Grand Rapids Divorce Lawyer | Grand Rapids Divorce Attorney

Over 44 years of experience specializing in divorce and child custody in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

One of the most stressful and painful times in a person's life, divorce is the legal termination of a marital relationship. With all of the emotions and turmoil occurring, making the right decisions can be difficult. For over 44 years, Grand Rapids divorce lawyer Robert B. Relph has helped clients through the divorce process, assisting in the decision making process to work toward the goal of starting your new life.

No two divorce cases are the same. Each will require a customized solution; a cookie cutter approach just won't work. It is our goal to hear your story, and understand your situation right from the beginning. Using this information we are able to use our extensive experience to help set realistic goals and expectations for the outcome of your case, which will ultimately help you move on with your life.

When Children are Involved

When children are involved in a divorce case, a new dynamic emerges. Parents want the best for their children, and many times the dynamics of the separation or divorce changes from spouse vs. spouse to what is best for the children. We understand, and will always keep this in mind when working through each case.

Issues to be Decided

During a divorce there are many significant issues which must be decided, including:

Before final decisions are made about these issues, the Judge assigned to your case will typically strongly encourage you and your spouse to settle out of court, usually by way of mediation. Many times, cases settled out of court leave each party feeling more positive about the settlement than if a Judge imposed a decision on them. Our office encourages mediation as well, and will assist clients in understanding and best utilizing the mediation process.

Court Trials

Trials in court are not the norm, occurring in less than 10% of cases. There are a number of methods available for dispute resolution, such as mediation, which are typically more productive and less stressful and less costly. In fact, judges expect substantial efforts by the attorneys and their clients to resolve disputes without going to trial.

This is not to suggest certain cases should not be tried in court if there are significant unresolved issues. In some cases there is simply no choice but to go to trial. However, it is beneficial to retain an attorney with the experience to know when to settle a case versus taking the case to trial. Robert B. Relph has both settled and tried numerous cases throughout his career; experience that will provide you with the proper advice in such decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers below are intended to provide general information with regard to common questions on divorce based on laws in the State of Michigan. They are not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with a divorce specialist or attorney.

Similarly, since every case is different we recommend consulting with a divorce specialist or attorney for advice related to your specific set of circumstances.

Prior to 1970, Michigan had a fault basis for divorce, which meant that a divorce could be denied to the filing party if the non-filing party could prove that the filing party was at fault for the break down of the marriage. The filing party could also attempt to prove that the non-filing party was at fault. Because fault was an inappropriately serious issue prior to 1970, parties often engaged in blackmail with one another in an attempt to get a more favorable settlement, claiming that they would attempt to prove fault against the other party.

The no-fault divorce law was introduced in Michigan around 1970. No longer must fault be proven to obtain a divorce. However, major fault can still be a factor in custody, spousal support and property settlement. Typically, judges are not interested in fault unless it is very serious and/or repeated bad conduct. For this reason, most divorces today do not involve the issue of fault.

Technically, one does not need a lawyer to file for divorce. However, except in the simplest cases involving no minor children, very little property and a relatively short-term marriage, it is not advisable to represent oneself in a divorce proceeding.

The court cost to file for a divorce is a $150 filing fee. If a lawyer is involved the attorney fee can vary widely, depending on the complexities of the case, and the ability to resolve issues in the case without constant contentious arguments. Attorney fees in a divorce should be carefully discussed at the initial consultation with the attorney. If one hires an attorney, a fee agreement is always appropriate, which agreement will outline the rights and responsibilities of the attorney and client, and the attorneys hourly rate.

By Michigan law the minimum waiting period for a divorce without children is sixty days, and for a divorce with children, six months. How long it actually takes to finalize a divorce after the minimum waiting period is directly related to the complexities of the case, and whether or not the parties are able to reach agreements about the various issues in divorce. The typical contested divorce takes from six months to one year.

If there is physical abuse, the abused spouse should obtain a Personal Protection Order prior to filing for divorce. A PPO will immediately separate the parties, and give the abused spouse some security. The lawyer representing an abused spouse could approach the judge about an immediate order protecting the abused spouse. The issue of abuse should be thoroughly explored at the first conference with the attorney.

Infidelity can be considered fault, and could entitle the offended party to a more favorable settlement. However, the offended party must prove that the infidelity caused the break down of the marriage, and was not simply the symptom of an already broken marriage.

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