Legal Blog

Same-Sex Couples in Oakland County MI File Adoption Applications

In the days since the landmark decision by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman that deemed Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the air of change seems to be blowing in the Mitten state. Although a stay has been placed on the ruling, Governor Rick Snyder has said that the 320 same-sex marriages performed beforehand were legal. Even though this is a small number of LGBT couples in Michigan looking to tie the knot, the couple hundred that are deemed valid still represent major changes.

This is especially true where adoption is concerned, as it now becomes an option for same-sex couples never enjoyed before. While Governor Snyder also said that those marriages carry no rights because of the stay on Judge Friedman’s ruling, the Oakland County adoption office has decided to name caseworkers to LBGT couples who have filed applications to adopt. Just like they do for heterosexual couples, the caseworkers will perform background checks and home evaluations. According to Lauren Howard, chief of the Oakland County office, the fight over adoption will largely be left to the courts. “It’s the judicial branch that determines whether there can be an adoption — a judge determines that,” said Howard.

Reports from the county state that at least five or six other same-sex couples who were married on Saturday have filed adoption applications, but many more are also expected to do so in the upcoming days. Those that choose to submit an application will undoubtedly need legal counsel to act as a guide throughout the complex legal process, and it is always best to opt for a skilled Detroit adoption attorney with experience handling Michigan same-sex adoption cases. Nessel and Kessel Law was the legal team that stood behind April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse in their successful landmark case, and are now ready to help others interested in second-parent adoption. For the best legal advice and legal representation that is committed to protecting the rights of LGBT couples, contact our law firm today at 248-721-0296.

Obama & Fed Allowing Same Sex Marriage in Michigan, State Won’t

Despite a federal appeals court placing a stay on same-sex ceremonies in Michigan, the 300 homosexual couples who married beforehand will be permitted as valid unions. According to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, these same-sex couples “will not be asked to wait for further resolutions by the courts.” Holder also added that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder “has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into.”

For the time being, couples who married on Saturday in four major Michigan counties (Washtenaw, Oakland, Muskegon, and Ingham) will be allowed the exact same standing federal income and estate tax benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. Still, a court could reject that standing at some point. While these marriages are legal under the eyes of federal law, state law as still yet to sort out its recognition. Statements from Governor Snyder imply that the state doesn’t intend on extending these rights and benefits to those couples until the legalities of same-sex unions are defined and recognized by state courts in Michigan.

The wave of same-sex couples seeking marriage came on Saturday following a the ruling from U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman that deemed the state’s ban on these unions unconstitutional. Despite the fact that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an appeal and a panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the ruling, the state will recognize the 300 marriages performed beforehand.

The experienced Detroit attorney who successfully represented Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer in their challenge of the state’s same-sex marriage ban applauded the federal government’s involvement and pro-marriage stance. Dana Nessel of Nessel and Kessel Law called the support from the Obama Administration “magnificent,” explaining “We expect no less. The federal government has been great. I stand by my previous position that they are all legally married, just like any others.”

Nessel did express criticism for Governor Snyder and the state’s attorney for delaying and fighting against gay-marriage legalization in Michigan. She noted that the governor is particularly contradictory as he recognizes the 300 marriages performed before the stay, but refuses to validate them. “It’s so offensive on a number of levels, particularly on a legal level,” she explained.

After the stay was extended on Tuesday, it is now likely that the case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those with questions regarding same-sex marriages in Michigan and second-parent adoptions should contact the knowledgeable legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law. As the law firm that spearheaded the case against the statewide ban, these skilled attorneys will not only best be able to answer any questions but also provide the best representation possible. Contact us today at 313-556-2300 to discuss your case today!

Carrying a Concealed Weapon in a Motor Vehicle

Why am I facing Carrying a Concealed Weapon charges?

Recently a client came to me with a serious question; why am I being charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon when I was sitting in my car and my gun was on my hip, in its holster?

It’s a completely reasonable question.  The client was sitting in her car when she was approached by an officer.  The officer asked her to exit the vehicle, which she did.  When she got out of the car, the officer saw the holster and gun on her hip and immediately asked if she had a CPL.  The client did not and she was subsequently arrested and charged with CCW (carrying a concealed weapon).  Was the gun legally owned?  Yes.  Was it registered to my client?  Yes.  So why was she charged? 

The answer is equal parts obvious and frustrating.  According to the law, a weapon is “concealed” if it is “not discernible by the ordinary observation of persons casually observing the person carrying it.”  That’s a fancy way of saying that if you can’t easily see where the weapon is, you’re going to get charged.  That means that if a gun is on your hip, in a holster, and you’re sitting in a car, a person talking to you from outside the vehicle probably cannot see the gun…especially if its on the hip that is next to the center console.   The fact that when she exited the vehicle and the weapon was then not concealed didn’t prevent her from being charged for how the weapon “concealed” before she got out of the car, thus she was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.   

