What you need to know

It can be helpful to have some information before calling an attorney. Here are some things Kyrsten thinks will be helpful to you when deciding how to proceed.

Family Law:

There is one thing that people need to understand before heading into their lawyer’s office or into the courthouse. Family Law is all about compromise.

You aren’t going to get 100% of what you want and neither will the other side. This is true when it comes to the children and when it comes to the property.

Let’s talk about the children first. When the court considers what to do in matters of child custody and parenting time, the main focus is what is best for the child, not what is best for the parents and not what each parent wants or thinks s/he needs. The Court strives to maintain some kind of stability for the children and, in addition, expects the parents to support a child’s relationship with both parents. Obviously, there are exceptions to this general rule. It is, however, helpful to walk into Court understanding what the expectations are with regard to co-parenting your children after the marriage or relationship has ended.

You think that you know what is best for your child. Every parent does. The court might see it a different way and you need to be aware of this so that you can obtain the best possible outcome for both your children and for yourself.

I consider it my job to tell you the hard truths. I won’t be the attorney who tells you that you will succeed in obtaining something you’re unlikely to be awarded. Instead, I will tell you if I think you will fail. I will discuss with you other options. I will tell you if I think you need to take a step back and see it from a different perspective. I will remind you that the children are the Court’s main focus.

Divorce can be a lengthy process. When a couple with children have filed for divorce, Michigan requires a six-month waiting period before a Judgment of Divorce can be entered. Judges can, however, waive the waiting period if the parties agree that finalization before the six months is up is in the best interest of their children.

Now let’s talk about property. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state and property is generally equally divided. That said, it is important to know what is and what is not marital property. It is also important to know that, if you choose to leave the marital home, you are not giving up your rights in that property or your rights in anything inside of the home.

Anything acquired during the marriage is marital property unless steps have been taken to hold it separate from the marital estate.

Here is an example: Say you inherited $10,000.00 from your deceased grandparent. If you deposited that money into the joint account you hold with your spouse, that money is now marital property. If, instead, you opened an account in your name alone and deposited that money there, then it is not marital property.

Deciding what is and isn’t marital property can be difficult. An example would be a situation where one spouse owned a home prior to the marriage. That is not marital property just by virtue of the parties’ marriage. If later, however, the parties take a loan together and invest that money in the home, then the situation is much less clear.

Often, clients are surprised to learn that their spouse has an interest in their retirement accounts. Anything that was earned or invested during the course of the marriage is considered marital property. Parties sometimes agree to forego taking what they are entitled to from each other’s retirement accounts, but this is not always the case.

Finally, if you brought something into the marriage, you can usually take it with you when you leave. This is especially true if the marriage is what is considered “short-term.”

During the pendency of the divorce proceedings, the Court expects the parties to maintain the “status quo.” This means that you pay the marital bills and maintain the marital assets in the same manner you did prior to filing for divorce.

You should not go and clean out accounts. If you do, that will be held against you later when assets are divided and your spouse will receive a credit for half of what you took out of the joint accounts. You should also not try to hide assets.

Criminal Law

You have been charged with a crime and, sadly, the reality is that the State always has the upper-hand.

I approach criminal cases as if it is a game of cards. It is important to employ strategy when making your decisions. While the Defendant in a criminal case does not have the burden of proof, it is generally necessary to present a defense if your case goes to trial. A silent defense is generally not the best strategy.

Most cases are resolved via negotiations between the defense attorney and prosecutor and do not go to trial. Sometimes Defendants confuse the relationship between the attorneys and think the defense attorney is working WITH the prosecution. That, however, is not the case at all. It is beneficial to my clients that I have a good working relationship with the prosecution. The ensures that, when I go to the prosecutor assigned to your case to discuss potential plea agreements or even, in some instances, dismissal, I will be heard rather than dismissed as a nuisance. I have spent years cultivating my reputation as a straight-forward but zealous advocate for my clients.

Prior to trial or plea on a misdemeanor charge, you will have to be arraigned, bond will be set by the Judge or magistrate and you will have a pretrial conference, where the attorneys discuss possible plea deals. If the parties are not able to come to an agreement,  the case is set for trial.

If you have been charged with a felony, you will be arraigned on the charges first in the District Court, bond will be set and a Probable Cause Conference will be scheduled. Much like the pretrial conference, the Probable Cause Conference exists to give the parties a chance to negotiate and make offers and requests of each other.

You also have the right to a preliminary examination, separate from the probable cause conference, where the Prosecution must show that there is probable cause to believe that you committed the crime that you have been charged with. There are times when it makes sense to have the Preliminary Exam and there are times when it doesn’t. I analyze the benefits and the possible detriments involved in conducting the Preliminary Exam on a case by case basis and discuss them with my clients so that we are on the same page when deciding whether to proceed with the Preliminary Exam.

If you waive the Preliminary Exam, or you are not successful in getting charges dismissed after conducting the Exam, then you will be bound over to the Circuit Court on the felony charges. At that point, things seemingly start all over again, with a new arraignment and another set of pretrial conferences with the same purpose of encouraging the parties to negotiate. The Court will only allow the parties so much time to negotiate before it will simply schedule the matter for trial in an attempt to keep the case moving forward.

Estate Planning:

You can’t take it with you when you go, but someone has to deal with it when you’re gone.

The thing to keep in mind regarding estate planning is that it is not for you, but for your family and friends. Most often, when someone dies without any planning in place, family and friends are left to deal with a lot of stress and headaches while they try to decide what to do with all of the stuff you left behind. Your family members will be tasked with planning your funeral. In addition, they will have your personal property to take care of, as well as your real estate, debts, bank accounts, vehicles, etc. to deal with. In order to do this, your family member has to open a probate estate.

You don’t want to leave all of that stress to your loved ones. The best thing you can do is make a plan. There is the chance that you can create an estate plan that avoids probate altogether. Additionally, you can plan for your funeral in advance or choose the person who will do that for you.

A situation that arises with regularity is that of the family member who contacts me trying to get a power of attorney for their relative. The problem that often arises, however, is that the loved one is no longer legally able to execute the power of attorney due to their incapacity. At that point, the family member has to petition the court for some form of guardianship, which is a much more expensive and complicated process. You can avoid burdening your loved ones by having a power of attorney in place.

I try to make making your estate plan as painless as possible. If you wish, I am able to conduct much of the planning and communication via telephone and email. I understand that you are just as busy as I am, and you likely don’t want to take time off of work to meet with me. If you would rather meet, however, I am here to speak with you in person.