Jeanne M. Hannah is a family law lawyer located in Traverse City, Michigan, who handles divorce, child custody, paternity, adoption, neglect, and other family law matters, and who assists fathers and mothers to exercise their rights to custody and parenting time.

Traverse City Family lawyer Jeanne Hannah has written many articles to help her clients with questions that are routinely asked about the process of divorce, paternity, and custody cases. Ms. Hannah has assembled links to valuable information to help her clients learn more about the legal process. She has also written commentary and articles on other family law issues such as adoption and support. Links are provided below to these articles.

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How Can You Choose the Right Divorce | Custody Lawyer?

Once it is apparent that divorce is inevitable, It is essential that you find the right divorce lawyer. A good first step is to talk to those you know who've been through a divorce. Ask your friends or family who reside in the same geographical area for a recommendation. Often, the local bar association will have a referral service. Alternatively, do a keyword search with an Internet search engine, keying in on the specific issues that you anticipate will be raised in your divorce. Your search might look something like this:  [MORE]

Internet and Email Safety

Whether you are researching the Internet while doing pre-divorce planning, whether you are in a relationship with an abuser, or whether you are discussing divorce strategy with your lawyer or a friend, if you do not take precautions, you may be exposing your plans and your strategies to your spouse or abuser. This may put you in danger of injury by an abuser or it may interfere with settlement of custody, parenting time, or property issues.

One of the first things I ask a new client is whether or not their spouse knows his or her email account password. Much of my contact with clients occurs by email, since many of my clients live a substantial distance from my office.

The communications you have with your divorce lawyer are intended to be confidential. This is particularly important when you and your lawyer are doing strategic planning.

The following are some tips for using email and the Internet safely and securely, while preventing your spouse from reading your email or from seeing what informational websites you access online: [MORE]

Home Alone: When is it OK to leave children unattended?

One question frequently asked by parents is “How old should a child be before he can be left home alone?” Often, I’m asked this question when holidays are coming up and parents will be at work, but children won’t be in school. The question is asked even more frequently as summer vacation approaches.

Of course, there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer. This decision is complicated because much depends upon the individual child and also family dynamics. A parent has to consider not only whether his or her particular child is “old enough,” but is ready enough to be left home alone. The issue becomes more complicated if there are younger siblings. Is the oldest child ready to stay home alone and to be “in charge of” the younger children?

Some states have laws specifying an age (e.g., ten years) below which it is illegal to leave children alone. Other states do not set a specific age, but rather, consider the maturity level of the child. In Michigan, there is no state law specifying how old a child must be to be left alone. However, Michigan’s child support laws are also used to regulate the share of child care costs that a non-custodial parent must pay. According to that law, no child care costs have to be shared after the end of the summer when the child becomes twelve. Does that mean that your 12-year-old is old enough to be left alone? Does it mean that a 12-year-old can or should be left home alone with younger siblings? The real issue here is readiness. Is your child ready to stay home alone?


Shaking a baby shatters lives.

"Shaking a baby shatters lives." That’s the message that Cathy Sanders has been trying to get across over the past seven years. She’s raised money through donations to her organization, Shaken Baby Prevention, to pay for billboards and more recently to pay for large images that cover the back of public buses in Northern Virginia and in the Washington DC area.

Cathy Sanders is the mother of Ryan Sanders—a beautiful, beautiful boy who, at the age of 8 weeks, was shaken by his daycare provider. Ryan was shaken so violently that he was left permanently disabled. Ryan is now 14. He cannot talk, dress himself or brush his teeth alone. He has the cognitive abilities of a toddler. [Continued here]

Virtual Visitation: A Threat or a Way to Preserve a Parent-Child Relationship Despite Distance?

By: Jeanne M. Hannah, J.D.

Active one-on-one communication using cameras, streaming video, etc. has come to be known as "virtual visitation." In Michigan, the term "visitation" gave way a long time ago to the term "parenting time." The idea is that parents parent their children and others more distant in relationship to the children may "visit" the child. But because the termination is pretty well fixed, I'm going to use the readily accepted, and known term "virtual visitation."

The first time I contemplated the concept of virtual parenting time was in 1994. At that time, I had a client who lived in the San Francisco Bay area whose child lived with the custodial parent in Northern Michigan. The concept was very, very new at that time. I'd like to be able to report that this idea worked. Certainly, we had a court system willing to consider it. What we did not have was a cooperative custodial parent. The potential for setting up and keeping a computer and camera in working order seemed daunting, if not impossible. My client decided not to fight because any and all of his parenting time occurred with stiff opposition from the mother, cost a lot of money and anguish for my client, and also caused the child anxiety that was transferred as a result of the parents' conflict.

 In today's extraordinarily mobile society, however, I believe that virtual visitation is not only necessary in order to preserve a good parent-child relationship, but is also something that most people have the skills to facilitate. Certainly as fathers gain more custodial rights and far greater parenting time opportunities than was the case 40 years ago, virtual parenting time is not just possible, it's a concept that can work in most cases. I can see other good uses for it as well: letting a parent who travels a lot in his or her job to check in daily with his or her children, fostering a healthy relationship between children and their grandparents or other relatives, including siblings, who live far away.  Read More:

Separate Property Claims: Is a War of the Roses Really Necessary?

In a bizarre twist to a hotly disputed divorce in New York State, a doctor blew up his building in Manhattan -- a building that had been appraised at over $5 million. Sounds like "War of the Roses" ! The appellate decision would force him to sell the real estate. His explosion -- which he survived -- was apparently his way of saying, "If I can't have it, then neither can you."

