Susan Dehncke is committed to helping her clients through the difficult issues that arise in divorce, custody disputes and other family law issues. While she believes strongly in assisting her clients to work positively with their ex, she also has the skills to be a fighter in Court if that becomes necessary.

Family Law

There are a broad array of cases which fall under the heading of family law. Those cases include issues involving divorce, custody, child support, parenting time, relocating the family and adoption.

Divorce

Going through a divorce can be an extremely emotional and exhausting process. A divorce is essentially the death of a relationship. When children are involved, the stakes become even higher. Information is the key to navigating a divorce successfully. This is not the time to simply trust your spouse. You need to have your own understanding of your rights and your financial affairs.

The most important issue in a divorce case is personal safety. If you do not feel safe, you should immediately contact an attorney or the AWARE Shelter for assistance in preparing a safety plan. If your safety is immediately threatened, call 9-1-1. Legally, you cannot be forced out of your home without a Court Order but your safety is more important than staying in the home.

In a divorce involving children, both Parties have an equal right to the children until there is a Court Order that says otherwise. This can lead to people engaging in a tug-of-war over possession of the children. The Courts view game playing regarding access to the children with extreme disfavor. Obviously you need to do what must be done to keep the children safe, but if your only concern is that, if you do not keep the children from your spouse, that parent will keep the children from you, all the Court will see is your bad behavior. As much as possible, children should not be put in the middle of fighting parents. Parents are the adults and need to make decisions about what is in the children’s best interests. Frequently I hear, “I’m going to do whatever my child wants” with respect to custody and parenting time. Do not put that burden on your child. They should not have to choose between their parents. They should not have to and are not in the best position to make those difficult, adult decisions.

Whenever someone is contemplating a divorce, or is concerned that their spouse is considering a divorce, one of the first steps is togather information. You should have a copy of tax returns, bank statements, current credit card statements and other bills kept someplace safe. It is helpful to have a credit card that is only in your name so that you always have access to funds.There is a six month waiting period from the time a Complaint is filed until a divorce can be granted in a divorce involving minor children. That waiting period can be shortened if the Court is convinced that there is a good reason to do so. There is a 60 day waiting period for a divorce without children. That 60 days cannot be shortened.

Once the Complaint for Divorce is filed, both sides will work to exchange information in an attempt to reach an agreement as to the division of debts and assets and what will happen with the children. The Court will scheduled both Pretrial and Trial dates. Some Judges require your appearance at the Pretrial. Others do not. I will let you know whether or not you need to attend the Pretrial. The Pretrial is a hearing to determine if the case is going to be resolved or if we will be going to Trial. Problems or issues that might delay the Trial are also addressed at the Pretrial. Most cases are resolved without holding a Trial. If a Trial is necessary, witnesses are called to testify, you will most likely testify and the Judge makes a decision about how everything is divided. Please see the links on the right side of the page for more information regarding divorces in Michigan.

Susan Dehncke will not represent both Parties in a divorce. Even if you have an agreement, there is no way to give legal advice to both Parties equally. You no longer have the same financial interests and need your own advocate to ensure that your rights are protected.

Custody/Parenting Time

Custody and parenting time may be addressed both as part of a divorce or as a separate issue for Parties who are not married. In order for the Court to establish or change custody, the Court is required to address the best interest factors. Those factors are outlined in the document entitled Custody Questionnaire on the right side of this page.

The Court can take immediate action without a hearing if there is an urgent need to protect a child. More typically, the Court does not take any action until after holding an Evidentiary Hearing. It is a lengthy and expensive process.

Child Support

Michigan has a child support formula which dictates how child support is to be determined. Both parents are required to support their children. The actual child support is based on the number of overnights the child spends with each parent along with the difference in income between the Parties. Ms. Dehncke can assist you in running the guidelines and addressing issues regarding how income is counted.