Friday, September 15, 2006

#6 Reaction of Children to Divorce.

After you decide to divorce you have to decide how to divorce. When you have children be aware of their feeling and knowledge of your marital problems. The walls have ears. Do not involve them in the specifics or do anything to encourage them to take sides. Your children are watching and learning from you. They are evaluating how you and your spouse conduct themselves in a divorce.

One of a child's first reactions to divorce is fear of abandonment. The child reasons if one parent can leave, then the other parent might leave too. The child needs steady reassurance that the child will not be abandoned. Hopefully, the reassurance can come from both parents, including through substantial contact with both parents. Keep going to church as a family.

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer. you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !

Young children also are concerned that the parent who is moving out will not be taken care of or will not have a place to stay. Some of those concerns can be alleviated by promptly showing the child where the departing dad or mom will live. Tell your children everything is okay and they do not have to worry.

Other common reactions of children to divorce include: sleep disturbances, fears of impending disaster, suspiciousness, under-achievement in school, poor peer relationships, emotional constriction, anger, and regression in behavior (such as bed-wetting).

Many children feel powerless and vulnerable in the period during and following a divorce. Assuming the child liked both parents, the child wants to stop the divorce, but cannot. Children often blame themselves for the divorce and think if they had done something different that their parents would not be divorcing.

Children need to be told--often many times--that the divorce is not their fault . . . that dad and mom are not living together because dad and mom could not get along, not because the child did something wrong.

Although nothing takes all the pain out of divorce for a child, the manner in which children are told about a divorce will have a lasting effect on them. Certain ways of telling a child will maximize suffering, such as telling the child, "He left us!" or "She does not love us!"

Telling the child that the divorce will not make a difference also is unwise. Obviously, the divorce will make a difference. The child should be given a simple, honest explanation of the divorce, without giving lurid details designed to alienate the child from the other parent. The parents should explain what will be different and what will not be different--including talking about where the child will live, where the child will go to school, and when the child will be with each parent.

The child should be given an opportunity to express feelings and to ask questions. The child also might be told that things will be difficult for a while, but they will improve with the passage of time. Children need a close ongoing relationship with both parents.

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

#5 Alternatives to Divorce

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

#5 Alternatives to Divorce.

Separation and Separate Maintenance

Sometime married couples need a cooling off period and agree to live apart. A court order called judgement of separate maintenance allows for decisions on where the children live, who pays the bills, child support and spousal support and health care. The couple will continue to be married.

Separation, as the term implies, means the wife and husband are living apart. The wife and husband generally are not required to separate in order to obtain a divorce, although for psychological reasons, it usually works out that way.

A legal separation also means the husband and wife are living apart, but a legal separation has the added element that the arrangement is ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties in a written agreement. The fact that the separation is part of a court order or written agreement makes it a "legal separation" or judgement of separate maintenance.

The main reason for obtaining a separate maintenance instead of an informal separation is to make more certain the rights and responsibilities of the parties during the period of separation. If one party--usually the wife--will be receiving financial support during the period of separation, the court order or written agreement will make support an enforceable right.

Payments of support during a period of separation sometimes are called temporary maintenance or spousal support. If the person obliged to make such payments fails to do so, a court could order the payments and take steps to enforce payments.

Written agreements regarding support are necessary if the person making the payments wishes to claim a tax deduction for paying support to the spouse. If the person paying support obtains a deduction for the amount paid, then the same amount will be treated as taxable income to the recipient. Without a written agreement or court order, the payments of support will not be deductible to the payer, nor would they be treated as income to the recipient.

If the husband and wife have children, the separation agreement or court order can specify arrangements regarding custody or visitation with the children, and those arrangements also can be enforced by the court.

A separation (or separate maintenance) is not the same as a divorce. Persons who are separated may not remarry. They must wait until a divorce is final before being able to remarry. The terms of a separation agreement usually can be modified by the court or by the parties themselves during the period of separation.

Courts, or the husband and wife by agreement, also can modify the provisions of support, custody and visitation when the divorce is finalized.

