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DIVORCE 24: Court granted plaintiff-ex-wife $58,500 in attorney fees.

Plaintiff and defendant married in 1998 and filed for divorce on May 31, 2014. The parties have two minor children and share joint legal and physical custody. In relevant part, both parties sought attorney fees from each other: defendant sought $45,500.00 in attorney fees and plaintiff sought $104,000.00.

Plaintiff testified that in 2014 she filed a tax return, but she was not employed as a W-2 employee between 2003 and 2014 because she was a stay-at-home mother.

Plaintiff gained employment at Michigan State University as a secretary, making $43,000.00. Plaintiff testified that she incurred a total of $120,949.71 in attorney fees, but she received a discount of $11,075.16 for paying her bill in full by a certain date. In order to pay off the bill and make payments on her home, plaintiff stated that she had to borrow substantial amounts of money from others and liquidate assets at a loss. Plaintiff testified that she was deposed a total of five times throughout the divorce action, and she spent three days in mediation.

However, defendant contended that plaintiff herself drove up costs by failing to produce necessary documents. Defendant particularly cited plaintiff’s failure to bring certain documents pertaining to her income to multiple depositions, although the notice defendant mailed for at least one of those depositions did not provide the full 28 days’ notice required by law.

Defendant’s attorney stated that the total fees incurred by both sides are far beyond what he usually sees in divorce cases. Regarding the reasonableness of five depositions, he testified that he has not conducted five depositions in an average divorce case in the last few years.

The trial court ultimately concluded that it was unreasonable for defendant to continue pursuing information about plaintiff’s income for the purpose of attorney fees. In particular, the trial court indicated that even with the excessive depositions and mediation, the case should have been resolved with 250 hours of attorney work at a rate of $300 an hour. The trial court awarded plaintiff $52,500.00 in attorney fees, and additionally sanctioned defendant $6,000.00 in favor of plaintiff for misconduct that caused plaintiff to incur unnecessary attorney fees.

The trial court concluded that defendant engaged in misconduct that caused plaintiff to incur unnecessary attorney fees. The trial court’s sanction was premised on defendant’s pursuit of the attorney fee issue.

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REAL ESTATE 40: Tax Tribunal denied petitioner’s claim of a principal residence exemption (PRE).

MCL 211.7cc(2) provides that an owner of property can claim the PRE by filing an affidavit that must state that the property is owned and occupied as a principal residence by that owner of the property on the date that the affidavit is signed and shall state that the owner has not claimed a substantially similar exemption, deduction, or credit on property in another state.

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REAL ESTATE 38: Plaintiff fails to make land contract payments.

The land contract stated that T Company sold real property to plaintiff. The land contract further stated that if plaintiff failed to make a monthly payment, T Company could execute the quitclaim deed, thereby terminating plaintiff’s rights to the real property under the land contract.

CONTRACTS 6: Do you understand the clauses in your Purchase Agreement?

The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary disposition, concluding that the claims against the realty companies were barred by the valid release contained in the purchase agreement and that the claims against sellers were required to be resolved in arbitration because they fell within the scope of the arbitration clause in the purchase agreement.

DIVORCE 29: Spousal support in gross is non-modifiable, whereas periodic is subject to modification.

As the name implies, periodic spousal support payments are made on a periodic basis. Periodic spousal support payments are subject to any contingency, such as death or remarriage of a spouse, whereas spousal support in gross is paid as a lump sum or a definite sum to be paid in installments. In addition, one major difference between the two types of spousal support is modifiability. Spousal support in gross is non-modifiable, whereas periodic spousal support is subject to modification pursuant to MCL 555.28.1.

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PROBATE 28: Probate court enters a protective order providing support for a community spouse.

A probate court’s consideration of the couple’s circumstances cannot involve an assumption that the institutionalized spouse should receive 100% free medical care under Medicaid or an assumption that a community spouse is entitled to maintain his or her standard of living. Medicaid is a need-based program, and a Medicaid recipient is obligated to contribute to his or her care.

REAL ESTATE 36: Plaintiff argued that her claim was not time-barred because it did not accrue until the grandmother’s death.

Plaintiff’s interest in the subject property is best characterized as a remainder estate, because her right to possession of the property was postponed until the occurrence of a specific contingency, that being the deaths of the grandparents. Plaintiff pursued this action within the 15-year limitation period; accordingly, this action is not barred by MCL 600.5801(4).

LITIGATION 6: The terms of the agreement prevails over the course of performance.

The trial court determined that under the UCC, the express terms of the parties’ agreements prevailed over the course of their performance and course of dealing. Although a course of performance may show that parties have waived a specific contractual term under MCL 440.1303(6), the statute does not similarly provide that a course of dealing may demonstrate waiver.

PROBATE 27: Petitioner filed a petition for mental-health treatment.

In support of the allegations, petitioner attached clinical certificates from a physician and a psychiatrist who observed respondent at the hospital. Both doctors diagnosed respondent with bipolar disorder, determined that she displayed a likelihood of injuring herself and that she did not understand the need for treatment, and recommended a course of treatment that consisted of 60 days of hospitalization and 90 days of outpatient care.

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FAMILY LAW 32: Trial court committed error in failing to address whether there was an established custodial environment.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court failed to make any findings regarding (1) the child’s established custodial environment, (2) the child’s best interests regarding the grant of primary physical custody to defendant, (3) the child’s best interests with respect to parenting time, and (4) the child’s best interests pertaining to the parties’ dispute over daycare.

PROBATE 25: Daughter removed as personal representative of the estate.

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REAL ESTATE 32: Plaintiffs and defendants executed a second easement.

Plaintiffs requested that the trial court, either through reformation of the First Easement or interpretation of the Second Easement, quiet title in favor of plaintiffs and declare them to be the owners of an easement to access Lake Superior through the ravine on defendants’ property, enjoin defendants from interfering with their use of the easement, and order compensation for damages to the stairs.

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