Domestic Relations, or Family Law, is the cornerstone of Longton Law Offices. Through the years, Longton Law Offices has emerged as the number one family attorney in Southeast Michigan because of our courteous and dedicated service.
While there are a lot of resources to help one going through the different aspects of family law, the laws are governed by the State but the procedure and expectations in each county can vary. Longton Law Offices’ years of experience will help you navigate this process so you can focus on moving forward.
Family Law is about more than divorce. There are a lot of different aspects that can be covered under “Domestic Relations.” At Longton Law Offices, we understand that there are many people involved in the process, and that it can be stressful and difficult for you.
Here is a quick overview of what Domestic Relations is and how it works.
Divorce. In Michigan, a divorce is started when one party files a Complaint for Divorce. This document summarizes the situation, asks the court for a divorce, and identifies any other types of relief requested, such as spousal support, child support, etc. While there are many templates online for someone to do this themselves, there are certain things that must be included in Michigan, so it’s important to talk to an attorney to make sure you are covered properly.
Once the Complaint for Divorce is filed, the person who files it is now the Plaintiff and the other party is the Defendant. The Plaintiff must then serve the Complaint for Divorce on the Defendant. Again, this is a very specific process to ensure the Defendant knows that an action has been started.
Once served, the Defendant has a specific period of time to file an Answer, that length of time is determined by how they were served. If the Defendant fails to answer the complaint, then the Plaintiff can put them in Default, which can lead to a Default Judgment of Divorce. If the Defendant files an answer, then the process takes shape based mostly on what, if anything, is contested, if there are children involved, etc.
The State of Michigan has a 60 day mandatory waiting period for all divorces, whether you both agree to the divorce or not. This waiting period is put in place to give the parties time to reflect and decide if they want to reconcile. Most divorces take longer than this period of time anyway, but none can be done faster. When children are involved, the waiting period is extended to 180 days, but that can be waived upon approval by the court.
Things that can happen through the divorce process include discovery, where subpoenas may be sent, depositions taken, etc., mediation where the parties meet to find out what they can agree on, motions and hearings to have the court weigh in on different issues, and more.
A divorce ends when the court issues a Judgment of Divorce which outlines exactly how assets are divided, custody/support issues for any children involved, and how other concerns are finalized. It also awards the divorce itself.
There is no such thing as an “easy” divorce and it can be a very difficult process to navigate on your own. Longton Law Offices is prepared to advocate for you and can provide same-day service to help you through this difficult time.
Child Custody and Child Support. If the parents are married, child custody and child support are issues that automatically get determined through the divorce. However, for unmarried parents, they can work out these issues separately through the court. When children are involved, the Friend of the Court becomes the avenue that helps the court determine the best solution.
A Complaint for Divorce will begin a child support/custody case, but also, so can a Complaint for Child Support or Complaint for Child Custody. There are two types of Child Custody, legal and physical. Each of them can be awarded to one party or jointly. In Michigan, parties are typically awarded Joint Legal custody, and physical custody can go either way. Legal custody is the ability to make decisions the impact the child’s life, like what religion they grow up in, where to go to school, etc. Physical custody is literally, where the child spends the night. Sole physical custody means the child spends the night more with one parent than another. Joint physical custody means the child spends the night relatively equal with each parent. In practice, these details can vary based on the intricacies of each individual case.
Child Support is widely determined by a formula that includes each parent’s income and the number of nights the child(ren) spends with them. These formulas can include incidentals like education or childcare costs and also provide percentages for how much each parent must cover of the child’s healthcare expenses.
These two issues can often be a point of contention long after a divorce has been finalized or when something changes in a given parent’s situation. Longton Law Offices can provide ongoing services to resolve your custody/support concerns today and will stand ready to assist if they arise again in the future.
Parenting Time. When a parent is not awarded physical custody over a child, they are granted parenting time. This is simply the time that the court sets aside for the non-custodial parent to have time with their child. Many courts have a recommended parenting time schedule that determines which holidays a parent has the child(ren), school breaks, and weekends. However, the specific parenting time schedule can vary drastically from case-to-case.
Like child custody and support, parenting time is another issue that can be revisited by the courts if something changes in a parent’s situation. Longton Law Offices is here for you to make sure you get the time you need with your child.
Spousal Support/Alimony. Spousal support is one issue that is determined through the process of a divorce. Spousal support is a form of relief that requires one party to pay a certain amount a month to help support the other party. This is usually done for a specific period of time, such as until the divorce is final, or a set date. However, it can also be found in the form of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, QDRO, where one spouse will receive payments from the other spouse’s pension or retirement plan for many years. Longton Law Offices can help you understand these options and decide on the right one for you.
Adoption. Adoption is legal opportunity to welcome a child into your home and provide them the same legal rights and expectations of a biological child. The court oversees this process from start to finish and does so out of the best interests of the child. To begin an adoption, the prospective parent files a petition with the court. Then, the court orders an investigation to ensure it is the right decision for the child. When satisfied with the investigation, the court issues an order terminating the rights of the parent or entity who currently holds them and makes the adoptee a ward of the state, then places the child in adoption. There are many different factors that go into where the child is placed or how long, all of which are weighed by the court as it proceeds. The final step in the process is the issuance of an Order of Adoption. Once issued, the child is now adopted by the petitioner, becoming an heir of that parent and can receive other benefits such as taking on the family name, at that parties’ discretion.
An intricate process, with many alternatives depending on the specific situation. Longton Law Offices can help you determine which one is right for you, and help your family grow.
Personal Protection Order (PPO). Personal Protection Orders, or PPO’s are legal documents that help to protect you from a person who is harassing or threatening you. There are two types of PPO’s, Domestic and Stalking PPO. A Domestic PPO can be obtained when the person one is seeking protection from is a spouse or former spouse, someone with whom they have a child in common, someone they are dating or used to date, and someone who now lives or has lived in the same house as the petitioner. A stalking PPO is for protection against someone that has engaged in a pattern of two or more non-continuous acts that made a person feel threatened, harassed, frightened, or molested.
The person who applies for a PPO is called the Petitioner and the person they are seeking a PPO against is called the Respondent. In order to be effective, a PPO must be properly served on the Respondent. Once it is, it take immediate effect. The Judge will mark on the PPO what the Respondent is not allowed to do under the PPO, which can include presence on the Petitioner’s home or place of employment, communication, etc. Also, a Respondent must relinquish all weapons when served with a PPO.
PPO’s are effective for a specific period of time, which is written on the PPO itself. Once served, a Respondent has time to challenge the PPO by filing a Motion to Dismiss/Terminate and the Judge will decide at a hearing. If the Respondent violates a PPO, they can be arrested at the police’s discretion. The Petitioner also has the option to file a Motion to Show Cause, where the Judge will decide if the Respondent has violated the PPO and if they should serve time in jail and/or impose a fine.
PPO’s can be an important proactive line of defense for a person who has been threatened but it can also be a damaging tool if used improperly. Whether you have a PPO and need to defend it against a Motion to Dismiss/Terminate or you have been served with a PPO and need to know what to do, Longton Law Offices stands ready to help you determine how best to move forward.