If the final terms of a divorce are likely to be contested, the parties should be cautious about what they accept as a voluntary, temporary arrangement during separation. Although courts usually have the power to depart from the terms of a separation agreement when entering a final order of divorce, judges may look at the status quo and think, "If this arrangement was workable during separation, it should work after divorce too." If someone is agreeing to terms during a period of separation that they would not want to live with after the divorce, they should make abundantly clear in the separation agreement that they are not binding themselves to the same conditions after the divorce is final.

An informal or legal separation does not mean the husband and wife must divorce. They are free to reconcile at any time and resume living together. For some couples, a separation serves as a cooling off period--a method of relieving immediate pressure while they sort out what they want to do with their lives. During this time family counseling can continue church based or secular.

If husband and wife decide to live together again and there is a court action pending, the action should be dismissed (at least after the couple is reasonably sure they will stay together).
"Dismissed" means the case is taken off the list of active cases before the court. If the husband or wife later decides to divorce, the case can be refiled.

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

#4 The Divorce Process: Do's ,Don'ts and a few of the steps.

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970
Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

Divorce can be a difficult process. Even in the best of circumstances, tempers may run high, and every decision can seem to be more stressful than the last. It is only human to find yourself reacting emotionally at certain stages of a divorce, but it is important to remember that your actions throughout the process can affect your familial, emotional, and financial situation for years to come. Following are some "do's and don'ts" for the divorce process.
DO be reasonable and cooperate as much as possible with your soon-to-be-ex. Reasonable compromise yields quicker and easier results in divorce cases.
DO support your children through this process. It's even tougher on them than on you. Don't make them pick sides.
DO let your spouse know when and where you will spend time with your kids while you work out permanent custody arrangements.
DO fully disclose all your assets and property. A court can throw out a divorce decree based on financial deception, putting you back in court years after you thought everything was final.
DO ask your attorney if anything doesn't make sense. Your attorney works for you, and should help you understand every part of the divorce process.
DON'T make big plans to take a job in another state or move out of the country until your divorce is final. Your new life could interfere with getting your divorce finalized.
DON'T violate any temporary custody or visitation arrangements. It could make it tougher for you to get the custody or visitation rights you prefer.
DON'T "give away" property to friends or relatives and arrange to get it back later. Hiding property can mean your spouse can take you back to court to settle those assets.
DON'T go it alone. Divorce is complicated, and an attorney can make sure that your interests are protected.
DON’T make wedding plans with your new significant other until your divorce is finalized.
180 day residency in Michigan required of one of the parties.
Friend of the Court becomes involved if there are children or spousal support is requested.
Allegations In a divorce proceeding the only allegation of the grounds for divorce the statute permits is the no-fault grounds, i.e. " there ha been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likely hood that the marriage can be preserved.
Child Custody proceedings are often part of a divorce action but they may be initiated independent of a divorce proceedings. A married parent may independently commence an action for child support as long as there is no divorce or separate maintenance proceedings.
OTHER PARTIES Generally it is beyond the jurisdiction of the divorce court to adjudicate third- party rights regarding property. An example is a car loan with both names on it. One may be ordered to pay it in the divorce but both can be sued by the lien holder.
Filing and Serving the Divorce/Dissolution Petition
The divorce complaint is a legal document that is filed in court by a spouse who seeks a divorce. This complaint informs the court of the filing spouse's (called the "petitioner") desire to end the marriage, and its filing with the court signifies the initiation of the divorce process. Once the divorce/dissolution petition has been "served" on the petitioner's spouse, it also notifies him or her that the divorce process has begun.
Contents of the Divorce/Dissolution Petition: Information and Requests
A complaint typically contains the following information:
Identification of the spouses by name and address;
Date and place of marriage;
Identification of children of the marriage;
Acknowledgment that the petitioner and/or his or her spouse have lived in the state or county for a certain amount of time prior to filing the petition;
Grounds for divorce;
Declaration or request as to how the petitioner would like to settle finances, property division, child custody, visitation, and other issues related to divorce.
A divorce complaint should be as neutral a document as possible. Inflammatory language can
open up wounds that will never heal.

Do you need help now? Call 810 235-1970 !

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970
Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

#3 Child Support, Friend of the court and getting help with unpaid child support!

Do you need help now?

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970
Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.

