"So, the fact that you could take what little I had, and make something out of it, was remarkable. If I ever need anything legally I will think of you. You were always caring, calm and in control so that I could pretend to be in control when underneath I was almost hysterical."

-Probate Client
Read more testimonials

Same Sex Couple And Michigan Adoption

Jun 20, 2014
Michigan Adoption Law recognizes adoptions of a married couple or a single individual but currently does not prohibit nor recognize second parent adoption. Therefore, same-sex couples wishing to adopt have limited avenues from which to do so. Typically, one party will adopt the child and the same-sex couple will raise the child together. However, this could be devastating if the couple discontinue their relationship because one parent will be left without recourse or the ability to participate in raising their child. However, on March 22, 2014 same-sex couples were allowed to become legally married in the state; if a couple was able to marry or is legally married in another state then it maybe possible to have a step-parent adoption giving both parents parental rights.

If you have questions on this please call us at (517) 351-6222 or email us at jbissell@jwbissell.com.

Military Divorce And Jurisdiction

Jun 20, 2014
Our firm has been asked several times if a military couple residing outside the State of Michigan or overseas meets the jurisdictional requirements to obtain a divorce in the State of Michigan. The answer is yes. McFadden v McFadden 336 Mich. 557; 59 N.W.2d 1 (1953)held that someone in the service of the United States neither gained nor lost a residence by reason of being employed by the United States.

To establish jurisdiction in Michigan for divorce one party must be a resident of the State of Michigan for 180 days prior to the filing of the Complaint for Divorce and a resident of the county 10 days prior to the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. Residence can be established by driver's license, voter's registration, where a party files taxes and by what is declared by the service member as their legal residence.

For further information, please contact us at (517) 351-6222 or at jbissell@jwbissell.com.

What Does No Fault Divorce Mean?

Oct 8, 2013

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state meaning either spouse may petition the court for divorce and while either spouse can delay the divorce with various tactics neither spouse will be able to prevent the divorce. Previously, a court could deny a couple a divorce that is no longer the case. However, fault is alive and well when it comes to property division. Fault can impact how property is divided. Typically, there is a 50/50 spilt of marital  property but that can be impacted by factors including fault. For example, if one spouse dissipates the marital property on drugs or gambling then the innocent spouse may be entitled to a larger portion of the assets. So while anyone can get divorced division of marital property is still a hot issue that requires a strategy to protect assets in a divorce.

Revocation Of Paternity Act

Oct 8, 2013
The Marital Presumption of Legitimacy was revoked by the legislature in 2012 under the Revocation of Paternity Act a biological father may step in and have rights to a child prior to their third birthday if the biological father did not know or have reason to know that the mother was married at the time of conception and the presumed father, biological father and mother acknowledge a biological relationship between the biological father and the child OR the presumed father has failed to substantially support the child for two years. (Grimes v Van Hook-Williams)

Who Claims Dependant Tax Exemption?

Jul 18, 2012
Typically, the custodial parent claims the child on the tax return, however, there are several exceptions. Tax exemptions are part of the award of child support, therefore, the court has authority to award the exemption. Fear v Rogers, 207 Mich App 642, 646-647; 526 NW2d 197 (1994). Reasons for modification or awarding an exemption to a non custodial parent may be a change in employment or parenting time to name a few. If a party wishes to change the past award of an exemption the petitioner must show that circumstances have changed which currently justify a modification. Aussie v Aussie, 182 Mich App 454, 463; 452 NW2d 859 (1990). It is important that when it is Ordered that the non custodial parent is entitled to claim the minor as a dependant that the custodial parent sign IRS Form 8332 to make sure future tax filings occur without delay.

If there are any questions about your particular case,  please feel free to contact our office.

His And Hers - Marital Versus Separate Property

Jun 28, 2012

The big question to answer is whether the property marital or separate?

This is important because marital property is considered an asset of the marriage to be divided between the husband and wife and separate property will remain in one individual's sole possession. Marital property is property earned, bought or contributed to during the marriage. Separate property is property received as an inheritance or gift from a third party during marriage or property purchased by a party before the marriage. However, separate property if commingled loses it's identity as separate property and will be subject to division. Commingling can occur in a variety of ways. Thus, the court will consider if funds were contributed to a 401k during marriage, whether improvements were made to a marital home purchased before marriage, etc.

We've had a case where a home purchased before marriage was considered marital property due to the improvements made with marital assets.

Please contact us at 517.351.6222 or info@jwbissell.com to determine if that antique, inheritance or expensive gift is marital property and let us help you protect your assets?

