Will I receive alimony if I am a divorced stay-at-home mom?

Stay-at-home parents make the noble choice of leaving their careers to be home with their children during their formative years.  Any stay-at-home parent or spouse of a stay-at-home parent knows that raising children is perhaps the most challenging job of all.  While most stay-at-home parents would not trade their time with their children for anything, the stay-at-home parent is particularly vulnerable in the event of a divorce.  Stay-at-home parents, who are generally women, may not find it easy to enter the workplace after such a long absence and evolving divorce laws have made it far harder for stay-at-home parents to receive alimony.  Our Southfield, Michigan divorce lawyers discuss the unique issues facing stay-at-home parents during a divorce below.

Seeking Alimony as a Stay-at-Home Parent

Perhaps the greatest concern for divorcing stay-at-home parents is finances.  As a stay-at-home parent, you have sacrificed your own career advancement for your family.  While the decision to have one parent leave the workforce is a mutual one, it is the stay-at-home parent that ends up at risk of financial struggles after a divorce.  Traditionally, alimony has been used as a means of evening the playing field for the stay-at-home parent post-divorce.

Alimony consists of payments made from the payor spouse to the recipient spouse.  Alimony can be agreed to in divorce settlements or ordered by the court. While alimony used to be awarded as a matter of course to the lesser earning spouse, now it has become harder to receive an award of alimony.  

Michigan courts will weigh several factors to determine whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support. Relevant factors include: 

  • The length of the marriage
  • The conduct of the parties and past relations
  • The abilities of the parties to work
  • The ability of the parties to pay alimony
  • What property each spouse will receive in the divorce
  • The health and needs of the parties
  • The prior standard of living of the parties
  • General equity principals 

Even if you are awarded spousal support, the award will rarely be permanent.  A Michigan divorce judge has the discretion to limit the length of the alimony award.  Further, alimony can be terminated at any time that the other spouse can demonstrate a showing of change of circumstances.  For these reasons, it is critical that stay-at-home parents retain the assistance of an aggressive divorce lawyer who will fight for their award of spousal support and fair division of property.

What factors will a judge consider in awarding custody of a pet in a divorce?

Up until now, pets in California, as in most states, were considered property and judges often struggled to determine who should keep the beloved family pet in a divorce. Where both parties wanted to keep the pet, judges would often consider who purchased the pet in awarding ownership.  With few laws governing the division of pets, judges were left to their own devices when it came to pet division.  Now, California has passed a new law that gives judge’s discretion to award custody of the pet after consideration of several factors, like who feeds the pet, who walks, and the like.  Pet division in the state will now be more akin to child custody cases.  Our Southfield, Michigan divorce lawyers discuss the new pet division law in California and Michigan’s pet division laws below.

California’s New Law on Pet Division

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill that outlines the state’s stance on pets during a divorce.  Per the law, pets will remain as community property, but judges are given express discretion to weigh pertinent factors when awarding custody of the pet.  Factors that may be considered include who traditionally cared for the pet, walked the pet, feed it, took it to the vet, and the like. 

Before passage of the law, judges each developed their own approach to determining who should keep a beloved family pet.  Some judges even had the pet brought into court and placed between the owners to determine who the pet supposedly liked best.  Now, pet division will function much like child custody, and hopefully the end result will be the fair award of custody of the family pet.

Pets in Michigan Divorces

Michigan law provides that pets are property in the event of a divorce.  As property, judges are required to assign ownership of the pet to just one of the divorcing spouses.  When two spouses cannot agree on who will keep the pet, judges will apply the laws of equitable division to determine who should keep the pet.

California has now joined the ranks of a few other states who have taken the approach that pets should not be treated the same as other types of property.  Time will tell whether Michigan lawmakers file suit and amend pet division laws in the state in the future.

Money Matters in Divorce

How are retirement accounts divided during a divorce in Michigan?

