107 South Washington · Oxford, Michigan 48371· Phone (248) 969-7000 · Fax (248) 969-9414
After realizing a marriage is irreparably broken, it is of utmost importance to find a reliable, compassionate attorney to represent your interests in the ensuing legal encounter. Christine Stephens has been representing both men and women in divorce cases for over 20 years. Her experience ranges from conflict-free settlements to intense courtroom litigation. From the entry of an initial Divorce Complaint to the final Judgment of Divorce, Ms. Stephens steadfastly fights for client’s interests, both emotional and legal. From the filing of a Divorce Complaint, several issues may be presented, including Child Custody, both Child and Spousal Support, and Parenting Time.
Ending a marriage presents a special set of issues when minor children are involved. Undoubtedly both parents love their children and would place custody of those children at the top of their list once divorce has become imminent. However, an award of custody is influenced by several things, all of which combine to ensure the best interests of the children are met. The ultimate compromise would be to award joint custody, of which there are two kinds. Joint physical custody involves parenting time, whereas joint legal custody allows parents to share in making the important decisions. With her extensive experience in family law, Ms. Stephens is able to recommend and fight for the type of custody that best fits a client’s situation and the best interest of the minor children.
When deciding custody, the Courts first analyze whether each parent is fit to take care of the children. This analysis includes how the children were cared for prior to the divorce, the ability of each parent to provide and care for the children after divorce, and any other relevant factors.
Once custody is determined, the Court will analyze the earning capacity of both parties. Based on that earning capacity, the Court will select a pre-determined percentage that represents the amount to be spent on the children monthly. Finally, based on strict scheduling guidelines, the Court will decide whether it is proper to award child support and at what amount. The guidelines can be modified for good reason, especially if a child has special needs, a parent is not earning sufficient income due to special circumstances, or a parent’s earnings are sporadic. However, the Court always puts the child’s best interests above the financial interests of either parent in this consideration.
Once marital assets are divided and a couple’s incomes are no longer aggregates, a client may be left with a much lower standard of living. The solution to this problem is Spousal Support. Once labeled alimony, spousal support is the payment of future income to a former spouse triggered by need. Unlike property division which is non-modifiable, not taxable to the receiver, and typically is complete once the Judgment of Divorce is entered, spousal support is typically made through periodic payments which are considered income to the receiver and are taxed accordingly. In deciding whether such an arrangement is appropriate, the Court considers several factors. These include the length of the marriage, whether one party was the primary caretaker for the couple’s children, and any discrepancy in the parties’ earning capacity among other factors.
Similar to Child Custody, a judgment regarding parenting time is based on the best interests of the child. There are several factors that will justify a change in a parenting time schedule after custody has been decided. The majority of these reflect hindsight into how a custody decision affected and continues to affect the children. Parenting time orders are incredibly important because, regardless of the custody decision, each parent is entitled to spend time with their children (unless requiring so would somehow harm the child). Therefore, Ms. Stephens devotes her expertise to ensuring children are able to spend time with both parents.
Prior to a family member’s death, Estate Planning allows for a statement of legal intent regarding the distribution of his or her property after death. The area specifically takes into account wills, taxes, insurance, property, and trusts so as to gain maximum benefit of all laws and, at the same time, carrying out an individual’s wishes. The Court proceeding through which a will is proved to be valid and the estate of a decedent is administered is called Probate. The process, generally, includes collecting a decedent’s assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to heirs.
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