Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Avoiding the divorce war

A recent article in the Detroit Free Press called "Choose the high road when enduring a divorce, " highlights author Stacy Morrison's book entitled Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist's Journey Through the Hell of Divorce.

In her inspirational book, she recounts how she picked up the pieces after the worst time of her life and how she and her ex-husband now successfully co-parent their son. Her ex-husband even has a key to her home and comes over two nights a week to put their son to bed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Michigan case law update: Social security benefits

In a published opinion that came out earlier this week, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided an issue of first impression regarding social security benefits in the case of Biondo v Biondo, No. 294694 (March 15, 2011). This case originated in Oakland County.

The parties were married for 40+ years and in their Judgment of Divorce, they equally divided their assets as well as their social security benefits. When Wife attempted to enforce the Judgment, Husband argued that federal law trumped (in that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the judgment in violation of federal law) and that Wife could not enforce the Judgment. Husband worked for a car manufacturer while Wife was a stay-at-home mother to their children.

It was ultimately held that federal law does trump in this instance and that it was incorrect for the parties to deem their social security benefits as marital property. Instead, the Court of Appeals decided that the benefits are relevant to the Sparks factors. In the case of Sparks v Sparks, 440 Mich 141 (1992), the Michigan Supreme Court held that there are several relevant factors to consider when dividing marital property including (1) the duration of the marriage, (2) contributions of the parties to the marital estate, (3) age of the parties, (4) health of the parties, (5) life status of the parties, (6) necessities and circumstances of the parties, (7) earning abilities of the parties, (8) past relations of the parties, and (9) general principles of equity.

In Biondo, it was held that the amount of a spouse's anticipated or received social security benefits qualifies as relevant to several of the Sparks factors, including the contributions each party made to the marital estate, their necessities and circumstances, and general equity principles. Thus the trial court may consider the parties' benefits as one factor, among others, to be generally considered when dividing the estate, but the benefits may not be "tantamount to a marital asset." This case was ultimately remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this ruling.

For more information on Social Security and Divorce, click here for a previous blog post on the topic or contact us at Hickey, Cianciolo, Fishman & Finn, P.C.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to tell the kids about your divorce?

Deciding how and when to tell your children about your pending divorce can be very difficult, though probably not nearly as difficult as actually having the conversation. Unfortunately, it's an inevitable part of the divorce process. For the sake of the children, it is really important for both you and your spouse to get on the same page when it comes to this, if at all possible.

The article "Five Must-Tell Messages Kids Need To Hear" from offers some helpful tips.