Finances are generally the number one issue of contention in a divorce. When couples divorce, they will need to divide their hard earned assets. Some couples that have been married for years may own a home, vehicles, retirement accounts, a business, and savings accounts, among other assets. Dividing the property you accumulated during the marriage is rarely easy. With so much at stake when it comes to financial matters in a divorce, it is critical that divorcing spouses contact a divorce attorney for experienced legal assistance.

Michigan State Law on Property Division

Michigan law requires the fair and equitable division of marital property in a divorce. Per Michigan law, community property must be divided equitably, which may not be the same as equally. Community property is defined as property acquired during the marriage and will include items like a jointly purchased home, checking accounts, and savings. Excluded property could include money received through an inheritance or property owned before the marriage.

Dividing the Marital Home

In a typical divorce, one spouse will fight to keep the home so that they can remain living in it, while the other spouse will agree to take other assets in exchange for the home. While the division of the marital home in such a manner could be best for your situation, it is important that the spouse desiring to keep the home assess whether he or she will continue to be able to afford it. At times, the best option is to sell the home and divide the proceeds.

Retirement Accounts in Michigan

Retirement assets will be considered community property to the extent that one spouse contributed to the account during the marriage. Splitting retirement assets in a Michigan divorce can be complex. The spouse who owns the account will want to establish the number of funds that were in the account prior to the marriage. Further, retirement assets should only be distributed after approval from the judge to avoid tax penalties.

The Role of Prenuptial Agreements

If you and your spouse entered into a prenuptial agreement before getting married, then this agreement should largely govern the division of the marital assets. A prenuptial agreement will dictate who receives what assets and who will bear the burden of what debts. With prenuptial agreements becoming all the more common, it is more likely that divorces in the future will involve a prenup. Contact a family law lawyer for assistance with the financial matters related to your divorce today.

Why Might a Michigan Court Order Supervised Child Visitation?

Michigan family law judges will always strive to act in the best interests of the child.  Generally, it is considered in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents.  At times, however, a judge may determine that the child’s visit with one parent should be solely supervised.  Supervised visitation may be necessary if a parent has an addiction problem, history of violence, mental illness, or another condition that could render unsupervised visits dangerous to the child.  Our Southfield, Michigan parenting time lawyers discuss the need for supervised visitation and types of supervised parenting time awards below.

Reasons for Supervised Visitation

Michigan courts will weigh the evidence presented in a custody hearing to reach a Parenting Time Order.  This order will dictate how much time the child will spend with each parent and under what circumstances.  The court may require that a parent’s visits with his or her child be supervised due to the following circumstances:

  • The judge believes the parent presents a risk of kidnapping the child;
  • The parent has a history of mental illness;
  • The parent was recently convicted or released from prison;
  • The child requested that visits be supervised;
  • A history of neglect or abuse is shown to the court;
  • The parent is totally estranged from the child;
  • A history of drug or alcohol addiction exists.

Types of Supervised Visitation

Should the court find any of the above circumstances to be present, or have other concerns about leaving the child in the sole care of a parent, then the court may order supervised visitation. There are several possibilities when it comes to the type of supervision that could be ordered. First, the court could authorize visits with a family or friend supervising.  This option will only be selected if the court feels the parent does not present an immediate danger to the child. With this option, the court can order that the supervisor remain in the room at all times or maintain visual contact during the entire visit.

Another option is agency supervision.  Agency supervision is the most restrictive, allowing the parent to spend time with the child only at a family services location.  The parent will be subjected to strict scrutiny, and only allowed physical contact should the child approach on his or her own. This option is reserved for cases where the parent presents a serious risk to the wellbeing of the child.

Alternatively, the court could order visitation take place at a therapist’s office.  There, the therapist can assist the parent and child to build on their relationship. Parents awarded only supervised visitation will have the ability to request modification of the order once they can show resolution of the circumstances that lead to the court’s decision.  A family law attorney can assist you in achieving the strongest parenting time arrangement possible.