Since the mid-1980s, not a year has gone by without federal and state politicians making proclamations about unpaid child support. Like the perennial "War on Crime," progress to improve child support collection is slow and new laws are not a full solution to the problem. What is needed is an aggressive use of current laws to protect children and relieve the hardship of a newly single parent with limited income. The Office of Friend of the Court is the parents advocate. There is no position , short of a judge, that can do more to protect children in a divorce. The importance of the next person selected to serve in this position cannot be overstated.

Did you know the Census Bureau reports that only about half of the parents entitled to receive child support receive the full amount that is due.

About one-quarter of parents to whom support is due receive partial payments, and the other one-quarter receive nothing at all. The Census Bureau estimates that each year, about $10 billion dollars in court-ordered child support is not paid.

In addition to that, there are several million mothers who have not obtained orders of child support for their children. A high proportion of those women had children out of wedlock.
For women who actually receive child support, the average amount owed is $3,767 per year, or about $314 per month. (These are 1995 figures--the last year in which a complete survey was done.)

Non-payment by fathers is not the only child support enforcement problem. Prosecutors who handle support collections estimate that between 2 and 5 percent of their cases involve mothers who did not pay their child support obligations. Mothers' payment rates are worse than fathers'. 57 percent of mothers pay all or a portion of their court-ordered child support payments; 70 percent of fathers pay all or a portion of their court-ordered child support payments.

Payment of child support correlates with visitation with time spent with the child. The Census Bureau reports that 74 percent of fathers with joint custody or visitation paid child support, whereas only 35 percent of fathers without joint custody or visitation paid support.

The cost of trying to collect unpaid child support is substantial. According to the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement, in Fiscal Year 1997, child support enforcement agencies spent $3.4 billion to collect about $13.3 billion in child support. In other words, each dollar of administrative costs generated about $3.91 of child support payments (although some portion of child support payments would have been made without involvement of an enforcement agency).

Child Support Enforcement

State and federal governments have a variety of techniques for enforcing payments of child support. The most common is a wage deduction order, by which an employer sends a portion of the obligor-parent's wages to a state agency that then sends the money to the parent who has custody of the child.

Enforcing Court Orders for Support and Parenting Time

When a parent does not meet the child support obligation, the friend of the court office works to enforce the support order. Federal and state laws provide a variety of enforcement measures to encourage or force compliance with the support order. Parents who are in arrears on child support may be subject to the use of one or more of the following enforcement tools available to the enforcing agency:

Contempt of court (Show Cause) hearing

If support is not paid on time, the friend of the court or a party may begin a contempt action (known as a "show cause" hearing) by filing papers requiring the payer to appear in court.
If the court finds the payer in contempt, the court may require a payment toward child support or commit the person to jail. If it appears to the court that the payer may be confined to jail, the court is required to appoint an attorney for payers who cannot afford private counsel.

If a payer does not appear for a "show cause" hearing, the judge may issue a bench warrant for the payer arrest, so that he or she may be brought before the court. Once a bench warrant is issued, the duty to arrest usually lies with local law enforcement agencies. A bench warrant issued for failure to appear for a contempt of court hearing is only valid within the State of Michigan.

Consumer (Credit Bureau) reporting

The friend of the court must report to a consumer reporting agency (credit bureau) the arrearage amount for each payer with two or more months of support arrearage. Lenders will often obtain a credit report from a consumer reporting agency when deciding whether to extend credit. If the credit report shows a history of untimely support payments or a large arrearage, the report may result in a denial of a loan or other credit.

New Hire reporting

Employers must report basic information about all their newly hired employees to the Michigan New Hire Reporting Center. Each state child support computer system receives data provided through new hire reporting. The child support office staff use the information to locate noncustodial parents and to establish or modify child support orders.

Driver license suspension

Driver licenses may be suspended for noncustodial parents who:
Are at least three months behind in paying their child support obligations.
Are not in compliance with a payment plan.

Before a driver license is suspended, the noncustodial parent is notified in writing. The parent can avoid a license suspension by showing that there is a mistake regarding the amount of the arrearage or by entering into an agreement accepted by the court for the payment of the arrearage.

Occupational license suspension

Noncustodial parents who are working in occupations that require a license from state, county, or municipal boards or agencies (e.g., electrician, real estate, barber, plumber) may have their licenses suspended if they:

Are at least three months behind in paying their child support obligations.

