Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wendy Alton Named 2013 Super Lawyers Rising Star


Wendy Alton has been named to the 2013 Michigan Super Lawyers "Rising Stars" list as one of the top up-and-coming attorneys in Michigan for 2013.  The attorneys named as "Rising Stars" are attorneys who have demonstrated a high degree of professional achievement and peer recognition.  Wendy is an attorney with Ann Arbor Michigan law firm of Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels P.C., and focuses in family law, divorce, custody, probate & estate planning.

Each year, no more than 2.5% of the lawyers in Michigan receive the presitgious honor of being named a "Rising Star."  The selection process begins with a nomination from another lawyer who has personally observed that lawyer in action--either in a courtroom, as a co-counsel or an opposing counsel.  Then, the team at Super Lawyers, A Thomson Reuters business, conducts a rigorous investigation into the nominated attorney's credentials, assigning points based upon a set of defined evaltuation criteria.  This investigation also involves a statewide survey of attorneys and peer review.  The lawyers that rank the highest in this evaluation, survey & peer review are named to the "Rising Stars" list, and again, represent no more than 2.5% of the lawyers in the state of Michigan.

The "Rising Stars" list is published nationwide in the Super Lawyers magazine, and in other national publications, as well as online at the Super Lawyers website.  For more information, visit the website at superlawyers.com.

You can learn more about Wendy and her firm, Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels P.C., on their website:  PSEDLAW.COM.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You can Save your Marriage

This is National Marriage Week, as well as the week we celebrate Valentine's Day. So how successful are marriages here in the state of Michigan?

In 2011, there were 56,159 marriages.  There were 33,940 divorces.  The average length of marriage ending in divorce in Michigan was 9 years.  (the 2012 figures have not yet been released).

How can you read those numbers and not be discouraged?  Why are our marriages failing and in so short of a time?

One thing that couples can do is commit to counseling--particularly couple's marriage counseling.

Back in 2011, in order to understand the effectiveness of marriage counseling, even with couples who are going through a divorce, I spoke with Dr. Gail Majcher, a Northville psychologist.

Wendy Alton: “Dr Gail, what are your thoughts on marriage counseling before a couple files for divorce?”

Dr. Gail: “Marriage counseling is a good idea for the majority of cases. In fact, many of my couples have already filed for divorce when they first come in. I think the downfall is that it should not be implemented for abuse cases. Sometimes abuse in a marriage is well hidden and difficult to discover.”

Wendy Alton: “Dr. Gail, how common is marriage counseling and is there any sort of success rate?”

Dr. Gail: “I have a masters degree in marriage counseling as well as a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Over the last 30 years of my practice, marriage counseling constitutes about 30% of my cases. The marriage counseling that I conduct is intense and includes homework for the couple so the process can go faster. My success rate for married couples is at least 70%.”

As a divorce lawyer, I have to admit that the 70% success rate is surprising—but also very encouraging. So, from a professional who knows from experience, marriage counseling can absolutely save your marriage, even if you have filed for divorce.


For information, tips, tools and encouragement, visit the National Marriage Week website: http://www.nationalmarriageweekusa.org/


Dr. Gail is a local Northville psychologist, and you can learn more about her on her website: www.DrGail.com. Dr. Gail also published a book called “A Worthy Woman: Victory over Domestic Violence, a True Story and Self-Help Book.” She can also be heard on WJR as the co-host of “Sunday Sessions,” a psychological edu-taining show about mental health issues.

Dr. Gail can be reached at (248) 345-5050, and her office is at 114 Rayson, Suite One D, Northville.


If you are interested in learning more, please call Wendy Alton at 734-665-4441 or email her at walton@psedlaw.com. More information about her firm, Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C., can be found here: www.psedlaw.com.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Estate Planning for Special Needs Families

I was honored to talk with the Down Syndrome Support Team (DSST) in Saline this past Sunday about estate planning when you have special needs in your family.  Many families have children that may require or presently require assistance outside of what the family can provide.  This can be either while the child is still a minor, or when they become an adult.  Unfortunately many of the programs require a "poverty" level economic status--and will not allow qualification unless assets are under a certain amount of money.

