Levine & Levine
Serving Kalamazoo, Southwest Michigan and Nationwide
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Then and Now: This is not your parents' divorce

With a high divorce rate being a constant for decades, many people come to me with expectations that their divorce will be just like their parents. Generally, the answer is no, it will not. Not only has the nuclear family changed over the years, but so have the laws.

For instance, custody was predictable. The stay at home mom would get the children, the working dad would get to visit them on weekends. But then life changed. Not all moms stayed at home, not all dads were bringing home the bacon, and not all kids functioned well under the same old schedule. Slowly moms needed more time to pursue their own career objectives, dads needed more time to connect with their children, and children needed a more individualized approach. Slowly, the traditional framework started to shift and the concept of 'parenting time' was born. Parenting time schedules began to reflect the actual needs of parents and children.

Fast forward to the present day, more emphasis is placed upon the parenting time schedule than the custody label that it is given. More and more parents are requesting a tailored parenting time schedule that plays to the parents' strengths (and accounts for their weaknesses). Sometimes that means an even division of parenting time. Sometimes it means 'floating' overnights to account for bizarre work schedules (such as those of doctors who are on-call). Sometimes it requires a substantial amount of creativity to create a supervised parenting time schedule that will protect children from harmful parents, without alienating them. Though the 'traditional' visitation schedule is still the official parenting time policy in most counties in Michigan, with the help of an experienced family law attorney it does not have to be your schedule.

In addition to changes in how custody is handled, property division has also gone through some changes. In many ways it is easier - less people use cash for everyday transactions. This means that it is easier to identify wasteful spending and track suspicious transfers. Gone are the days when spouses can "hide" money, because with enough analysis everything can be tracked. But in many ways it has also become more complex. In this age of entrepreneurism, there are more family owned business that require valuation. There is a wider variety of investment options available to middle income families, and an ever changing tax landscape that needs to be navigated in order to minimize the overall tax effect of the division of marital assets. Laws regarding the definition of separate property, how premarital property is handled, and exceptions to those laws, have become more intricate. Less and less emphasis is placed on 'fault' for the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, and more focus is placed on fundamental fairness.

Family law in Michigan is an ever evolving landscape, which stems from a complex statutory scheme which is interpreted by a massive index of published and unpublished case law, and which is applied differently in different counties. If you are in a divorce, or planning a divorce, do not use your parents, your friends, or your coworker's divorce as a guide for yours. Appreciate the fact that the unique characteristics of your marriage, your spouse, your children, your assets, your income, and the time and place of your divorce can all impact the outcome. Take the time to meet with an attorney, review your options, and gain an understanding of the how your case would be handled.

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