child. While it is typical for the court to adopt the formula, there are some arguments that can be used to successfully deviate from the stated obligation, whether up or down.
We represent the parent who receives the support, or the parent who pays the support. We are knowledgeable about the support “formula” and understand how the resulting obligation changes with modest and/or major changes in the input of information. We understand the law concerning the support obligation and know the advantages and disadvantages of trying to “impute” one parent’s income to a higher amount. For parents who are business owners, we are well familiar with the intricacies of personal and business tax returns; we know the tax rules that might be employed to report decreased income.
In addition to child support, a party may also be entitled to receive temporary, periodic, long-term, or lump-sum spousal support (also known as alimony) from the other spouse. Here the court is not permitted to rely upon a “formula” or computer program, but unquestionably, many judges are interested in reviewing one or more methods of setting the spousal support obligation. If a spousal support case goes to trial, the court will consider a number of factors including the length of marriage, ability to pay, needs of the parties, health, ability to work, age, present situation of the parties, prior standard of living, and even fault in the breakdown of the marriage. Unlike child support, the determination of spousal support is based on equity, and every case is very different. Our team at McShane & Bowie is well experienced in advising parties concerning their entitlement to spousal support, or their obligation to possibly pay spousal support. We also help clients pursue or defend spousal support modification requests.
Business Valuation Assistance
When a party has a business interest, the value of that interest must be determined, and perhaps adjusted when there is a minority interest or an inability to sell that interest. The determination of the value is often the most complicated issues in the case. It involves the review of financial statements and tax returns, and often requires a deeper dive into the internal financial records and practices of the business. With the assistance of a business valuation expert, we look at the business’s income-producing capacity, profitability, and longevity, among other key factors, as well as debt and the need to acquire new equipment in the future in order to sustain a profit.
As experienced attorneys, we know what to look for when evaluating a business’s value. Our family law lawyers can provide comprehensive assistance throughout the valuation process to ensure marital property is valued fairly. If you are concerned about your business interests before or during a divorce, we can help you prepare for the valuation process.
Prenuptial Agreement Preparation and Disputes
It is not uncommon for a party to have accumulated significant separate property before a marriage, and to ask questions as to how to best protect that property before entering a marriage. Michigan law recognizes prenuptial agreements as binding contracts provided that some basic elements are satisfied. Thus, a prenuptial agreement can provide peace of mind to both parties and ensure a smooth, fair separation should a divorce become unavoidable at some point in the future. Prenuptial agreements also preserve assets for other family members in the event of death. These contracts can determine matters of property division, including business interests and real estate holdings. While a prenuptial agreement in Michigan can address spousal support, a Michigan court could later determine that the provision was not fair and might strike or change that term. Provisions addressing child custody or support are not valid in Michigan.
A prenuptial agreement must be carefully prepared and reviewed. It will only be enforceable if a court agrees its terms are fair and reasonable, and there was full and fair disclosure of assets, income, and liabilities. Both parties must sign the agreement voluntarily and with a full understanding of the rights they are waiving by doing so.
Our legal professionals draft, negotiate, and finalize a prenuptial agreement that is clear, enforceable, and consistent with your long-term objectives. We are also prepared to assist with or defend against challenges to prenuptial agreements, and we have had considerable experience in that type of litigation.
Complex and High-Net-Worth Divorce Cases
Divorces involving high-net-worth individuals tend to be notably complex, especially in disputes concerning property division and payment of the property settlement. The higher-earning spouse will understandably want to make every effort to protect their property, while the lower-earning spouse will seek an appropriate property settlement (often in addition to reasonable spousal support).
In some high-net-worth divorces, we consider concealment of assets as well as depletion of assets. Our Grand Rapids family attorneys facilitate these investigations and ensure your rights and interests are protected.
If you are contemplating divorce, do not wait to seek legal advice. Call (616) 747-7922 or contact us online to begin developing a case strategy with our team.
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We have the skill & experience needed to protect your rights & vital interests & get the results you need to succeed.
Founded in 1952, we have a longstanding and excellent reputation in the community.
Your lead attorney is with you, every step of the way, working to achieve your desired results while minimizing unnecessary delays and costs.
Each legal challenge is met head-on with specialized knowledge, a tailored plan, and innovative thinking.