However, there are solutions to this potential or real problem, in the form of special needs estate planning.  First, the family can set up an Amenities Trust.  An Amenities Trust is a special type of trust that is designed to provide supplemental benefits to an individual with special needs who may be entitled to SSI (Supplemental Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), and/or Medicaid.  "Amenities" are various sorts of items that are not food or shelter, so it can include non-grocery items, education, transportation, vacation, etc.  It also does not involve a direct transfer of cash.  Amenities Trusts are generally used by parents with special needs children.

A second option is what is called an OBRA 93 Trust.  An OBRA 93 Trust is a special type of Trust that is designed to protect an individual's own assets when that individual has special needs and either receives or qualifies for certain benefits, such as SSI, SSDI or Medicaid.  There are differences between an OBRA 93 Trust and an Amenities Trust, and those should be discussed with a lawyer in order to determine what Trust is more suitable.

It is an honor to assist families with special needs children, and provide them with options so that they can share their love freely and provide for their children even if something happens and they aren't here anymore. 

You can learn more about the Down Syndrome Support Team at their website:  http://www.downsyndromesupportteam.com/.

If you need any information on estate planning or special needs estate planning, feel free to call me at 734-665-4441, or email me at walton@psedlaw.com, or learn more about Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C. at www.psedlaw.com.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reconciliation Once a Divorce is Filed

The celebrity divorce news today was that Kobe and Vanessa Bryant have reconciled and have agreed to dismiss their divorce case.  This is actually a question I hear often from clients--once a divorce has been filed, can it later be dismissed?

In Michigan, we have what is called "no-fault" divorce.  This merely means that anyone can file for a divorce asserting that the marriage cannot be preserved with no other further reason.  In the past, Michigan was a "fault" divorce state, which required that the person filing for divorce prove that the other spouse had been a fault (infidelity, abuse, abandonment, etc). 

Once a person files for divorce, the other spouse is served the divorce paperwork and must file an answer to the divorce complaint and/or retain an attorney to represent them.  If the other spouse does not file an answer then they can be placed in default.

When both spouses are represented by attorneys, or in the case where there is not a default, the only time a divorce can be dismissed is when both of the spouses agree that they want to dismiss it.  That means that both spouses have to agree that they want to reconcile, and both have to either sign the dismissal or instruct their attorneys to do so.

If one spouse is in default, then the spouse that filed can dismiss the divorce case without the consent of the other.  This rarely happens, but is not outside the realm of possibility.

When I speak with my clients, I always make sure that they understand that if they file, there may not be a chance to dismiss it if their spouse refuses to do so.  If you are going to file for divorce, you should expect to see those proceedings until the end. 

While it is rare, I have seen clients reconcile with their spouses and have dismissed the divorce case upon both of them agreeing to do so.  But again, they both must agree.

Read the article on the Christian Post: "Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Call Off Divorce Proceedings: 'We Have Reconciled'"

If you are interested in learning more about divorce or family law, contact If you need any information on family law or divorce, feel free to call me at 734-665-4441, or email me at walton@psedlaw.com.

You can also find out more infomration about our firm at "Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C." (www.psedlaw.com)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why divorce law?

I was honored to be interviewed by the Hometown News, and was able to share a little bit about why I do what I do.  Just because I'm a divorce lawyer doesn't mean that I don't value marriage.  I do. However, realistically, I know that all marriages can't be saved.  I urge my clients to consider reconciliation first.  If that is not successful, I strive to keep character and dignity in the process.

Read the interview here:  "What Area Women Want"

If you need any information on family law or divorce, feel free to call me at 734-665-4441, or email me at walton@psedlaw.com

You can also find out more infomration about our firm at "Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C."  (www.psedlaw.com)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fraud as Basis for Annulment

The Washington Post has reported that the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries divorce has been taking over a year—mostly due to the fact that Kris Humphries is still compiling evidence to support his claim that the marriage should be annulled because of fraud.  But what type of fraud is he actually alleging?  As of right now, no one really knows.