When a client retains Nessel and Kessel Law we immediately begin to develop a comprehensive strategy for success.  Sometimes success means convincing the prosecutor to dismiss the charges completely, or have them greatly reduced.  Other times it means a motion to suppress evidence to have the case dismissed by a judge, or fully preparing for trial and securing a not guilty verdict.  Each case and set of facts are different.  Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today and see what success can mean for you.

Michigan Makes Changes to the Adoption Tax Credit

It goes without saying that parenting is a really tough job, regardless of whether one is handling it solo, in a heterosexual relationship, or part of a same sex couple. Not only is the care and protection of children a big enough task, there are plenty of financial questions that come into play as well. This is especially true for parents exploring adoption.

Some Americans are aware that the maximum tax credit for adoptions was raised to $13,190 in 2014, but most aren’t clear on the guidelines that come along with it. In order to qualify for the adoption tax credit, one must have adopted a child and paid the total costs of the adoption. These tax credits vary on an individual basis and are based upon the amount of money one spends on the adoption process. Unfortunately, the adoption tax credit is not available for stepparent adoptions or adult adoptions. On the other hand, those who adopt special needs children are typically eligible to receive the full tax credit.

One’s annual income also plays a role in determining the tax credits available for adoption. If one’s adjusted gross income is equal or less than $197,880, they are eligible for the full tax credit. Those who make more than that amount annually can receive a reduced adoption credit, maxing out at incomes of $237,880. Therefore, those who earn over that amount each year are not eligible for the adoption tax credit.

If you are unsure of whether your family is eligible to receive the tax credit for adoption in Michigan, it is important to explore all of your legal rights. Contacting the experienced and knowledgeable Detroit adoption attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law will not only give a confusing situation clarity, it will also ensure that all of a client’s rights are protected in front of the law. Don’t wait to explore all of our options, contact our skilled legal team at 313-556-2300 today!


Changes to Second Parent Adoptions in Michigan Could Be Coming

The last year has brought great changes to marriage law both in Michigan and across the United States. As the LGBT community inches closer to equal marriage rights, plenty of related questions are also raised; what do same-sex couples do when it comes to adopting children? Can both persons in a homosexual relationship adopt children so that they are both listed as parents? Not yet in the Great Lakes State, but changes could be coming according to the leading Detroit adoption attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law.

Although Michigan’s Adoption Code does not currently allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt, this law could soon become a thing of the past. Judge Bernard Friedman is set to hear arguments on the future of second-parent adoptions in Michigan, as well as same-sex marriage in federal court later this month in Detroit. The legal team representing the highly publicized DeBoer-Rowse family, Nessel and Kessel Law, have assembled a nationally recognized team of expert witnesses who will testify about issues related to same-sex marriage and LGBT parenting. Should the attorneys prove successful, Judge Friedman could strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex parent adoptions for homosexual couples. If the ruling is not stayed, these couples could begin adopting children very shortly afterward.

As experienced Michigan adoption lawyers, Nessel and Kessel knows first-hand  that same-sex parents thrive in these households to the same extent they would if in a home headed by married heterosexual partners. The only differences exist thank to Michigan’s Adoption Code and their ban on second-parent adoption. Our legal team looks forward to receiving the rulings in the DeBoer v. Snyder case and to living in a state where every child has the same protections afforded to families with heterosexual couples.

If you or a loved one has been considering second-parent adoption in Michigan, it is essential to be well-informed of all your rights and protections. Contacting an experienced and knowledgeable Detroit adoption lawyer will help clarify the legal process and ensure that every one of the client’s rights are protected. Reach out to the Nessel and Kessel law offices for more information on how we can help you by phoning us at 313-556-2300 today!

Marijuana Defense No More – Colorado Legalizes Pot

Non-medical Marijuana Sold in Colorado

Marijuana defense attorneys in Colorado lose sleep, and revenue, as Colorado becomes the first state to legalize the recreational purchase and use of marijuana.  The law was passed earlier in 2013, but was put into effect on New Year’s Day.  Literally thousands of people from across the country travelled to Denver, Colorado Springs, and other major Colorado cities for the opportunity to purchase marijuana legally.   

The law, Amendment 64, looks to save Colorado approximately $12 million per year.  In the first decade of the 2000’s, Colorado averaged near 10,000 arrests and tickets for minors possession and using marijuana.  In 2013 the number dropped to approximately 4,500.  But many attribute that drop to the knowledge of the upcoming legalization.  The law does not allow for public use of marijuana, but at this point citizens are simply happy to be able to use the substance in the privacy of their own homes.   