Are not in compliance with a payment plan.

Noncustodial parents receive notice of a pending suspension and can request a hearing before the license is suspended.

Recreational license suspension

Passport denial

Passport applications may be denied when noncustodial parents:

Are at least $5,000 past due in their child support obligations.

Are not in compliance with a payment plan.

The U.S. State Department reviews passport applications to see if past due child support is owed.

Tax refund intercept

The child support office can collect past due child support from a parent state income tax refund. It can also intercept federal income tax refunds and rebates.
To obtain assistance with enforcing a child support order, contact your local friend of the court.
Other income
If a noncustodial parent owes past due child support, the child support office may take periodic or lump sum payments the noncustodial parent receives from state or local agencies, including:
Unemployment insurance
Workers compensation
Lottery winnings


A lien is a claim against real or personal property. Once a person holding the property is informed of the lien, that person must not allow the property to be sold or transferred until the lien is released.

Property (including assets held in financial institutions) can be seized and the proceeds used to satisfy child support arrearages if the payer is over one year behind in child support arrearages.
If you have questions regarding the enforcement of a court order for custody, parenting time, or support.

Beginning in 1994, all new child support orders were required to provide for an automatic deduction from the obligor's wages. The wage deduction takes effect immediately unless the parties have agreed otherwise or unless a court waives immediate deductions from wages.

Even with such a waiver or agreement, the order must provide that a wage deduction will begin without returning to court if the person owing child support falls more than thirty days behind in payments. Wage withholding can be used to collect current support as well as past-due support.
Wage deduction orders are effective in collecting support if the parent is regularly employed and does not change jobs frequently.

If the parent loses a job, there is, of course no wage from which to make a deduction. If the parent changes jobs, the new employer must be served with a deduction notice before wages are withheld.

If a parent is self-employed, the parent is still obliged to send payments, but the person to whom support is due cannot look to an independent employer to make sure that payments are sent on time.

For parents who are behind in support payments, the state also can intercept federal and state tax refunds. This is a useful remedy if the obligor-parent has a sizeable refund due. If the obligor filed a joint income tax return with a new spouse, the new spouse can show the enforcement authorities the portion of the income tax refund that belongs to him or her so that the spouse's portion of the refund will not be intercepted. As a matter of pragmatics, the tax intercept usually is helpful for only one year. Once an obligor-parent has had a substantial tax refund seized, that parent often adjusts deductions of taxes from wages so that refunds in future years will be minimal.

In addition to seizing tax refunds, states also can place liens on property, such as real estate and automobiles to obtain past-due support.

Another penalty that states may impose on parents who have not paid support is a finding of contempt of court. A finding of contempt of court means that the person charged with contempt has willfully not done something that he or she has been ordered to do by the court--in this case, to pay child support.

A finding of contempt of court can result in a fine, a jail term, or both. If the parent cannot pay support for a good reason, such as loss of a job without fault of the parent, a court will not find the parent in contempt, but the obligation to pay support continues.

To enforce child support orders when the child lives in one state and the obligor lives in another state, the laws can be used to establish support orders and collect payments. The main law in this areas is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

State's attorneys or district attorneys are available to help with collection of child support, though their efficiency varies from district to district. Some parents to whom support is due have complained of delays in handling of support claims. States attorneys provide their services at no costs to parents who are receiving public aid. For parents who do not receive public aid, the states attorney also can provide assistance, but a small charge (usually less than $25) may apply.

Private attorneys can help parents with collection of child support.

The attorney's normal rates will apply, although some attorneys may be willing the handle the case for a contingency fee , which means the lawyer will take a portion of whatever is collected, but the client will not have to pay the attorney if nothing is collected. The permissibility of contingency fees to collect past-due support varies from state to state. The amount of the contingency fee also varies, but a payment to the attorney of one-third of the amount collected is a common arrangement.

Attorney fees also can be assessed against the party who was supposed to pay support, but did not. In that case, the parent who was supposed to pay support will pay for the attorney of the other parent in addition to his or her own attorney fees.

Another way of collecting past-due child support is to use a collection agency. Some collection agencies will handle collection of child support just as they handle collection of business debts or credit card debts. Collection agencies usually charge a contingency fee. Collection agencies can be found through the Yellow Pages (particularly the "Business" volume of the Yellow Pages, if there is a separate volume for business-related services).