The doctor had claimed that the building was his separate property, inherited from his parents. However, the appellate court held that it made no difference whose name was on the title. Title alone could not deprive the wife of her community interest in property that had been acquired with marital funds, that had been improved with marital funds, and that had appreciated due to efforts made by the wife.

Surely the result was in accord with some of Michigan's recent cases involving separate property claims -- Bone v Bone, 148 Mich App 834, 838 (1986); Hanaway v Hanaway, 208 Mich App 278 (1995); Reeves v Reeves, 226 Mich App 490, 575 NW2d 1 (1997).

Read the New York appellate court's opinion here.  Bartha v Bartha

Life Insurance Proceeds - After Divorce

"Can a Former Spouse Keep Life Insurance Proceeds She's Waived if Former Husband Forgets to Change Beneficiary on the Policy?" By Jeanne M. Hannah April 26, 2006  See updates to current legal decisions on Updates in Michigan Family Law here.

UPDATES IN MICHIGAN FAMILY LAW: Change life insurance beneficiary ...

Sep 22, 2009 ... Another case has been decided by the Michigan court of appeals dealing with a challenge to a life insurance policy payout to the divorced ...

Resources for Divorced and Divorcing Parents

"Resources for Divorced and Divorcing Parents: Family Connex" by Jeanne M. Hannah April 21, 2006

"Virtual Visitation: A Threat or a Wave of the Future?" by Jeanne M. Hannah April 21, 2006

"UPDATES IN MICHIGAN FAMILY LAW: Collected Articles on Important Family Law Issues" by Jeanne M. Hannah

MICHIGAN FAMILY LAW LINKS. Compiled by Jeanne M. Hannah. Last Revised  August 9, 2005. 

Jeanne Hannah has indexed websites with important handbooks and documents to help parents understand their rights and obligations with respect to custody, parenting time, child support, adoption, neglect,  abuse, and paternity issues. Links to websites and resources to assist clients with domestic abuse issues are also included.

Click Here: Michigan Family Law Links

"Additional Resources for Divorcing Parents and Single Parents." Last Revised November 3, 2005


"Cohabitation and Real Property Ownership" by Jeanne M. Hannah, April1, 2006. [Word]

Learn how to avoid costly mistakes in property ownership that could deprive you of your valuable property rights if your cohabitation relationship fails.

Children's Issues

"Can a Child Ever Choose Which Parent She Wants to Live With?" by Jeanne M. Hannah, March 23, 2006.

"Child Abuse & Neglect: What Is It? How Can You Report It? What Procedures are Used to Protect Children?" by Jeanne M. Hannah

"Should Family Courts Restrict Exposure of Children to Second-hand Smoke?" by Jeanne M. Hannah.

Evaluating Your Child Custody or Parenting Time Case. This document helps you to help your lawyer evaluate your child custody or parenting time case.

Paternity - Parentage Issues

Can a putative father protect his parental rights by filing a Notice of Intent?

Another Look at Paternity Issues: This time Boyfriend has Standing to Sue

Military Families

MILITARY FAMILIES: Letter of Intent / Instruction for Guardians and Escorts. It is recommended that military personnel who are single parents review and execute a letter of intent in order to define the authority of guardians for their minor children during deployments. Access to and use of this form does not create an attorney / client relationship between the user and Jeanne M. Hannah. Every case has its own specific facts and the State laws governing each family may differ from state to state. That said, this Agreement intends to clarify the servicemember's intention that a transfer of custody during a deployment is intended to be temporary and that custody of the child(ren) is intended to be transferred back to the servicemember upon return from the deployment.

Click Here: Sample Letter of Intent / Instruction for Guardians and Escorts [Word]

                    Sample Letter of Intent / Instruction for Guardians and Escorts [PDF}

Other articles:

"HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE WITNESS." By Jeanne M. Hannah. Last Revised  August 29, 2004. 

You may be scheduled to testify at a deposition, a hearing or a trial. This article will help you understand what the process is and how you can be most effective.

Click Here: How to be an Effective Witness

"FACING END-OF-LIFE DECISIONS AND MAKING CHOICES: A Guide for Caregivers." By: Jeanne M. Hannah. Last revised January 2, 2005.

This article explains the advantages of having a legal medical advance directive (sometimes called a "living will"). The article answers commonly asked questions about advance directives.

Documents to Bring to Your First Consultation. A list of important documents / records your lawyer will need.


Jeanne M. Hannah welcomes you to contact her regarding any family law lawyer issue, including, but not limited to divorce, child custody and parenting time, child and spousal support, property settlement, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, paternity, adoption, neglect, and other family law matters. You can contact Ms. Hannah by telephone, E-mail, fax, or at the address listed below.

Jeanne M. Hannah, a family lawyer located in Traverse City, Michigan, represents clients in Grand Traverse County, Benzie County, Leelanau County, Kalkaska County, Antrim County, Emmet County, and other selected counties throughout Michigan.  Copyright © 2005 [Jeanne M. Hannah]. All rights reserved. Revised: 11/08/09

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Jeanne M. Hannah, Family Lawyer
Postal address:5922 Deer Trail Drive, Traverse City, Michigan 49684 • E-mail: jeannemhannah [at]

Practice Areas: Divorce  Custody  Parenting Time  Child Support Post-Judgment Modifications  Paternity  Adoption  Personal Protection Orders  Spousal Support  Property Distribution  Pre-Nuptial / Post-Nuptial Agreements Estate Planning Guardianships/Conservatorships  Neglect/Abuse Cases 

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Send mail to jeannemhannah [at] with questions or comments about this web site.

Copyright © 2005 Jeanne M. Hannah. All rights reserved. Last updated November 2009

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