Cohabitation And Impact On Parenting Time

Jun 12, 2012
Over the years the issue of a parent having overnight guests of the opposite sex during parenting time has arisen quite a few times. Often, we have been asked how cohabitation may affect custody and/or parenting time. The standard answer is that while a court does consider the moral fitness of a parent the inquiry is typically limited to the impact a parent's conduct will have on the parent-child relationship and if such conduct will have a "significant impact" on how the individual functions as a parent. Fletcher v Fletcher, 447 Mich 871, 887 (1994). Typically issues that are relevant to a parent's moral fitness include " verbal abuse, drinking problems, drving record", physical/sexual abuse and illegal/offensive behaviors. Id.  Thus, court's usually do not enforce a provision prohibiting a parent from having guests of the opposite sex overnight while exercising parenting time unless the parties stipulate to such a provision. For a provision prohibiting a parent from cohabitating with an  unrelated member of the opposite sex during parenting time to be ordered by a court the moving party has the burden of showing that allowing the other party to cohabitate during parenting time has an adverse affect on the child(ren) and/or cohabitation has a negative impact on the child-parent relationship. Cases have gone both ways and it truly depends on the facts of the case if said provision would be appropriate for your circumstances. Please contact us at 517.351.6222 or by email at info@jwbissell.com to discuss your particular circumstances.

Social Security Benefits And Divorce

Apr 12, 2012
One may wonder how divorce impacts social security benefits and their retirement plans? (This is very important considering the retirement age keeps increasing.) The rule is (with a few exceptions) as a former spouse you may be able to receive your earning record or half of your spouse's record if the following are accurate of your situation:
  1. You are unmarried
  2. You were married for ten years to your former spouse
  3. You are at least 62 years of age
  4. Your former spouse is entitled to Social Security Retirement or Social Security Disability
If you have further questions regarding retirement and divorce please contact us by phone at (517) 351-6222 or by email at info@jwbissell.com.

Msu And Minor In Possession

Mar 28, 2012
Over the years we have represented a number of MSU students in East Lansing with various charges including MIPS. The complexity of an MIP case varies depending which statute the student is charged under, their age and whether aggravating circumstances were present. Basically, for an MIP the body acts as a container; therefore, even if the container is not on one's person an individual with any alcohol in their body may be charged.

First of all, if you are stopped by the police remain calm. If asked, submit to a PBT as failure to submit could result in being charged with a civil infraction. Most importantly don't consume any drugs or alcohol while a charge of MIP is pending.

The most common question I hear from students is "Can you keep this off my record?" The answer is yes. Our firm has successfully had students placed in a Diversion Program which upon successful completion the charge for MIP I will be dismissed. Thus, a student will have no criminal record.

A second/third or fourth offense carries a stiffer penalty without the option of a Diversion Program. The penalties can include jail, participation in rehabilitation, community service, probation and increased fines among other penalties. The Secretary of State has the right to suspend an individuals driver's license if convicted even if the offense was not committed while operating a vehicle.

Our office has successfully defended MSU students and kept their criminal records clean for decades. Our knowledge in this area as well as our holistic approach has allowed MSU students to keep their licenses and records clean. Even if you are facing your second MIP, don't fret, give us a call and see what our firm can do for you. Let our lawyers navigate you through the court process and put your mind at ease. Call us to schedule a free consultation at (517)351-6222 or email us at eklavenski@jwbissell.com.

Who Chooses My Child's Last Name?

Feb 16, 2012
This is an interesting topic that recently came up in our office. Typically, one's gut instinct is Dad's of course. However, that is not the case. According to MCL 333.224, if the parents sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity or are married the surname of a child is designated by a child's parents which can be done unilaterally; the mother designates the surname of thier child if the court determines paternity.

If you are the father and your child does not have your last name you may be wondering if there is anything you can do about it. You can. The party desiring the child's surname changed must show it is in child's best interest under MCL 722.23 (Garling v Spiering, 203 Mich App 1, 512 NW2d 12 (1993).

If you have any legal questions please feel free to email them to eklavenski@jwbissell.com and the next blog may answer your question.

My License Has Been Revoked, Now What?

Jan 30, 2012
When an individual's license has been revoked for two or more alcohol related convictions, he/she may file with the Secretary of State for an administrative hearing to be held to determine if a reinstated license should be issued.

The hearing officer will not be concerned with hardships; for example, that the petitioner has a family to support, that there is a need to transport aging parents to and from medical care, that  a license is necessary to obtain/ maintain employment, etc. Don't "waste" the little time you have at the hearing arguing hardships. Instead at the hearing you should concentrate on  the following four factors:

1. Whether any substance abuse/ dependency  problems that is now under control and will remain under control.
2. Whether there is a low or minimal risk of repeating prior abusive behavior  relative to alcohol and/or controlled substance.
3. Whether there is a low or minimal risk of driving while impaired or intoxicated.
4. Whether the necessary period of abstinence has been maintained.

These factors must be shown by clear and convincing evidence. To optimize the probability of success a strategy should be developed prior to the hearing. Keep in mind, you must preserve the record for a possible appeal to Circuit Court at the administrative hearing so it is important to have representation who is familiar with the process.

For more information please contact us at 517.351.6222 or at info@jwbissell.com.

Should Child Support Be Reviewed?

Jan 26, 2012
So you have a Child Support Order probably years old and wondering if it should be reviewed? We suggest Child Support is reviewed every few years or when parenting time changes. Most recently our firm was able to lower a client's support obligation by nearly $400 a month; believe me it is worth an inquiry.

