Henry Bergmans knows that you have many questions that need answers when you face a family law issue. On this page, Henry provides answers to common questions the firm receives from clients.

I am getting divorced. Do I need to hire a lawyer?

Always consult with a lawyer about any major life events or changes, such as a divorce or the custody arrangements for your child.

Your lawyer protects your rights, as well as the rights of your children. When you have an attorney working with you from the very beginning, you have the support of a legal professional who knows how the courts work in Michigan and can advocate for you if things get difficult.

How can an attorney help me with my family law case?

The importance of a competent and experienced lawyer cannot be overstated. Your attorney guides you through all the necessary steps of a divorce, child custody case, or any other family law matter and provides the practical insight that is crucial in an emotionally charged situation. Having the right attorney by your side throughout your family law matter can make a significant difference in the amount of time it takes and the money you spend to reach a favorable resolution.

At a minimum, you should always have an attorney review your situation before you make any decisions or take any steps.  A lawyer provides legal counsel and practical guidance to limit potential problems that may develop.

Can my spouse and I hire the same divorce attorney in Michigan?

No. A lawyer in Michigan cannot represent both spouses in a divorce. The Michigan Bar has strict rules of conduct for lawyers that make representing opposing parties a conflict of interest and an ethical violation of a lawyer’s oath to serve the public good.

How much will it cost to hire a lawyer?

Most lawyers charge an hourly rate for family law services. In some cases, an attorney may charge a flat fee for a specific service. You may also be asked to pay a retainer fee in advance, depending on the complexity of your case. Costs depend on many factors, such as the time your attorney spends on your case, the complexity of the issues, and the filing fees and other court expenses. Your attorney may be able to suggest ways that you can minimize your costs by taking some simple measures while your case is pending.

How much does it cost to get a divorce?

Attorney’s fees for a divorce are based upon many factors, such as whether the case is going to be contested and what issues must be resolved. Additional costs may be incurred when there is a business, real estate, or other complicated assets involved.

Henry Bergmans offers a free initial consultation to discuss the circumstances in your case. In that first meeting, he also explains the factors that affect the ultimate cost of the divorce.

What is a joint uncontested divorce?

In a joint uncontested divorce case, both spouses reach agreement on all issues. They file a divorce action together with a consent judgment and avoid difficult and often costly formal civil litigation proceedings. Henry Bergmans provides assistance to clients who are able to reach agreement with their spouse and file a joint uncontested divorce.

Can I use mediation to settle my divorce?

The mediation process is a confidential process in which a neutral third party helps the parties discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement. Mediation is generally much less costly and time-consuming than litigating a divorce case in court.

Henry Bergmans utilizes mediation or the collaborative approach in a divorce case when these alternatives are appropriate in the circumstances. Henry is a trained negotiator and frequently uses those critical skills to quell conflicts in a divorce case. Mediation and collaboration may lead to a personalized agreement that provides a better result than litigation in court.

How can I get my family law questions answered?

Henry Bergmans offers a free, no-obligation initial consultation for individuals with a family law concern. He assists clients with all types of family legal issues. Henry understands the complex and emotional nature of family matters and gives you the one-on-one support that you need to make the best long-term decision for yourself and your family. He helps manage your fears and addresses the unknowns by creating a personalized set of options for you. Throughout the case he works closely with you, to help you make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

What are the legal grounds for obtaining a divorce?

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. A divorce will be granted regardless of the fault of either party. Michigan law requires that the person filing the divorce petition must have been a state resident for at least 180 days (six months) immediately before filing. The filing party must also be a resident of the county in which the petition is filed for at least ten days prior to filing.

Who determines how your assets are divided in a divorce?

Spouses may agree on how to divide their property in what is called a marital settlement agreement, which is a contract between the spouses that divides property and debts and resolves other issues of the divorce. Although many divorces begin with a high level of acrimony, a substantial majority are settled without the need for a judge to decide property or other issues. However, if the division of property or other issues cannot be settled by the spouses and their attorneys, the court makes the necessary determinations.

