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DIVORCE 14: A temporary order remains in effect until modified or until the entry of the final judgment of divorce.

In this case, the facts of the divorce are relatively straightforward. Plaintiff and defendant married in June 2007, shortly after which defendant gave birth to the couple’s child. Both parties testified at trial to a marriage characterized by mutual physical and verbal abuse, and each party testified that the other spent too much money on his or her respective vice. Plaintiff filed for divorce in August 2014; at the time, he was 56 years old and defendant was 48 years old. The following month, the trial court entered an order requiring plaintiff to pay for the marital home mortgage, taxes and utilities, his car note, and credit card indebtedness, and defendant to pay for her car note, child care costs and her individual needs; the parties were to share the cost of groceries.

Plaintiff and defendant continued to live in their house until December 2014, when plaintiff moved out following a domestic violence incident. In response to defendant’s motions for temporary support, the trial court entered an order in March 2015 requiring plaintiff to pay defendant $1,100 a month.

Plaintiff raises some issues with regard to spousal support.

Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in extending the status quo beyond entry of the JOD. Pursuant to MCR 3.207(C)(5), a temporary order remains in effect until modified or until the entry of the final judgment or order.  Prior to entry of the final version of the JOD, defendant filed a motion asking the trial court, among other things, to continue the temporary support order until sale of the marital house and to delay the onset of plaintiff’s child and spousal support obligations accordingly. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and incorporated this request into the JOD. Thus, the JOD either modified the temporary support order by extending it until the closing on the sale of the marital home and delaying the onset of plaintiff’s support obligations accordingly.

Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for 14 months’ credit against his spousal support obligation, arguing that the court should not penalize him for defendant’s role in extending the proceedings beyond what was reasonably necessary by bringing a third party into the suit on baseless fraud and conspiracy claims. We agree that defendant played no small part in extending the divorce proceedings. However, the argument overlooks plaintiff’s role in expanding the scope, duration, and expense of the trial by claiming that he and defendant owed the third party $300,000 pursuant to a promissory note that clearly obligated plaintiff alone.

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FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

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FAMILY LAW 77: Court awarded plaintiff sole legal custody; defendant was unwilling to work with plaintiff.

For joint custody to work, parents must be able to agree with each other on basic issues in child rearing including health care, religion, education, day to day decision making and discipline and they must be willing to cooperate with each other in joint decision making. If two equally capable parents are unable to cooperate and to agree generally concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of their children, the court has no alternative but to determine which parent shall have sole custody of the children.

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