Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage Nationwide

Rainbow gay FlagIn a landmark opinion, the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 26th that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, making the U.S. the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriage. Married same-sex couples will now enjoy the same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples.  Here is an article from Huffington Post with the details about this ground breaking ruling for Americans…. Read More >

What Can I Do if Im Being Denied Access to My Grandkids?

Grandparents and GrandchildrenGrandkids bring a unique kind of joy to life, and to be denied time with them can be heartbreaking. The State of Michigan has some protection in place for grandparents who are not being given time with their grandkids.

Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to petition the court for an order regarding grandparenting time.

Michigan law (MCL 722.276) states that a grandparent may seek grandparenting time if one of the following situations exists:

  • An action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment involving the childs parents is before the court;
  • The childs parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled;
  • The childs parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased;
  • The childs parents have never been married, they are not residing in the same household, and paternity has been established;
  • Legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the childs parent or the child is placed outside of and does not reside in the home of a parent;
  • In the year preceding the commencement of the action for grandparenting time, the grandparent provided an established custodial environment for the child, whether or not the grandparent had custody under a court order.

If one of these situations applies to you, then you may be able to petition for visitation rights with your grandchildren. Keep in mind that having the right to petition for visitation is not the same as having visitation. Filing the petition is just the first step.

Once your petition is filed, the next step is to actually demonstrate to the court that you should have grandparenting time with your grandkids. In Michigan there is a presumption that a fit parents decision to deny grandparenting time does not create a substantial risk of harm to the childs physical, emotional, or mental health. Generally, this means that the courts are giving the fit parent the benefit of the doubt that the decision to deny grandparenting time is in the best interests of their child. In order to overcome this presumption, you, as the grandparent, need to show that it is more likely than not that the parents decision to deny grandparenting time DOES create a substantial risk to the childs physical, emotional, or mental health.

Being able to meet this burden can be challenging, but you dont have to do it alone. Our office can help you determine if petitioning for grandparenting time is appropriate in your situation and can represent you in your petition.

I Want to Move!

Two Women MovingYour divorce is finally over and youre ready to start a new life in a new town. Pack up the kids and get outta Dodge. Then you remember that provision in your judgment of divorce that said something about changing the legal residence of your kids. Or maybe you went through a support or custody action years ago and dont really remember what youre supposed to do if you want to move.

Whatever your situation is, if you have a court order that lays out custody and parenting time and you want to move, youre going to want to follow the right steps to avoid any issues.

Under the Child Custody Act, youre not allowed to change your childrens legal residence to a place thats more than 100 miles from their residence at the time your initial court paperwork was filed, unless you have the courts permission or certain exceptions exist. This is called the 100 Mile Rule.

The 100 miles is calculated as the crow flies in a straight line from Point A to Point B and not along roads or highways. To figure out the distance in your situation, try doing a web search for distance between locations and make sure to use a website that calculates distance based on air miles, radial miles, or as the crow flies. Youre not going to want to use something like MapQuest because it will calculate the miles based on the route you would take to reach your destination using roadways.

If your desired move is less than 100 miles, then youre good to go! Just make sure to notify the Friend of the Court that you have a new address.

If your desired move is more than 100 miles, first see if any of the exceptions apply to your situation. Exceptions to this rule include: if you have sole legal custody of your children; if the childrens two residences (one with mom and one with dad) were already more than 100 miles apart when the initial court papers were filed; if you have a provision in your custody order that handles moves exceeding 100 miles and your move is in compliance with that provision; or if you are moving to a safe location due to the threat of domestic violence. If one of these exceptions apply, you may not need the courts permission. Our office can help you figure out if any of the exceptions apply to your situation.

Assuming none of the exceptions apply to your situation, youll need to get the courts permission to move your children more than 100 miles. The court will consider certain factors when deciding whether to approve your relocation. The court will consider whether the relocation will be able to improve the quality of life for the children and you, the extent to which you and your childrens father have complied with the current parenting time order and if your desired move is a way to interfere with the parenting time schedule, whether it is possible to modify the parenting time schedule to still preserve the relationship between your children and their father, the reasons behind the fathers opposition to the move, and whether there is any domestic violence involved.