If a Michigan court decides your property settlement, the judge applies the concept of equitable distribution, which means the court divides the marital property in a fair manner. The division may be equal (50-50) or something else. Some of the factors considered by the court in dividing property include: the amount of nonmarital property each spouse has, each spouse’s earning power, services as a homemaker, waste and dissipation, fault, duration of the marriage, and age and health of both spouses.

How do courts determine who gets custody of our children in a divorce?

If the parents cannot agree on custody of their child, the court decides custody based on the best interests of the child. Determining the child’s best interests involves many factors that can be difficult for someone not trained in Michigan law to determine. If you expect that you can’t find common ground with your spouse, hiring a competent and experienced lawyer is essential. Your attorney  guides you through all the necessary steps of the child custody process. 

What is joint legal custody?

Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the major decisions affecting the child, which can include school, health care, and religious training. Other joint legal custody considerations may include extracurricular activities, summer camp, age for dating or getting a job, and methods of discipline.

What is joint physical custody?

Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible and can range from a moderate period of time for one parent, such as every other weekend, to a child dividing the time equally between the two parents’ homes.

How is child support determined in a divorce or a child support case?

Michigan law requires the use of a formula that considers several factors, not all of which apply to every case. The most important factors are the number of children, each parent's income, childcare expenses, health care expenses, and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. A court has the authority to deviate from the formula if there are special circumstances presented to the court.

What happens if I need to change my child support agreement?

Child support in Michigan can be modified in two ways. First, each parent has the right to request the Friend of the Court investigate the amount of child support every three years. Second, a parent may petition the court to modify child support if there has been a significant change of circumstance, which is defined as a 10% change of income. Under this rule, if a parent has a 10% reduction in income or believes the other parent has had a 10% increase in income, they may petition for a modification. The request must be filed with the court. An attorney can file a modification request for you.

Can I move away with my child?

You cannot just move away with your child if there is an existing child custody agreement, especially if you are moving out of state. A modification to the custody agreement must be requested and approved by the family court judge. The best interests of the child must be determined before any action to move the child is taken. You could be held in contempt of court for violating an existing court custody order if you relocate a child without completing the required process. It’s always best to discuss your situation with an attorney before making any plans to move.

What happens if a parent does not pay court-ordered child support?

If a noncustodial parent falls behind on child support payments, the custodial parent has options for enforcing it, but they must be carried out through the court. A judge can use income withholding, wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, liens, or attachments to property to ensure payments are made. A court can take punitive action if these methods are unsuccessful, including license suspension, passport denial, and even jail time.

How do I get a legal separation in Michigan?

Michigan does not have a process for legal separation.

How does marriage affect the paternity of your child?

In Michigan, if a married couple has a child, it is presumed that the child is a product of that union. Should the marriage end in divorce, the father has a right to child custody and parenting time and is obligated to pay child support.

For unmarried couples, what is an Affidavit of Parentage?

The Affidavit of Parentage is a form that is given to unmarried couples who have a child together. This form must be completed by both parents and signed at the hospital. Execution of the affidavit voluntarily acknowledges the father of the child and gives the mother initial custody.

Even if the mother omits the father’s name from the birth certificate, the Affidavit of Parentage shows parentage. If a father is uncertain that he is the child’s parent, he may choose not to sign the form, because doing so waives his right to blood tests or a trial to determine paternity.

The law makes it clear that fathers have the right to child custody and fair parenting time. The affidavit also makes it clear that a father has the obligation to provide child support. A father may fight for paternity if he was not present or not given the opportunity to name himself as the child’s father.

What can I do if someone other than my husband is the father of my child?

If someone other than your husband is the father of your child, you may want to file a Motion or Complaint to Determine Child Born Out of Wedlock. This request asks the judge to revoke (undo) your husband’s status as legal father.  Either you, your husband, or the biological father must file this motion or complaint. Otherwise, your husband will continue to be your child’s legal father, and the biological father will not have any parental rights or responsibilities.

How can you help me?

Henry Bergmans helps clients with all types of family law matters. Your first consultation is always free of charge and without obligation. To schedule a free consultation, reach out to Henry through the online contact form or call (810) 360-0900. From his office in Howell, Henry assists clients throughout Livingston County, Genesee County, Ingham County, and Washtenaw County, and in the surrounding areas.