Although prosecutors involved in punishing parents who do not pay child support usually work for state or county governments, federal prosecutors can get involved too. In 1992, Congress passed the Child Support Recovery Act, which makes it a federal crime to willfully fail to pay child support to a child who resides in another state if the past-due amount has been unpaid for over one year or exceeds $5,000. Punishments under the federal law include up to six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for a first offense, and up to two years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for a repeat offense.

Federal prosecutors are not the primary enforcers of past-due child support payments. Most U.S. Attorneys prefer to use their resources for larger scale criminal activity, although they will pursue some of the more egregious cases. For parents seeking government help in collecting child support, local prosecutors are likely to have more to offer than federal prosecutors, unless the amount of past-due support is very large and the obligor lives in a different state than the parent to whom support is due.

Most parents who owe support do not make a such career out of avoiding support obligations. Nonetheless enforcement of support can be difficult.

As noted earlier, one of the most commonly used tools for collecting support--automatic deduction for the obligor's wages works only if the parent to whom support is due or the government know where the obligor is working and the obligor's employer has been served with papers ordering the employer to deduct child support payments from wages.

Serving an employer with a deduction order is a simple process; it generally can be done by mail. But first, the government or parent to whom support is owed needs to know where the employer is.

Another technique to try to force payment of child support is to make the granting or renewal of certain types of licenses contingent on payment of support. If an obligor does not pay support, the obligor could lose his or her driver's license or professional license (such as a license to practice law or medicine or work as a barber, beautician, or plumber).

Maine was one of the first states to enact legislation to make licensing contingent upon payment of child support. Maine reported that as of early 1995, it collected approximately $25 million in past-due support as a result of the program. Maine found that the threat of license revocation often was enough to induce prompt payment. Of 21,000 persons who received warning letters from the state, well more than half of those persons made payments or entered into a written agreements to make payments. After the warning letters were sent out, only 400 parents received formal notice that their licenses would be revoked in twenty-one days and, of those, forty-one actually lost their licenses.

Proponents of making licensing contingent upon payment of child support like the comparative simplicity of the approach. Revocation (or threats of revocation) of licenses can be handled administratively. In some states, such as Maine, court hearings are not necessary as they are with some other remedies, such as actions for contempt of court.

Opponents of programs such as Maine's are concerned that an administrative system may not adequately take into account the hardship to an obligor who has lost a job or lost income and cannot afford to pay. If an obligor's professional license is revoked, the obligor's ability to pay may be harmed further.

The following is a checklist of techniques for collection of past-due child support:
Wage withholding orders--These are entered by a court and served on the employer of the parent who owes support. (The person who owes support is called the "obligor") The employer sends payments to the government, which then sends support payments to the parent to whom support is owed.
Tax refund intercepts--The government sends a notice to the Internal Revenue Service or the state department of revenue, directing that the obligor's tax refund be sent to the government for payment of support.
Liens on property--A lien can be placed on the real estate, automobile, or other property of the obligor. If support is not paid, the property can be confiscated and sold. Alternatively, the lien may stay on the property until it is sold by the obligor, at which point, the debt must be paid before the obligor receives any proceeds from the sale.
Contempt of court--The person to whom support is due or the government can ask a court to hold the obligor in contempt of court for willful failure to pay support. If found guilty of contempt of court, the obligor can be jailed, fined, or both.
Collection agencies--Some collection agencies are willing to help collect past-due support, just as they collect past-due commercial debts. Collection agencies usually charge a portion of the amount collected.
Revocation of licenses--States will revoke the driver's license or professional licenses of persons who have not paid child support.
Interstate collections--In addition to the remedies just listed, state and federal statutes are available to facilitate enforcement of support orders when the obligor and the person to whom support is due live in different states. State and federal prosecutors can help with interstate collections.

By Attorney Terry Ray Bankert 810 235-1970
Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Child Neglect, Flint Michigan USA Lawyer.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

#2 Money and Property in marraige and divorce.

By Terry Bankert Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony. Flint Michigan Lawyer.

Most property that is acquired during marriage is considered marital or community property.

