David R. Bruegel, P.C.David R. Bruegel, P.C. brandDavid R. Bruegel, P.C.
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Divorce. Steps involved. Transition in life. Emotions and fears

We All Need A Champion

I represent both men and women in divorce.  I do other things too, estate planning, a good deal of probate court and circuit court matters on behalf, usually, of individuals.  It used to be just corporations.  The law firm I used to be a partner in is now over 450 lawyers, offices all over the United States and in Canada.

I do what I do now greatly because of my family, and divorce in my own life.

My grandfather was the first medical doctor in East Lansing, Michigan in 1902.  I always heard as I was growing up of his staying at patient's houses all night long, tending to whatever was the issue.  Truly all out of a Norman Rockwell painting, I suppose one could say.

But this idea of being there and helping is infectious, if that's not the wrong word to use.

When I get a call from someone, usually a tense, yet restrained distraught tightness in their voice about divorce, I pretty much know what's next.

Of course each situation is unique and each human being, their own person, made from seemingly an infinite number of factors, I listen, try to listen more, and more and more.

Everyone, man or woman, wants to know, what are the steps, how long will this take, WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR ME ECONOMICALLY.

I have to say, some divorces seem to be a Godsend; the need has existed for years and years and I can tell that client, usually some weeks out in the process, that there is a silver lining to all this for them.  The rear view mirror is just the place for them to remember their former spouse, if you will permit me that flip comment.

And more often it is love that is still there and even a kind of sad hope and grief that reminds me more of probating someone's estate than it does of a new and current, just starting divorce from the old hope, the old love, the bad developments one didn't see coming and wish hadn't happened in their life or in the life of their spouse, tell the truth.

But the process is amazingly simple in theory.  If there are kids, minor children of that marriage: that is first.  Child support and custody arrangements simply come first.

This is often a hard landing to begin with.  Child support can be a real economic issue and often becomes a continuing problem, if it isn't paid.

But kids come first.

Without that issue, it is monopoly, I tell clients.  The legal standard in this state, in Michigan, is "fair and equitable."  That means what it says: fair.  Equitable.

Is that 50-50?

Nope.

It is fair and equitable.  That translates into understanding and figuring in the good and the bad, no fault the law says, but, tell the truth, bad actions matter and affect the negotiations.

The Judge is not usually too deeply in all of this stuff.  Yes, there is an in chambers meeting and discussion of the situation.  The Judge always wants matters settled soon and fairly.  The Judge hears the facts, the advocates (that's me) tell the Judge what has been going on, and I do this quietly, persuasively and with as many well-chosen, evocative words as I can for the Judge to see our side and see it clearly and sympathetically.

Then it is up to the lawyers and the clients to get through the dividing up and the balancing, based on educational levels, ability to support oneself, the issue of spousal support (in olden times called alimony) and all that.

Do we keep the house?  Does one party get it?  How would the net proceeds of sale be divided?

And, everyone's favorite, retirement funds.

Here is the need, even with grudging agreement on how much has to come out of one spouse's retirement funds, for a very careful document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ("QDRO") to be prepared, understanding all the complexities and rules of that particular retirement program and they all seem unique in their formal rules.

Personal property/possessions are another project that can be easy or not easy.  The parties often address the toaster, the washing machine, whatever isn't obviously one spouse's "stuff" and that gets over somehow.

It all leads to what amounts to a contract but is in a judgment the Judge will sign once a hearing is held with the Plaintiff, the one who filed the Complaint for divorce, testifying ever so briefly, to provide the jurisdictional facts (living in the county for ten days before filing; living in Michigan for 180 days before filing; no one is pregnant -- to protect the unborn -- that the parties have reached an agreement satisfactory to both but that the objects of matrimony have irrevocably broken down, that sort of thing).  With that the Judge says that he or she finds the marriage is over and that a judgment will enter.

I try to tell my client that they too will enter.  Enter their future.  Enter their future with at least some resources and without the issues and problems that made life difficult, although where there are minor children, the dealing and issues with the former spouse go on to age 18, even 19 and a half, in some cases and it would be good to be as optimistic about that as you could gather yourself up to be.

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  • National Association Of Distinguished Counsel | Nation's Top One Percent | NADC
  • This Attorney is Lead Counsel Rated. Click here for more Information.Elder Law & Estate Planning

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155 W. Maple St.
P.O. Box 316
Mason, MI 48854

Phone: 517-833-4196
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