Same Sex Case Studies

Wood & Associates PLLC is sharing some of the research on specific cases relating to same sex relations when child custody and parenting time is questioned. Our goal is to help inform our clients and provide them research regarding matters that might hit home.

Cannabis Expungement Laws and the Effects You Will Feel

The legalization of marijuana in Michigan started with the approval of medical cannabis in 2008 with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. A decade later came the legalization of recreational use through the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) with sales starting in December 2019.  The Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) the licensure changes for medical and recreational marijuana businesses that came into force April 2021 announced in an Advisory Bulletin.   As with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the implementation of a system that allowed for legalized consumption and retail.  While the drug is legal for consumption, restrictions still exist on where it can be consumed and how much one can possess.

Michigan is set up to have the most extensive clean slate law in the country.  In October 2020, the Michigan legislature adopted a group of bills collectively referred to as the “Clean Slate” package.  Governor Whitmer’s goal was to create a path for residents to clear many cannabis related offenses from their criminal records.  Some of these records will be automatically expunged in 2023, but those with convictions have the ability to petition the convicting court to have them set aside if they were based on an activity that would have no criminal consequences after the 2018 voter-passed initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana went into effect.  Many argue that this is not far enough, pushing Governor Whitmer to investigate and implement technology that can automate the wiping of convictions where appropriate.

Marijuana Use and Family Law

As with any case, there are numerous factors that come into play when deciding child custody and parenting time.  It is possible that a parent could allege that the use of marijuana could contribute to a lifestyle that would be unhealthy or harm the children.  Just as how alcohol is a legal substance, abuse of it can be grounds to claim an unbefitting home life for minor children.  Under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), it is stated that a person “shall not be denied custody or visitation,” for using marijuana in accordance with the outlined provisions, but as in all cases, details may vary.

Marijuana Expungement

Michigan has a statute that allows for the expungement of either a misdemeanor or a felony. The statute is MCL 780.621 and in a nutshell states that a person with not more than 2 minor offenses and one felony may apply to get their record expunged if they meet statutory criteria. A minor offense is defined by punishment of no more than 90 days in jail and being committed at less than 21 years old. However, a person with one misdemeanor and one felony without a third minor offense do not carry the criteria that the minor offense had to occur prior to the 21st birthday, Certain offenses, such as felony domestic violence (if the petitioner has a previous domestic violence conviction), child abuse, and CSC 1-3, and any traffic or moving vehicle violation involving drugs or alcohol. This leaves a great opportunity for anyone who has had a misdemeanor marijuana or felony marijuana charge open to expungement as long as they have no additional felonies or no more than one other minor offense. Now that recreation marijuana is legal in Michigan, it is a great time to petition the Circuit Court to get any marijuana charges off your record. Getting your record cleared up can lead to more job opportunities and college prospects. Call and experienced firm with expungements. Wood and Associates offers consultations for all criminal expungements.

Veteran's Pension Benefits

*The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a Veterans Pension program which provides monthly payments to eligible wartime Veterans who meet disability or age requirements, and who have income within certain limits. There is also a Veterans Pension benefit available to eligible surviving spouses. The other qualifications mandate that the Veteran served on active duty and was not dishonorably discharged. The Veteran must have served at least 90 days on active duty with at least one during wartime. The Veteran must be at least 65 years old, have a permanent disability, or be a patient in a nursing home.

The net worth limit to receive the Veterans Pension benefit is $127,061.00 as of 12-1-2018. The VA looks back for a period of 36 months to see if the eligible Veteran has made any transfers of assets for less than Fair Market Value (FMV). If this occurs, the Veteran is not eligible for the Veterans Pension program for a period of 5 years. The Veterans Pension benefit ranges from $17,724.000 to a high of $35,813.00 depending on whether there are more than one Veteran married to each other.

The Veterans Pension can be used to pay for living expenses and medical expenses. The Veterans Pension can also be used to pay for an estate plan which includes either a will or trust. A will or trust is important to make sure the Veteran's end of life and estate planning needs are known. Wood and Associates PLLC thanks all of our Veterans for Serving.

Mistake of Fact?

