Frequently Asked Questions

Collaborative Law was founded by Stuart G. Webb, a Minnesota attorney, in 1990. After almost quitting the practice of law due to the hostile and stress-filled environment, Mr. Webb chose to begin... read more
Collaborative law can be used for any dispute. It has been used the most often in the family law arena to resolve disputes related to: Divorce, Legal Separation or Annulment Child... read more
It takes two willing participants to effectively use the collaborative law process, and two lawyers willing to practice law collaboratively. The most important distinguishing feature for... read more
The process is generally less costly and time-consuming than litigation. You are a powerful part of the settlement team, not just a spectator in the courtroom. All parties are... read more
It is well worth considering if some or all of the following are true for you: You want a civilized and respectful resolution of the issues. You would like to keep open the possibility of... read more
While many areas of the law are good candidates for Collaborative Law, it is most commonly, at this time, used in Family Law cases.
While many areas of the law are good candidates for Collaborative Law, it is most commonly, at this time, used in Family Law cases. Collaborative law begins with both parties retaining... read more
In mediation, there is one "neutral" who helps the disputing parties try to settle their case. The parties do not have the benefit of legal counsel to advise them. The mediator cannot give either... read more
Both sides sign a binding agreement to provide full and fair disclosure of all documents and relevant information. "Hide the ball" and stonewalling are not permitted.
That can happen. It also can and does happen in conventional legal representation. What's different about collaborative law is that the collaborative agreement requires a lawyer to withdraw if his/... read more
The requirement that all lawyers be disqualified in the event of a breakdown guarantees that all participating counsel will be totally and exclusively motivated to make the process succeed. Thus,... read more
The Collaborative Law process cannot guarantee you that every asset or every bit of income will be disclosed, any more than the conventional litigation process can guarantee you this. In the end, a... read more
If the parties are unable to arrive at a settlement through the collaborative-law approach, the collaborative lawyers withdraw from the case and the parties then retain trial attorneys to pursue... read more
Collaborative law is the answer for any client interested in resolving their case "outside of the system" in an amicable and respectful setting. Clients should consider it if they would like to keep... read more
Attorneys have an ethical obligation to represent their clients zealously and completely. Although it may appear that your attorney is being sympathetic to your partner's point of view rather than... read more
If you choose collaborative law, you should hire an attorney trained in the process. Although most attorneys are skilled at negotiating settlements, knowledge of the techniques, documents, and... read more
Collaborative law is truly the wave of the future. No other alternative process has caught on so quickly or been adopted with such enthusiasm. Proponents of mediation struggled for years to gain its... read more
Yes, but only if you meet the IRS' five-point test. Only couples legally married on December 31 of the tax year can file joint income tax returns. But if one partner supports the other, the... read more
A domestic partnership agreement isn't necessary if you haven't been together long or don't own much. But if you have been together a long time or consider your relationship to be long-term, it's... read more
Although same-sex domestic partners are denied the right to legally marry in Michigan, you can turn this to your advantage by making it an opportunity to create documents tailor-made to your... read more
Definitely. With the large financial and emotional commitments involved in owning a home it's particularly important to have a clear understanding going into the purchase. There are four major areas... read more
Absolutely. Although each person starts out owning all of his or her job-related income, many states allow this to be changed by an oral contract or even by a contract implied from the circumstances... read more
Especially in law, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Palimony is just a phrase coined by the media to describe the division of property or alimony-like support paid by one partner in... read more
No, unless you have specifically assumed responsibility to pay a particular debt - such as by cosigning a loan or if the debt is charged to a joint account. In contrast, all debts incurred during a... read more
Nothing under most state laws, unless the deceased partner made a will, living trust, or joint tenancy agreement. In a limited number of states - California, Hawaii and Vermont - registered domestic... read more
They are the same thing.  Michigan no longer uses the term "alimony." Instead, it is called spousal support. Michigan Spousal support is an allowance of money or property paid to a... read more
Michigan Spousal support (Michigan alimony) is not part of the property settlement; it is a separate consideration. The goal of spousal support is to balance the incomes and needs of the parties in... read more
There is no precise formula for determining the amount of spousal support that will be awarded because each situation is different. In Michigan, there are now two separate guidelines which take some... read more
A Michigan court will decide how long your alimony / spousal support will last. In Michigan, courts look at factors such as: Duration of the marriage The parties' contributions to the... read more
Yes. Michigan law provides that spousal support is always modifiable, unless specifically stated otherwise.  To make it non-modifiable, the divorce judgment must specifically state that support... read more
Remarriage: This of itself is insufficient to terminate spousal support, unless it is specifically provided for in the judgment.   Cohabitation: This is also insufficient reason... read more
Yes. In Michigan both parents are responsible for the support of their children. The court will usually order the higher-income parent to pay child support to the other parent.  The only time... read more
Michigan has Child Support Guidelines which consider both parent's incomes, the number of children involved, and various custodial arrangements, such as "primary custody" and "... read more
Yes, so long as the court agrees to it and the Judgment states what the recommended child support is and the reason for the variance from the support guidelines. Variance more typically occurs when... read more
Anytime there has been a change in circumstances. Generally, the Friend of the Court offers a free review every three years, with or without a change of circumstances. The Friend of the Court can... read more
Absolutely not. Under the Federal Bankruptcy Code, child support obligations and spousal support obligations are exempt from dischargability in bankruptcy.