If youre planning a move but have a custody or parenting time order in place, call our office to see what steps you need to take to avoid any issues. Our office can also represent you in petitioning the court for approval to change your childrens legal residence.

What Happens if My Childs Father Fails to Pay Child Support?

Past DueSo the court orders your childs father to make child support payments to help you out with the expenses for the kids, and you think Great, finally a little help! Then your childs father conveniently forgets to make the payments or just flat out tells you that hes not going to pay, and youre left bearing the burden of paying for everything yourself.

Well, dont worry, there are things we can do to help you get your support!

Child Support Enforcement Options

There are several methods to enforce a child support order. If the payer is employed, the Friend of the Court can initiate income withholding if the amount due is equal to or greater than the monthly amount of support. This means that the child support amount will be taken directly out of his paycheck and sent to the Michigan Support Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) to be distributed to you. A percentage of the arrearage (overdue support amount) will be factored into the amount withheld and will be paid to you with each distribution until the overdue amount is paid in full.

If the payer is not collecting a paycheck or income withholding has failed for any other reason, there are other enforcement options. Once support payments are at least two months behind, the Friend of the Court has the option of suspending any license that he may have. This includes a drivers license, occupational license, or any kind of recreational or sporting licenses (think hunting/fishing licenses, truck drivers license, or even a license to practice medicine or law). He will not be able to get his license back unless a court order rescinds the license suspension or until he gets documentation from the Friend of the Court showing that he is now complying with the order to pay child support.

Another option to enforce a child support order is to request that the court hold your childs father in contempt of court until he pays. Either you, as the recipient of the support payments, or the Friend of the Court can file a petition for an order to show cause for the failure to pay support. In this petition, youre asking the court to order the payer to appear in front of the judge and show good cause for why he has failed to make his child support payments. If he doesnt show up to court, or if the judge doesnt believe that he had good cause to miss support payments, the judge can find the payer in contempt and/or assign a variety of other sanctions (punishments) depending on the situation. We can explain to you the different sanctions that may apply in your particular case and why they may be effective in helping you get the back child support.

Need Professional Help?

If youre having trouble collecting child support from your childs father, our office can assist you by helping you choose the best enforcement method to pursue based on your personal situation.

Feel free to call or email us to set up a consultation to discuss what options you have.

What Will the Court Consider When A Party Seeks Modifications to Parenting Time and/or Child Custody Arrangements?

Mother and ChildrenIn family law matters, the past behavior and practices of the parties will always be examined whenever change is sought. Michigan law in this area is well established and courts are continually bombarded with parents asking for modifications to child custody or parenting time arrangements. One common mistake that many parents make, is that they assume past indiscretions or old issues can be brought up when seeking modification of prior orders.When asking the court to change an existing custody and/or parenting time arrangement, a court will only consider occurrences in the time period after the last court order was made.

In other words, reliance on old facts will not support or help a request to change an existing child custody or parenting time agreement. Therefore, if a mother agreed to joint legal and physical custody, she cannot rely on the previously known facts to seek a custody modification if the children have not been harmed and are not in danger of immediate harm. This is because the first threshold to cross in such matters is the existence and proof of “proper cause” or a “change of circumstances.”

An attempt to change or limit parenting time will fail if you have left the child in the fathers care while ignoring the problem on which you now rely. For example, a claim is made that the father should have supervised parenting time because he engages in a certain type of unacceptable behavior. However, the mother has used the father for childcare and has gone along with the parenting time schedule without taking action to limit his access to the child. To now say that father is a danger to the childs health, safety and welfare would be contradicted by mothers past behavior. It would therefore have little or no bearing on the courts discretion as to whether to modify the existing arrangements.

The time to address known parental defects is before agreeing to custodial and parenting time arrangements, not after. The burden of proof is not as high as when change is sought and when there is probably no established custodial environment with either parent.