A recent Michigan appellate case involving the Revocation of Paternity Act, MCL 722.1437, recently held that one of the statutory criteria must be met before an extension to revoke the affidavit of parentage is granted. In Kalin v Fleming Docket No 336724 for publication, the court held that the Plaintiff, mother, under MCL 722.1437 did not meet one of the statutory criteria to get an extension granted for filing a revocation on the affidavit of parentage. Normally, after three years, a party must demonstrate one of the following to get an extension: 1) mistake of fact; 2) newly discovered evidence that by due diligence could not have been found before the acknowledgement was signed; 3) fraud; 4) misrepresentation or misconduct; or 5) duress in signing the acknowledgement. In this case, the mother requested an extension for revoking an affidavit of parentage because she alleged the father signed it under a “mistake of fact.”  The Court of Appeals acknowledged that it was a “mistake of fact” when the father signed it, however in this case, because he was not the party requesting the extension, it did not matter. What to take away from the case? If two unmarried people have a child, and one seeks to question paternity, he or she must do so within three years. After the three years, an extension will only be granted if one of the five statutory criteria are met.

You can get bankruptcy protection on some Income taxes and student loans.

Some Income Tax Debt MAY be dischargeable under Chapter 7 bankruptcy

if you meet very specific criteria.

  1. The taxes must be for INCOME.
  2. The Income Tax must have been due at least 3 years prior to filing for bankruptcy protection.
  3. The income tax return, even if filed late, must have been filed at least 2 years before filing for bankruptcy protection.
  4. The amount of income tax due must have been verified by the IRS at least 240 days before filing for bankruptcy protection.
  5. If the IRS determined that your tax return was fraudulent, or you were trying to “cheat” your, then they cannot be discharged.

Some Student Loan Debts MAY be dischargeable under Chapter 7 bankruptcy

If you meet qualify for an UNDUE HARDSHIP

There is not a clear test to determine if you qualify for an “undue hardship” that will eliminate your student loans.  You will need to provide proof and evidence to establish each of the following:

  1. You can’t maintain a basic standard of living if you had to pay back your student loans.
  2. You have to show that the hardship will last for a large portion of your payback period.
  3. You have made honest attempts to repay your student loans but are unable to do so.

A more detailed breakdown and discussion of this topic is available at the Us Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office. Hyper link here.

The trust is that you would need an very clear, and extreme hardship that would allow  you to qualify for student loan discharge. Usually and almost a requirement, you will have had to suffer an injury or illness that makes it just about impossible for you to work.

However, if you are struggling with repaying your student loans and are considering bankruptcy, you should consult with an attorney because even if you cannot get a full discharge on your student loans, you may get a partial discharge reducing your debt. Or, you may get a restricted deal that makes paying your student loans more manageable.

What debts will I still owe after my Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

In plain terms, Bankruptcy is the process to help individuals in financial crisis get back to sound footing by (getting rid) of debt without paying for it. It’s a safety net for individuals and families to be financially sound and have a chance to secure a sound financial future and eventual retirement.

But, not all debts will be automatically forgiven through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here is a list of the debts that you will still have to pay:

+ Child Support and Alimony

+ ­Tax Debt

+ Costs, fines, and restitution for breaking the law

+ Student Loans

+ injuries you caused while drunk driving or driving under influence of illegal drugs

+ Marital debts that are not considered support*

+ court fees*

+ loans on your retirement plan*

+ debts not discharged in previous bankruptcy order*

There underlined debts above start as non-dischargeable

*These debts may be dischargeable under a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy but are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Ending Same Sex relations

Marital and Single when Child custody & Parenting time is Questioned
On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. This decision was 4 separate state cases combined to answer two questions.

First: Are State laws limiting marriage to that between 1 man and 1 woman a violation of the Constituion of the United States? Answer: Yes.
Second: Are States permitted to ignore the valid same sex marriage when the marriage occurred in a State or Country where same sex marriages are valid? Answer: NO, all states must recognized valid marriages from other states.

After June 2015, it was then determined that Michigan and all states, must be recognized as valid for same sex marriage from another state or country. It was also determined that same sex couples married in Michigan were validly married. All marriages must be treated equally.

Same sex marriages are now considered valid anyway they occur in the United States. However, there was one major concern that was not resolved by the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Particularly, same sex divorce.

Same Sex couples are in an unstable situation, unless an adoption has occurred. The result? Only the biological parent of the child is permitted to seek an order of custody and parenting time. The issue for non-biological parents in a same sex couples, can be corrected using the Equitable Parenting Time Doctrine. HOWEVER, the Equitable Parenting Doctrine only applies to a portion of non-biological parents in this situation. The doctrine requires that BOTH parents were married when the child was born and that the child was born after the parties were married. If the child was born prior to the marriage, and presumably, after the separation of the parties, then the non biological parent could not rely on the Equitable Parenting Doctrine to establish custody and parenting time.