For example, wages earned by the husband and wife during marriage generally are considered marital property. If one or both spouses buy a house or establish a business during the marriage, that usually will be marital property, particularly if the house or business is purchased with the husband's and wife's earnings.

Separate property is property that each spouse owned before the marriage. Separate property also includes inheritances and gifts (except perhaps gifts between spouses) acquired during marriage. During and after the marriage, each spouse may keep control of his or her separate property. Each spouse may buy, sell, and borrow money on his or her separate property. Income earned from separate property, such as interest, dividends, or rent generally are classified separate property. However, in some states that recognize community property, these profits may become marital property.

Separate property can become marital property if it is mixed with marital property. If, for example, a wife owned an apartment building before the marriage and she deposited rent checks into a joint checking account, the rent money probably would become marital property, although the building is likely to remain the wife's separate property as long as she kept it in her name. If the wife changed the title on the building from her name alone to the names of both herself and her husband, that probably would convert the building into marital property. In addition, if one spouse put a great deal of work into the other spouse's separate property, that could convert the separate property into marital property, or it could give the spouse who contributed the work a right to some form of payback.

A husband and wife may own property together during the marriage. This occurs automatically in community property states. Ten states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as Puerto Rico, use the community property system. These jurisdictions hold that each spouse shares equally the income earned and property acquired during a marriage. This is true even if one spouse supplied all the income. In the other states, spouses generally share property under one of the following three forms of co-ownership

Joint tenancy. A form of ownership that exists when two or more people own property that includes a right of survivorship. Each person has the right to possess the property. If one partner dies, the survivor becomes the sole owner. Any two people--not just spouses--may own property as joint tenants. A creditor may claim the debtor's interest in joint tenancy property.

Tenancy by the entirety. Allowed only in some states, tenancy by the entirety is a type of co-ownership of property by a husband and wife. Like joint tenancy, it includes a right of survivorship. But a creditor of one spouse may not attach (seize) the property. Each party usually must consent to the sale of the property. Divorce may result in a division of the property.

Tenancy in common. This form of co-ownership gives each person control over his or her share of the property, and the shares need not be equal. The law does not limit tenancy in common to spouses. A tenancy in common has no right of survivorship; when one spouse dies, his or her share passes to the heirs, either by will or state laws.

Q : May one spouse make a tax-free gift to the other spouse?
A : A person may give his or her spouse any amount of money without paying federal gift taxes if the spouse is a U.S. resident. However, it must be an outright gift or set up as a proper trust.

Most, but not all, state laws have done away with taxes on gifts between spouses. But the same is not true with respect to gifts to other family members. Gifts to children or other relatives may be taxable if they exceed a certain amount per year.

Q : Is a wife or husband liable for the other's business debts?
A : Usually, no--unless the husband or wife had co-signed on the debt or they reside in a community property state. It is common, however, for institutions that lend money to small businesses to want personal guarantees of payment from the owner of the business, and not just from the business itself. In the event the debt is not paid, lenders would like as many pockets to reach into as a possible. If the owner of the business owns a home, the lender may want to use the home as collateral for the business loan. That means that the spouse of the business owner may be asked to sign a paper allowing use of the home as collateral. Thus, the home could be lost if the business cannot pay off its debts. As long as a spouse does not co-sign for the business debts, the spouse normally will not be liable for business debts incurred by his or her mate. An exception may exist in community property states.

Q : May a couple file jointly for bankruptcy?
A : Yes. Bankruptcy provides relief for people who have more debts than they can pay.

Q : Must a working spouse provide a pension for a dependent spouse?
A : The law does not specifically require this, but most pension plans provide for it. Also, depending upon the type of pension plan, a dependent spouse is given certain rights under federal law regarding the working spouse's pension benefits.

Q : Do a spouse's credit rights depend on marital status or the other spouse's financial status?
A : The law forbids denying credit on the basis of marital status.

Q : Do the tax laws penalize married couples?
A : That depends on the tax bracket of each person. If one has a high taxable income and the other a relatively low taxable income, they will generally pay less income tax if they are married and filing a joint return than they would pay if single and filing as single persons. They also will pay less by filing a joint return than by filing separate returns (as married persons). For couples in which both wife and husband have a high income, the total tax will be higher for those who file jointly.
Years ago, there were stories about financially well-off married couples who would go to the Caribbean each December, obtain a divorce, file tax returns as single persons for that year to save money, and then remarry in the new year. Such a practice could be regarded as tax fraud. In any case, the savings are not as great as they were in years past.