Following are a list of factors that indicate it is time to have support reviewed:

-parent has had a change in income or lost their job
-party received recent one time bonus
-change in cost of childcare
-either parent has other children who live in their home or for whom they pay support
-change in amount of spousal support paid or received by a parent
-parent pays/provides health insurance for child
-a parent provides much of the daytime care but does not exercise overnights
-change in number of overnights with a parent

Each situation is unique and requires individual review. Please contact us at info@jwbissell.com or at (517)351-6222 to answer questions regarding child support or to schedule a consultation.

I Have Been Charged With Domestic Violence! Now What?

Jan 6, 2012
Domestic violence is a charge that you definitely don't want on your criminal record for future employers to see as there can be more stigma associated it than with other crimes. If you or a loved one has been charged I'm sure you have questions.

If this is your 1st offense you maybe able to breathe a sigh of relief as MCL 7.694a(1) gives the court the authority to defer proceedings and place the accused on probation. Probation may include participation in drug treatment, counseling, fines and/or imprisionment of less than a year. If the accused successfully completes probation the court shall discharge the accussed from probation and dismiss the proceedings without adjudication of guilt or entering a conviction. IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THIS CAN ONLY BE USED ONCE. If the accused is not offered the diversion program (as it is offered at the discretion of the prosecutor and court) then a 1st offense is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 93 days in jail and/or a fine of $500 or less.

If this is your 2nd offense a conviction may result in imprisionment of less than a year and/or a fine of $1000 or less. A 3rd offense is a felony punishable by a fine of $2500 or less and/or imprisionment up to 2 years.

If charged with Domestic Violence it is important to hire representation to advocate keeping a possible conviction off your record. Our attorneys have successfully kept this stigmatized conviction off client's records through MCL 7.694a or negotiating plea agreements for Disturbance of the Peace or other less stigmatized misdemeanors. Our attorneys are also experienced, successful trial attorneys who offer aggressive representation to every client. As each case deserves it's own strategy tailoring to the specifics involved contact the attorney's at John W. Bissell, P.C. (517.351.6222) for a free consultation to best advise you on your unique situation.

Will Modifications To Child Support Be Retroactive?

Sep 20, 2011
The standard answer is NO that child support modifications are only retroactive to the date of filing a Motion To Review Support, Motion To Change Custody, etc. MCL 552.603(2) provides that "[r]etroactive modification of a support payment due under a support order is permissible with respect to a period during which there is pending a petition for modification, but only from the date that notice of the petition was given to the payer or recipient of support." That is why it is so important for client's to contact us as soon as their pay decreases, lose a job or there is change in parenting time because the longer it takes to file the bigger the financial impact on the client.

However, there is one exception to this rule provided for by MCL 552.603b which permits a court to retroactively correct a child support amount "[i]f an individual who is required by the court to report his or her income to the court or .... [FOC] knowingly or intentionally fails to report, refuses to report, or knowingly misrepresents that income". Our firm used this statute to obtain a nearly $4000 credit to a client's support arrearage because the payee had failed to notify the court that the child was no longer enrolled in a childcare program. It should also be noted that the same retroactive modification issues could be triggered if either party fails to notify the court or FOC of an additional source of income or raise.

Please contact us with further questions on this issue at 517.351.6222 or info@jwbissell.com. Please view our website at jwbissell.com.

Divorce - Why Not To Wait....

Sep 14, 2011
Many times I see clients unsure of whether a divorce is right for them and instead of working through the issue opt to live separate lives from their spouse. In many cases, these separate lives continue for years or decades. Divorce is not an easy decision and it takes an understandable amount of time to get to that point. Once you separate with no intention of getting back together it is important to file for divorce quickly as there can be some pitfalls to prolonging the process.

First, any property, assets or debt accumulated during the time you are legally married can be considered marital. This includes any accumulation of monies in a 401(k), retirement account or pension. Even debt incurred by a spouse for gambling, frivolous items or necessities may be marital. I have even seen a case where one spouse racks up enormous debt and because the parties were legally married (even though living separate lives) those debts were marital and the other spouse was liable. Yes, there are arguments on both sides and ways to lessen the impact or get around those pitfalls. However, it is important to understand the issues waiting can pose which all could be avoided if a divorce is filed quickly.

Secondly, waiting can impact which state has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination in a divorce action. If a child moves out of state with a parent after separation for a period of six months this can create problems under the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act as the child may have a new "home state" for jurisdictional purposes when it comes to making an initial determination regarding custody and parenting time. It is always best to nip these issues in the bud immediately to ensure a parent does not go months or years without contact with their child and to put an order in place which reflects the best interest of the child.

Thirdly, a divorce can be a means to provide closure and allow parties to move on.

While divorce is not an easy decision waiting can have a significant financial impact, potentially jeopardize a parent's relationship with their child and impact which state is the "home state" which ultimately decides issues of custody. If we can be service to you in handling a criminal, license restoration, owi, divorce, custody, support or family law issue please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Please visit our website jwbissell.com, email me at info@jwbissell.com or contact us by phone at 517.351.6222.