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Erika Anderson Hayes and Cassandra Smithers currently are leading the divorce and family law division of the law firm.  Both have developed a reputation among their fellow attorneys, judges and clients alike for handling divorce cases with the "appropriate amount of aggression".  This means that if the time comes where you need a lawyer ready to fight for what means the most to you, you will have an aggressive advocate in your corner, but both Erika and Cass work using the philosophy that the first  goal is to obtain fair and equitable results with the least amount of conflict.

If you have found this page, you are probably looking for some immediate answers. The best way to get the most accurate information about divorce, custody and family matters is to meet with Erika or Cass since each case is unique, but in order to answer some FAQs you might have in advance, please see below.     


This section answers questions we often hear from you at the start of the divorce process. We want to answer your questions as directly as possible and therefore we have provided general responses that might not apply to your specific case.


How long will my divorce take? If your case includes kids, the Judge can't finalize your divorce for 6 months.  If there are no kids involved, it is 2 months.

How much will my divorce cost? The filing fee is $150.00, plus an additional $80.00 for divorces with kids. Lawyer fees vary based on how much work is involved. If parties work together and are reasonable, lawyer fees are usually economical.

Do I need a lawyer? No, a lawyer is not required to file out paperwork to file a divorce. Most people prefer to hire a lawyer though to make sure things are done correctly.

Can my spouse and I share a lawyer? No, a lawyer is not allowed by the Michigan Rules of Ethics to represent both sides in a divorce case.  It is not required that both parties have a lawyer.  Sometimes only one party does.

It is possible for the parties, if neither party, or even just one party has a lawyer to resolve all their divorce issues through mediation.  Attorney Ed Jackson is a trained mediator that specializes in resolving divorce cases for parents.  For more information on our mediation services please click the mediation link at the top of the page.  

Does it matter who files first? Usually it does not. Sometimes there are some strategical reasons to file or not file first though.

Where does my divorce get filed? Usually the County where you live.

How quickly can my divorce get filed? Usually the necessary paperwork takes about a week to complete.

What happens if I move out of the house? Would that be considered abandonment of my kids?
If you move out, you do not give up your right to move back or get property later.  It is not considered abandonment of your kids either.  Unless your safety is an issue, you should probably hold off on moving out until you discuss how this might impact your case though. 

Will either my spouse or I have to move out of the house when the divorce is filed? Not unless one of you files a motion asking the Judge to order it, or there is some other order preventing one of you from being present (like a criminal bond condition or personal protection order).

Should I start selling things or transferring things into/out of my name? Normally the answer is no. 

What is the difference between child support and spousal support? Child support is to support the kids.  Alimony is to support the spouse.

What is the difference between spousal support and alimony? People use both of these words to describe support for the spouse, and there is no difference.

Does everyone have to pay spousal support? No. It will depend on a lot of different factors.  You can see more details by clicking the "Divorce Information" button at the top of this page.

Does everyone have to pay child support? In most cases with kids, one side is going to pay child support.

How much will child support be? This will depend mostly on how much money each spouse earns and where the kids live. There is a specific formula used.  Our office has a computer program to calculate the amount. 

Do only women receive spousal support? No.  Gender is not a factor.

What is the Friend of the Court? It is the name of the office at the Courthouse that primarily deals with custody, visitation and child support.  Sometimes they also deal with alimony.

Do we have to use Friend of the Court? No. If certain conditions are met, you and your spouse can choose to not have the Friend of the Court involved.

Who are the judges?

In Clinton County, they are Lisa Sullivan, Michelle Rick, and Randy Tahvonen.  

In Gratiot County, they are Kristin Bakker, Michelle Rick, and Randy Tahvonen.
For other counties, check the county website and look for the list of circuit court judges or family division judges.

How often will I have to go to Court? In some cases, you never go to Court!  In other cases, you spend a lot of time in Court. It depends on whether you and your spouse can figure out your differences or if you need a Judge to do it for you.

My spouse had an affair, does that mean I get more of the property? Who caused the divorce can be a factor in how property is divided, but it usually is not as big of a factor as you may think.

I had an affair, will I lose my children? No, normally you will not lose your children. There might be an order that the person you had the affair with is not allowed to be present when your children are with you.

My spouse does not want the divorce, will I still be able to get divorced? Yes.

What does the term “No-Fault" Divorce mean? It has nothing to do with property division. It means that neither side has to show who was at fault for the divorce to be granted.

Will my child have to testify in Court? It is very unusual for a child of any age to have to ever have to testify in open court.  Your child might have to be interviewed privately though.
What is legal custody? It is which parent has authority to make decisions about the children such as medical treatment, where they go to school, or what activities they are involved in.  Usually, both parents still have a say in these decisions.

Does the judge always just order that the kids live with their mother? No, the judge will try to figure out what living arrangement is best for the kids, and that means making sure that the kids have a bond with both parents.

Does joint custody mean the same thing as 50/50 custody? No, parents can have joint custody and not have exactly the same amount of time with the kids.

Will the judge allow my spouse and I to reach our own agreement about our kids? In most cases, not only will the judge allow it, but hopes that the parents can make their own agreement. 

Will the judge allow my spouse and I to agree to divide our property without having a trial?  Usually, property division is completed without a trial.  Sometimes mediation is used where the parties work with the help of mediator to settle things. 

Will my spouse take all my retirement in my divorce? Normally, no this does not happen.  Your retirement is an asset that will probably be divided in an equitable way though.

Can I get a portion of my spouse's retirement? Usually, yes, you will receive an equitable portion of it. 

Will there be a lot of taxes we have to pay? Normally, what you receive as your assets in a divorce does not create tax liabilities.

What is a legal separation? In Michigan it is called "Separate Maintenance".  It is a way to do everything you normally do in a divorce, but still not be considered divorced. It is used in very rare circumstances.

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