Q : Is a husband or wife liable for the debts of the other without co-signing for the debt?
A : That again depends on the nature of the debt and where the couple lives. Some states have "family expense statutes" that make a husband or wife liable for expenses incurred for the benefit of the family, even if the other spouse did not sign for or approve of the expense in advance. Still other states impose this family expense obligation by common law without a statute. Thus, if the wife charged groceries at a local store or took the couple's child to a doctor for care, the husband could be liable because these are expenses for the benefit of the family. On the other hand, if the wife runs up bills for a personal holiday or the husband buys expensive coins for his coin collection, the other spouse normally would not be liable unless he or she co-signed for the debt. Again, in community property states, a husband or wife is generally obligated for the debts of the other.

Q : Is a husband or wife responsible for debts incurred by the other?
A : That depends on the nature of the debt as well as where the couple live. If both husband and wife have co-signed for the debt, both will be responsible for paying it. For instance, assume the husband and wife apply together for a charge card. If both sign the application form and promise to pay the charge bills, both will be responsible for paying off the balance to the credit card company or store, even if only one of them made the purchases and the other disapproved. Similarly, if a husband and wife co-sign on a mortgage for a home, both of them are potentially liable to the mortgage company, even if one of them no longer lives in the home. In community property states, a husband and wife may likewise be responsible for debts incurred by the other.

Q : Is one spouse responsible for debts the other spouse brought into the marriage?
A : Not in most states. In states that do not recognize community property, such debts belong to the spouse who incurred them. But in community property states, a spouse may, under special circumstances, become liable for the other spouse's premarital debts.


#1 What is Marraige?

#1 Marriage Basics, What is Marriage?

By Attorney Terry Bankert , Flint MI. Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Alimony!

The CPS Courier , Concerned Pastors for Social Action in Flint MI, has offered me the opportunity to share with you my thought about Divorce and Family Law In Geneses County MI USA. I am very grateful. I try to focus my divorce client to look at what is in the best for their children and what is fair. Best and fair can be understood by most people in a divorce with a little education. But before we talk of divorce we should talk about marriage. Here I give the secular view.

What is Marriage?

Most states define marriage as a civil contract between a man and woman to become husband and wife.

The moment a man and woman marry, their relationship acquires a legal status. Married couples have financial and personal duties during marriage and after separation or divorce. State laws determine the extent of these duties. As the United States Supreme Court said about marriage in 1888: "The relation once formed, the law steps in and holds the parties to various obligations and liabilities."

Of course, marriage is a private bond between two people, but it is also an important social institution.

Today, society also recognizes marriage as:
a way to express commitment, strengthen intimate bonds, and provide mutual emotional support;
a (comparatively) stable structure within which to raise children;
a financial partnership in which spouses may choose from a variety of roles. Both spouses may work to support the family, the husband may support the wife, or the wife may support the husband.

As our society becomes more complex, there is no longer a short answer to the question "What is marriage?" Definitions and opinions of the proper functions of marriage continue to change. The women's rights movement and gay rights movement have changed some people's ideas of marriage and created new forms of relationships, including "domestic partnerships" and "civil unions" for same-sex couples. Marriage will remain, but it will also continue to evolve.

Marriage Rights and Benefits

Whether or not you favor marriage as a social institution, there's no denying that it confers many rights, protections, and benefits -- both legal and practical. Some of these vary from state to state, but the list typically includes:

Tax Benefits

Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Estate Planning Benefits

Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.

Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.

Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse's behalf.
Government Benefits

Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.

Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.

Receiving public assistance benefits.

Employment Benefits

Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.

Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.

Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.

Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse's close relatives dies.
Medical Benefits

Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.

Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Death Benefits

Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
Making burial or other final arrangements.

Family Benefits

Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.

Applying for joint foster care rights.

Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.

Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Housing Benefits

Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."

Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Consumer Benefits

Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.

Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.

Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Other Legal Benefits and Protections

Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).

Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can't force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.

Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.

Obtaining domestic violence protection orders.

Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.

Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.