The Court of Appeals of Michigan decided both of these issues:
In the case of Stankevich v. Milliron, Michigan decided that the Equitable Parenting Doctrine would allow the non-biological partner in a same sex marriage - whether valid in Michigan or valid in another State or Country – to seek an award of Custody and Parenting Time, permitted they assumed responsibility to pay child support as well, if ordered.
In the Case of Lake v. Putnam, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the Equitable Parenting Doctrine can only apply to children that were born during the marriage. (Being born during the marriage is a requirement of the Equitable Parenting Doctrine.) A non-biological parent from a Same sex couple, who had a caring, loving relationship for 14 years, during which a child was born, COULD NOT use the Equitable Parenting Time Doctrine to seek Custody and Parenting Time. There is no constitutional violation as the rule applies equally to same sex couples and heterosexual couples – i.e. a requirement that the parties be married prior to the birth of the child.

A question that has not been fully resolved is: what about custody and parenting for a non-biological same sex parent if the parties get married after the child is born? The presumption is that the Equitable Parenting Doctrine would not apply in such a situation.
These are difficult times for parents involved in same sex couples whether married or not and are finding themselves in a difficult situation involving children that they have loved and cared for dearly.
Summary of Michigan Laws of Same Sex Relationships where children are born:

  • States cannot deny same sex marriage in the state and States cannot deny the validty of sames sex marraiges from another state. Obergefess v. Hodges.
  • Married on or after June 26, 2015 – The Equitable Parenting Doctrine permits either partner to a same sex relationship to assert a claim for custody for a child born during or after marriage.Stankevich v. Milliron
  • Married BEFORE June 26, 2015 – A. IF MARRIED OUTSIDE OF MICHIGAN in a state the legaly recognize same sex marriage – The Equitable Parenting Doctrine permits either partner to a same sex relationship to asser a claim for custody for a child born during or after the marriage. Stankevich v. Milliron B. IF NOT – Then no, cannot use the Equitable Parenting Doctorine to establish custody.
  • MARRIED in MICHIGAN after June 26, 2015. A. CHILD BORN AFTER THE MARRIAGE - Yes the equitable doctrine applies Lake v Putman B. CHILD BORN EFORE THE MARRIAGE – No the equitable Doctrine does not apply as to that child. Lake v. Putman

Uncontested Versus Contested Divorce

Many times, a person will file for a divorce expected that the other spouse will not argue against them. Since Michigan divides marital property as equitable distribution,1 sometimes spouses agreeing can be beneficial to If this is the case, the divorce is considered uncontested. If the divorce continues on, and the parties agree about asset division, property division, spousal or child support, and child custody, the court will not have much involvement and the case may proceed quicker.2
Despite good intentions and a prior history of cooperation, disagreements can occur during divorce proceedings causing a divorce to become contested. A contested divorce can be because the parties don’t agree on one or many things. Many time, one spouse or both may find that the complexity of court proceedings and requirements are too overwhelming or confusing to manage on their own when the divorce is contested. In this case, it may be in the best interest to have an attorney represent your interests and advise you as to Michigan laws regarding property division, child support, spousal support,3 and other issues.
Remember, you and your lawyer are a team. While the lawyer is there to represent your interest, he or she will be relying on you to provide information and the basis for their arguments. Attorneys know that each case is unique, help them to see the facts that will be for and against your position in court.
1. See Mich. Comp. Laws. § 552.19.
2. Michigan has a six-month waiting period for a divorce when parties have minor children. A motion can be filed to shorten this time, but it will not be shorter than 60 (sixty) days.
3. Formally known as alimony.

Welcome Our Newest Battle Creek Attorney



A native of Ludington, Michigan, Hilary graduated from Michigan State University College of Law in May 2017, passed the July 2017 bar examination and was admitted to practice law in the state of Michigan in October 2017.


Prior to joining Wood & Associates at the Battle Creek office, Hilary worked for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs as a business analyst and the Department of Treasury as a law clerk in the Hearings Division. Her experience in Family Law began with Legal Services of South Central Michigan were she worked as a law clerk and staffed the pro se clinic.


Hilary has earned her civil and domestic relations mediation certificates, and is listed as a court roster mediator in Ingham County. She holds a Master’s Degree of Music Performance from Michigan State University and a Bachelor’s of Music Education from Central Michigan University.


An avid traveler, Hilary has been to seven countries and thirty of the United States. While she looks forward to more adventures, her love of Michigan always brings her back home. Outside of law, Hilary is still an active trombonist and works with a high school band the greater Lansing area.