Wise and Compassionate Legal Counsel for Challenging Times

Divorce can be one of the most emotionally challenging and potentially devastating experiences of a person’s life.

As we realize our marriage is ending, we experience intense emotions, including grief, shock, anger and confusion. We may feel alone and abandoned, vulnerable even in our own homes. And on top of the intense emotion, we face an array of practical challenges and the reality that the marital estate will be split in two through an emotionally trying, expensive and all-consuming process. If you are headed for a divorce, either by your own choice or through consequences not of your own making, don’t go there without the assistance of a strong and experienced attorney by your side to guide you through the complexities of our legal system.

Family Law: A Specialty, Not a Sideline

My name is Tom Kates, and I have been an attorney in West Michigan for over 25 years. Unlike many attorneys who practice family law, I don’t do it as a sideline or a filler area in my law practice. I devote nearly all my professional energies to serving people who are in the midst of family law challenges. I understand that, in order to effectively serve clients in this complex area of the law, it is important to develop specific expertise, rather than dabbling in a practice area with such far-reaching implications. I take your family law matter seriously, as I know it impacts what is most important to you: Your family, your home, and your future.

When you meet with me for your first consultation, I will do a lot of listening. That’s because no two divorce cases are the same, and I want to get to know you and more about your family so we can establish specific goals together. You may have financial concerns and wonder how you will move on after the divorce. Many people wonder if they will be able to maintain relationships with their children, and have many questions about how to better equip their family to survive the emotional turmoil that accompanies nearly every divorce. All of these concerns will greatly impact how I handle your case. Because of the high emotional stakes involved in divorce, I encourage my clients to fully explore out-of-court settlements through mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss your case in detail. I will want to hear more about your family, and your specific situation. You will also have many questions for me, and I welcome the opportunity to talk with you. Please call my office to arrange a complimentary half-hour consultation. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Thomas C. Kates
The Family Law Leader

Serving Ottawa and Allegan Counties including Holland, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Zeeland, Hudsonville, Fennville, Allegan, Jenison, Grandville, Allendale, Saugatuck, Douglas, and surrounding communities.

Michigan Divorce Process

Divorce and family law expertise when you need it most. Learn more here. Read More

The Meaning of No-Fault Divorce

Since the early 1970s, Michigan has been a no-fault divorce state, meaning that the parties are not required to plead (state in the complaint or other papers) or prove (show evidence in court) a reason for the divorce, other than the statutory standa… Read More

When & Where to File for Divorce

Jurisdiction means that a court has authority or power to make a legal decision. Two types of jurisdiction are important in divorce. Personal jurisdiction must be acquired by serving the summons and complaint on the individual. The court must also ha… Read More

Basic Divorce Paperwork

The person who initiates the complaint for divorce is called the plaintiff. The other spouse is the defendant. A divorce proceeding is commenced when the plaintiff files a summons and complaint. Read More

Discovery of Evidence

In many Michigan divorces, particularly those with significant financial assets or where custody is in dispute, I will conduct discovery, which is a legitimate part of the legal process designed to gather the facts needed for settlement or trial. Whi… Read More

Friend of the Court Coordination Conferences

In Michigan, the Friend of the Court is an extension of the Family Division of the Circuit Court whose role is to provide assistance to the court and furnish the court with recommendations related to matters such as custody, parenting time, and child… Read More

Child Support

Every child has an inherent right to receive support from his or her natural or adoptive parents. Our courts calculate support based on the Michigan Child Support Formula developed by the Friend of the Court Bureau and updated for economic changes. Y… Read More

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also called alimony, is one of the most frequently litigated issues in divorce, for a number of reasons. First, it is often difficult for a spouse to comprehend supporting the soon-to-be ex after the marriage ends when in many cases… Read More

Types of Spousal Support

There are three types of spousal support in Michigan. The first, often called alimony in gross, is actually a means of property division payable through either a lump-sum award or fixed periodic payments. It is non-modifiable and not subject to conti… Read More

Spousal Support Factors

Michigan spousal support awards are based on 14 factors which are not contained in any statute, but are derived from case law. These include: parties’ past relations and conduct; length of the marriage; parties’ ability to work; source and amount… Read More

Modifying Spousal Support

Michigan spousal support payments can be modified based on changed circumstances unless the parties agree in the judgment that it is non-modifiable. Most judgments of divorce provide that spousal support will be payable for a set number of years, wit… Read More

Property Division

The law requires that every judgment of divorce contain provisions dividing real and personal property. Real property includes the marital home and any other real estate owned by the parties during the marriage, whether by one or both. Vacation homes… Read More

Real Estate

Real estate, and in particular the marital home, is often the most valuable asset a couple owns. During the real estate crash beginning in the late 2000s, ownership of real estate presented a significant obstacle to settling many divorces, as people… Read More

Personal Property

Anything you own that is not attached to the real estate is considered personal property. This includes: household furnishings and contents; cash accounts; vehicles and watercraft; tools; antiques and collectibles; accounts receivable; stocks, bonds,… Read More

Separate Maintenance

Sometimes when clients are ambivalent about filing for divorce they ask me if Michigan recognizes legal separation. The answer is no; but our state does have a procedure known as separate maintenance, which is sometimes utilized in cases where one or… Read More


In Michigan, a divorce is not final until the judge has signed the judgment of divorce, and there is a built- in mandatory waiting period (six moths if minor children are involved, 60 days if there are no children) between the filing of the complaint… Read More