Child support generally is paid until the child turns age 18. If a child has not yet finished high school, support will be ordered up to age 19 1/2, provided that the child is enrolled in high... read more
Unless there is an agreement between the parents for one or both to assist with this expense, a parent's obligation for a child's support terminates at age 18 or later when the child graduates from... read more
No it is not. It is not considered income to you, nor is it deductible to your spouse.
In dividing marital property, a court must first distinguish between marital and separate assets. When an asset is the separate property of one spouse, that increase in its value that occurred... read more
The following are things generally not considered to be marital property: Assets accumulated while cohabitating prior to marriage Property received as an inheritance by one spouse that is... read more
Although there is no hard and fast rule, factors for the court to consider are: Duration of the marriage Contribution of the parties to the marital estate Age of the parties... read more
They are considered part of the marital estate if received for injuries sustained during the marriage.   In general, the portion of the award that repays you for lost earnings is marital... read more
A spouse is entitled to a portion of the other spouse's social security benefits only if the benefit has a present, ascertainable value. Social security benefits are not a marital asset, but may be... read more
Vested stock options are marital assets, as are pensions. Stock options not yet vested or matured are treated differently, and are up for negotiation.  Unvested stock options are awarded to... read more
When the degree is achieved through a concerted family effort, the contributing spouse has a claim for compensation for their sacrifices, efforts and contributions. But the claim is not for a share... read more
Retirement benefits such as pensions and 401(k)'s are part of the marital estate unless the parties agree otherwise.  Retirement benefits are a marital asset which is divided equally between... read more
A tort lawsuit (and any damages awarded therein) is a marital asset if the injuries were incurred during the marriage. A personal injury award for pain and suffering is personal to the injured party... read more
In general, the property division in a divorce is considered a nontaxable event by the IRS, because the parties are simply splitting up what they shared between them.  However, spousal support... read more
QDRO is an abbreviation for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, which divides a party's pension or other deferred compensation account in divorce or legal separation. QDRO's are for private... read more
Yes. A QDRO or EDRO is an order filed along with or after the divorce judgment, that directs the employer to pay certain benefits to the employee's former spouse (who is referred to as an "... read more
A pension is an example of what is called a "defined benefit plan," which pays the retired employee a specific monetary benefit, usually monthly. It is an annuity. A 401(k) or an IRA is an... read more
Surviving spouse benefits, if they are specified in the divorce judgment, are pension benefits that will be paid to a surviving former spouse ("alternate payee") upon the participant's... read more
Generally, the benefits run parallel with the length of the marriage. In orther words, you are entitled to your portion of all benefits that accrued during the marriage (but not before) up to the... read more
Normally, the plan is intended to be divided as of the divorce date, but may not be approved by the plan administrator (i.e., employer) until months, or even years, later. You can help speed up the... read more
Many attorneys refer the preparation of QDROs(qualified domestic relations order) to specialists who regularly prepare these documents. Often these specialists are not lawyers, but rather accountants... read more
If you were married 10 years or more, you can still collect benefits under your former Spouse's Social security, when you reach age 62 and your former spouse is entitled to or receiving benefits.... read more
No, it does not. They will still collect the full amount to which they are entitled.
No. You must choose which benefit would be higher for you; either the payment you would receive, based upon your own work record, or the payment you would receive based upon your former spouse's... read more
If you remarry, you generally cannot collect these benefits unless your later marriage ends (by death, divorce, or annulment).
If your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you can collect widow/widower benefits when your former spouse dies. Benefits paid to you will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors receiving... read more
Generally, you cannot receat Lady4jJustce for ive surviving spouse benefits if you remarry before age 60, unless the later marriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment. If you remarry after age 60,... read more
If you are collecting survivors benefits when you retire, you can switch to your own retirement benefits (if you are eligible and the payment is higher than the survivors benefits) as early as age 62... read more
Yes. Be sure to tell both Social Security and your employer. This ensures that your earning are properly reported by your employer and recorded in Social Security records. You can get a new card from... read more
Children are legally entitled to support from their natural parents or adoptive parents. The amount that a parent pays or receives varies from state to state. Support is determined by income, number... read more
Background The timely receipt of child support is critical for millions of Michigan families. The nation's Child Support Enforcement Program (CSE) is a federal/state/local partnership to help... read more
What is in the "best interests of the child?" The Child Custody Act provides that custody of a child is to be determined by the "best interests of the child" standard which means... read more
Divorce brings changes in every area of your life, including how you want your assets distributed after your death. To make sure all bases are covered, you should review your estate plan or create... read more
"Do I need to have a property settlement as well as a divorce judgment?" The answer is, it depends. Property settlements provide privacy over the personal and sensitive financial... read more
What if I do not want to divorce, for religious or other reasons? Michigan permits an action for separate maintenance. It is filed in the same manner and on the same grounds as for divorce. However... read more
Sometimes the IRS allows a deduction for alimony payments. It is granted in part because the recipient is taxed on alimony. The two parties end up paying less in taxes overall because the alimony is... read more
In any divorce action that goes to trial, the court must divide marital property between the parties.  To do so, it must first determine what property is marital and what property is separate.... read more
No.  You cannot receive any federal benefits while you are incarcerated.  Once you are released, you can begin collecting any social security benefits to which you are entitled from your... read more
  Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About QDROs (but didn't know who to ask):   What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order? A "qualified domestic relation... read more