Fighting for you
Going through family related legal issues can be stressful. When facing these challenges, having an attorney who will fight to make sure that your rights are protected every step of the way is key in giving you the advantage in court.
If you are going through family related matters that require legal services, we provide understanding and supportive representation guided by over 25 years of experience serving Metro Detroit.
At the Law Offices of Kim D. Johnson, we specialize in the following:
- Child Custody
- Parenting Time
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
- Personal Protection Order
- Property Protection
- Seperation Agreements
- Prenuptial Agreements
- Postnuptial Agreements
- Order Modification
The cases are heard before a judge, but when children are involved, a friend of the court referee often makes preliminary findings. There are no jury trials in the Family Court, so it is important to know the court’s tendencies because he or she will be making the final call. When children are involved and the issue is who will have primary custody, the court is duty bound to decide based on their best interests. In divorce cases without children, the issues generally concern property, debt, alimony, and retirement benefits.
While each Family case is unique, there are aspects they all have in common. When a case starts, temporary orders are often requested to make sure both parties can live normally. These orders could cover many issues like temporary child support, temporary alimony, a temporary order requiring that one party leave the house, an order preventing a party from cancelling insurance, wiping out bank or retirement accounts, and many other orders designed to keep both parties afloat while the case is winding its way through the system.
If there is a big difference in income such that one party can afford an attorney and the other cannot, the court can also order attorney fees. Once the temporary orders are addressed the case then goes into the discovery phase.
In discovery, questions, called interrogatories, are sent out to the other side usually to obtain financial information like income, home value, value of personal property, debt, and retirement savings. Subpoenas are orders which require an employer or other place with information to provide the requested information within a specific period. Occasionally depositions are used in discovery.
Depositions, often conducted in a lawyer’s office with a court reporter, allows the attorney to question a party under oath. This is especially good if a party changes their story a lot. The transcript from the deposition locks them into a specific position. If they change their story after that they often lose credibility. Social media, emails, text messages, police reports, and Child Protective Services Reports are often downloaded, and submitted as evidence. Basically, anything one can think of which is helpful to the case is discoverable .
When the issue is custody, in Wayne County, courts will often refer a case to a part of the friend of the court called FAME which employs psychologists, to interview the parties separately with the children and issue a recommendation. There are also private psychologists, recognized by the court as experts who can be hired to interview the parties and issue reports to the court.
Following discovery, the parties armed with the relevant information can sit down and try to settle. This can be done by the parties themselves or helped by a mediator. A mediator is generally an expert in family law who listens to both sides and tries to bring the parties together to settle. He or she does not take sides or try to determine who is right or wrong, the job of a mediator is simply to find common ground and settle the issues. If the mediator succeeds, the parties sign an agreement and a judgment is entered based on the agreed upon terms. If the parties do not agree at mediation, the case is sent back to the judge for trial. During mediation, the parties are usually kept apart with their respective attorney’s as the mediator goes back and forth from room to room.
Mediations are favored by Judges because they feel the parties are in a better position to figure what is better for them or if children are involved, what is the best thing to do for the children. However, when the parties cannot agree, the case is set for trial. Before trial, the courts will typically have the parties exchange witness lists, prepare briefs supported by case law which advances their position, and list exhibits they plan to offer into evidence at trial. When the trial starts, each party is allowed to give an opening statement of what they believe the evidence will show. Next witnesses are called, and cross examined and finally a closing argument is given, and the judge makes the decision. Trials are expensive. As a practical matter, most cases settle at mediation.