In the state of Michigan, you can end your marriage by filing for one of three things: divorce, separate maintenance (legal separation), or annulment.  An annulment is only granted if the marriage itself was void from the beginning or the marriage is voidable. 

A void marriage in Michigan is a marriage that could not have taken place legally from the beginning.  What this means is that there was consanguinity, affinity, bigamy, minority, incapacity or incompetency.  In simple, plain English, this means the following:
  • Consanguinity:  you married a blood relative prohibited by law.
  • Affinity:  you married a blood relative of your spouse prohibited by law.
  • Bigamy:  you married someone who was already married.
  • Minority:  you or your spouse is under the age of 16, or between 16 and 18 and you didn’t get a parent’s consent.
  • Incapacity & Incompetency:  you or your spouse has a mental illness or is mentally incompetent to the degree that you or your spouse cannot enter into a contract.
Marriages that are void as a matter of law (examples above) can be ended with an annulment.

Voidable marriages in Michigan mean marriages that can be voided for fraud, duress, sterility and impotence.  Sterility and impotence must be incurable.  In order to have your marriage annulled for these reasons, you must file for an annulment within two years of the marriage.  Examples of fraud and duress are as follows:
  • You marry someone to obtain a green card (for immigration purposes only).
  • A person is induced to marry because they are told that a child is biologically theirs, and this turns out not to be true.
  • You marry under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  
  • You marry someone who is barren or sterile and they do not tell you.
  • You marry because you are threatened.  (duress)
The grounds for a voidable marriage must be proven with clear and convincing evidence in order to obtain an annulment.

There are, however, defenses to annulment.  This is particularly so if the spouse finds out about any of the reasons above and still lives with the other person even after finding out.  Cohabitation is a defense, and can overcome any request for an annulment based upon voidable grounds. 

Whether or not Kris Humphries will succeed with an annulment remains to be seen.  Fraud can be difficult to prove, and it is something he has to prove with clear and convincing evidence.  Just the fact that the marriage was short-lived is not a basis in and of itself to seek an annulment.  In any case, it should prove interesting to see if the annulment moves forward or if the court determines that there is no basis, and will only grant a divorce.

Read the Washington Post article here:   Kim Kardashian’s divorce inches towardtrial, star’s attorney says she’s ‘handcuffed’ to ex"

If you are interested in learning more about family law or divorce, or have a question about those issues, please call Wendy Alton at 734-665-4441 or email her at walton@psedlaw.com, or visit the firm's website at www.psedlaw.com.  Wendy Alton is an attorney at the law firm of Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Help for those Struggling with Divorce

As if divorce or separation wasn’t hard enough—along comes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. It is undisputed that those going through the tumultuous process of divorce feel increased depression and despair as the holidays approach. Most people try to manage these feelings themselves and get through the holidays without a support system. However, there is a tremendous amount of help and support for people going through a divorce, especially during the holidays.

There is a valuable website called DivorceCare, and you can click on the website here: www.DivorceCare.org. On this website, you can read articles, watch videos, sign up for daily encouragement emails, and most importantly, find a local support group for yourself, and also find a support group for your children. These groups meet weekly and are free to anyone who wants to attend. The website also has a bookstore with an incredible selection of books.

There is also a special section for people divorcing as we move toward the holidays: www.divorcecare.org/holidays/event. This is a special Surviving the Holidays event (free) that features video instruction and group discussion on how to get through the holidays. If you attend the event, you have the opportunity to talk with other people who are going through the same issues, and also receive a free Holiday Survival Guide.

If you are going through a divorce, a separation, or are facing the holidays for the first time after a divorce, you do not have to go through these holidays alone. You also don’t have to manage feelings of depression or despair by yourself. Look through the materials on the DivorceCare website and find a group to join. There are people eager to help.

For more information, contact Wendy Alton at 734-665-4441 or at walton@psedlaw.com.