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January 2017 Archives

Military Divorces Just Got Harder

The following is a re-post of a letter sent to members of the Family Law Listserve by Col. Mark E. Sullivan, author of the "Military Divorce Handbook."
It outlines a major change in a federal law that will impact property division in every divorce cause involving a member of the military. 

Updated Statute Removes Hurdle For Stepparent Adoption

Many family law practitioners were shocked when, in the case of In re AJR, the Court of Appeals construed the provisions of MCL 710.51(6) to mean that a stepparent adoption could not occur when the parents of the minor child at issue shared joint legal custody. This holding (affirmed by the Michigan Supreme Court on June 25, 2014), became a complete bar to stepparent adoptions in situations where parents share joint legal custody. Because joint legal custody is routinely granted by courts -- even in situations where the non custodial parent is not involved the child -- this holding added a new step to the adoption process by requiring that a parent with joint legal custody to petition the court for sole legal custody. As practitioners know, the threshold for changing custody is not an easy one to clear. The decision in AJR thus made it significantly difficult for anyone to obtain a stepparent adoption. This changed in September 2016 when the Legislature amended the statute.

Lame Duck Legislature Abolishes Michigan Dower

In its lame duck session of 2016, the legislature passed a package of bills abolishing Michigan dower. Effective 90 days from the date the bills are signed by the governor and filed with the Secretary of State, transfers of real estate in Michigan will no longer be subject to a potential dower claim (with the exception of property owned by men who die before the effective date). These bills can be found on the Michigan Legislature's website (see SB 558, SB 560 and HB 5520). This package amends MCL 552.101, which required all Judgments of Divorce to address a wife's dower rights. For family lawyers, this means that Judgments of Divorce will no longer contain this language. As a note of interest, Michigan was only one of about 10 states that still had dower and the only state which had dower but not curtsy (a husband's right to an interest in a wife's property). It will be interesting to see how the Michigan probate code will change over the next year or so, given the recent decisions of Obergefell v. Hodges and DeBoer v. Snyder, which held that states must license marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex in another state. 

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