Monday, August 27, 2018

Divorce Checklist

The following is a checklist of “housekeeping” items that need to be accomplished to be sure your divorce is truly completed:


Refinance the marital home

List the marital home for sale

Execute a Quit Claim Deed

Execute a Property Transfer Affidavit (MI Dept. of Treasury Form 2766)

Transfer Homeowners Insurance

Division of Retirement Benefits/HSA Accounts

QDRO Preparation

IRA Rollover

HSA Account transfer

Medical Insurance

COBRA Coverage: You must take steps immediately to obtain your COBRA coverage.  You have only 60 days from date of entry of Judgment of Divorce to make application or you lose the right to have this coverage. Contact the Human Resource Department immediately and get the application filed.  This will be available for three years and you should consider searching for the best replacement policy soon. 

Personal Property

Transfer title for all vehicles; transfer insurance for all vehicles.

Exchange all personal property awarded in the Judgment of Divorce.

Financial Institutions

Transfer or close joint bank and/or credit accounts, or open new accounts in your name.

Run a credit report to make sure your name is off all joint accounts.

Child/Spousal Support

Setup an online account to keep track of your child/spousal support payments through the Friend of the Court:

FOC Opt Out: if you have opted out of Friend of the Court services, remember to keep track of all payments you receive or pay to the other party.

Payer: Income withholding will occur through your employer if Friend of the Court is servicing your support obligation. Make sure to keep track of your accounting so you are aware of any issues that may occur. (If you change jobs, make sure to notify Friend of the Court right away).
Name Change

Take a certified copy of the Judgment of Divorce or the Order Changing Surname to your nearest Social Security Administration (“SSA”) office.  After you are done at the SSA, take the order to the Michigan Secretary of State office.  You will need to change your name on all accounts with each financial institution and each financial institution has different policies regarding verification of name change.

Beneficiary Designations/Estate Planning

Change the beneficiary designation on all retirement assets, life insurance policies, and estate planning documents.

Update your estate planning documents.

Tax Issues

Work with your accountant to determine your new tax status and determine whether you need to adjust your withholdings and/or make quarterly estimated tax payments.


Remember to change your passwords and PINs.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Can I Get Divorced if My Spouse Does Not Want to?

Yes. Michigan is a no-fault state, which means that a party can file for divorce for any reason at all. The other party cannot prevent entry of a Judgment of Divorce.

Sometimes a spouse will not participate in a divorce proceeding, especially when they do not want to get divorced. Michigan law permits parties to divorce even if one party fails to participate. This generally means that the other party does not have any input regarding property division, support, custody and parenting time.

The default process can help expedite your case, but you will have to follow very specific procedures in Michigan Court Rule 3.210(B) in order for a Court to grant your divorce. The failure to follow the procedures could result in a dismissal of your case.

For answers to your specific questions regarding divorce and the default process, contact us at (313) 962-4600.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Can Your Child Choose Where to Live?

By: Alicia M. Bianchi

As family law practitioners, we are frequently asked “when can my child choose where he/she wants to live?” The short answer – they cant. Or, he/she can choose when they’re 18. Although children are not given an explicit right to choose, the child’s preference is one best interest factor the court must consider when determining custody and/or parenting time. MCL 722.23i.

How does the Court determine the child’s preference?

Your assigned Judge will hold a meeting with your child, called an in camera interview, in chambers. A court staff member is also present. The Judge will talk to your child and determine if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to state a preference and the Judge will ask your child what his or her preference is.

A Judge is limited to asking only questions that are reasonably related to the preference of the child and the Judge cannot engage in fact-finding in chambers. Molloy v. Molloy, 247 Mich. App. 348, 351 (2001). This is your child’s chance to be heard and this conversation is confidential. The Judge will not disclose the preference to the parties.

Keep in mind that preference is only one of the 12 best interest factors that the court considers when determining custody and parenting time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Divorce and Social Security: What Every Spouse Should Know

By: Carole L. Chiamp

There are enough rules about social security to drive one crazy trying to figure them out.  But there is some simple information below that can be very helpful.  Unfortunately one of the biggest assets, the stream of income from social security is often ignored in divorce.

Ten Year Marriage Rule

If you and your former spouse were married for ten years or more and your former spouse paid into the social security trust fund, you may be entitled to a portion of retirement benefits and/or survivor benefits on your former spouse’s account if you have not remarried.  Eligibility is not dependent on recognition of these rights in the judgment dissolving your marriage.  The federal government provides these benefits; the state divorce judgment need not specifically address them.  At ten years of marriage certain rights enure to the benefit of the non-working spouse.  However, if you decide to get divorced at nine and a half years of marriage, it would be helpful to not enter the judgment of divorce until one day after your tenth anniversary.  It costs neither spouse anything to wait as the wage earning spouse is not penalized by any reduction in benefits, even if the spouse is married for ten years more than one time.

Survivor Benefits

Former spouses may be eligible for survivor benefits.  If your former spouse dies, and you meet the ten year marriage requirement, you will be eligible for reduced survivor benefits at the age of sixty and full survivor benefits at the age of sixty-five.  As with spouse’s benefits, your receipt of social security survivor benefits does not affect the amount of benefits paid to anyone else on your former spouse’s social security account.

If you remarry before turning sixty years old, you will lose your rights to retirement and survivor benefits on your former spouse’s account.  You are still eligible for both spouse’s and survivor benefits on your former spouse’s account if you remarry after age sixty.  You also may become “re-eligible” for benefits on your former spouse’s account if you remarry before sixty but that marriage also ends.

You cannot receive both spouse’s benefits and survivor benefits from your current spouse.  If you are receiving spousal benefits at the time your former spouse dies, your benefits automatically convert to survivor benefits by the social security system.

Divorces and Spousal Support Benefits in Marriages of Long Duration

When spouses have been married a long time and a divorce settlement is being negotiated consider how social security will affect each spouse. Think of the situation where the working spouse receives, or will receive, say $1,000 monthly benefit from social security retirement while the other spouse receives or will receive $500.  (The benefits are such that the non-working spouse receives one-half of the amount which the retired worker receives).  The court has the authority to make a fair division.  In doing so, the non-working spouse may successfully argue that one spouse should not receive one-half the amount  since both contributed equally to the marriage, one by being out of the work force to raise the children while the other earns social security credits.  That argument is most often the argument needed for the wife who has been out of the work force and will never be able to earn as much during her shorter outside the home work life as the husband.  Other arguments may be made to offset some of the harm by awarding her more of the other assets of the couple.

Contact Information

Social security laws are constantly changing and may affect your future benefits.  To be sure of your exact benefits and earlier eligibility to receive them, contact the social security administration directly.  The Department of Health and Human Services issues numerous free pamphlets explaining exactly what your benefits are and how recent legislation affects them.  Two booklets that may be helpful to you are Understanding Social Security (January 1991) and Survivors (January 1991).  For free copies of either or both pamphlets, contact the Department of Health and Human Services directly at 800-722-1213.