Unfortunately while there are many states that are looking at a push to legalize marijuana, Michigan is nowhere close to passing such a law.  For more information on the current state of marijuana laws in Michigan and marijuana defense, as well as the possible charges that one could face if caught with marijuana, click here

Drug cases tend to be the most complicated cases because of all the different issues that may come up.  That means you need a marijuana defense attorney who knows the law and how to use it to your advantage.  When a client retains Nessel and Kessel Law we immediately begin to develop a comprehensive strategy for success.  Sometimes success means convincing the prosecutor to dismiss the charges completely, or have them greatly reduced.  Other times it means a motion to suppress evidence to have the case dismissed by a judge, or fully preparing for trial and securing a not guilty verdict. 

There are almost always 4th Amendment issues when dealing with narcotics charges because the arrest usually stems from a stop on the street or while driving, from the execution of a search warrant, or because of the use of a confidential informent to secure information used to perform a stop or obtain a warrant.  Many times your case will hinge on whether or not your 4th Amendment rights have been violated. 

Narcotics charges also hinge heavily on police officer testimony.  Generally there will be multiple officers who take part in a “raid.”  At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have the necessary skill and experience to cross examine these officers and find the holes and cracks in their story, thereby allowing us to expose the lies and fabrications in their story.  At Nessel and Kessel Law, not only do we know the law and how to use it to your advantage, but we know how to expose witnesses who are being less than honest. 

Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today if you or a friend or family member has been charged with a drug offense.  



Detroit Gay Rights Attorney to Speak on Panel in Honor of Constitution Day

In honor of Constitution Day, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus is looking to get people talking. On Friday, September 20th, the school will host an interactive panel discussion entitled, “Finding Michigan’s Invisible People.”

The featured topic will be the pending DeBoer v. Snyder case, represented by the Michigan gay rights attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law. This particular case was chosen because of the very serious constitutional issues it raises: the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex relationships, and the Michigan Adoption Code barring non-married couples from jointly adopting children.

Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have been in a committed relationship for many years and would get married if Michigan state law allowed it. Originally, the couple filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in order to challenge the Michigan adoption code—the ultimate obstacle in jointly adopting the three children they have adopted separately.  As the state refuses to allow same-sex couples from marrying and prohibits non-married couples from adopting, Judge Bernard Friedman allowed DeBoer and Rowse to amend their lawsuit to include an additional challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban.

“The United States Supreme Court has ruled several times, most recently this past June, that discrimination against gays and lesbians just because of their sexual orientation is unconstitutional,” explained professor of constitutional law at Cooley, Dan Ray. “The Constitution Day panel will discuss issues that are important to couples and families not just here in Michigan, but all across the country.”

The Detroit gay rights lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law invite you to join the discussion and hear what our featured attorney, Dana Nessel, has to say about this potentially groundbreaking case!

Cooley Law School Ann Arbor Campus
3475 Plymouth Road
Held from 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
For more information, contact Julie Mullens at (734) 372-4900 ext. 8798 or by email

Upcoming Fundraiser to Support Couple’s Challenge to Michigan Same Sex Marriage Ban

Deboer Rowse CaseThe Michigan Marriage Challenge is pleased to host a fundraiser in support of the Legal Defense Fund for Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer.

April and Jayne are fighting to protect their family by overturning Michigan’s Constitutional Marriage Amendment, approved by voters in 2004, which prohibits gays and lesbians from a legal marriage as well as alter Michigan’s adoption code that denies rights and benefits to the children of gay/lesbian couples.

Please join April, Jayne, and their Michigan gay rights attorneys Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar for an evening reception featuring keynote speaker, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

290 W. Nine Mile
Ferndale, MI 48220

$1000 – VIP Host*
$500 – Diamond
$250 – Platinum
$100 – Gold
$50 – Silver

*VIP Host guests will attend a 6:00 p.m. special briefing with Prosecutor Kym Worthy, April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse, and lawyers Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar.

Please makes checks payable to:

c/o Mary Bartek
49036 Quail Run Drive S.
Plymouth, MI 48170

Or you can donate to the DeBoer Rowse Legal Fund online by clicking here.

Juvenile Lifers in Michigan: Proposed Changes to Unconstitutional State Law to be Discussed at Scheduled Joint Hearing

Update: The joint meeting of the House Criminal Justice and Senate Judiciary committees was rescheduled for August 27 at 9 a.m.

Of all the clients that our Detroit criminal defense attorneys work with, juveniles accused of serious offenses were always the most heartbreaking—that is, until the U.S. Supreme Court deemed Michigan’s “juvenile lifer” law unconstitutional just over a year ago.

Lawmakers in Michigan are expected to hear testimony regarding the proposed changes to the unconstitutional state law as early as this month. Currently, A joint session with the Chairs of the House Criminal Justice and Senate Judiciary committees was been scheduled for August 27th, 2013 at 9 a.m. While they do not intend to vote on anything on that date, the testimony is intended to be on bipartisan legislation to modernizing the state law in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling.

Before deemed unconstitutional, the Michigan juvenile lifer law gave prosecutors a wide authority to pursue adult charges against minors convicted of particularly serious crimes, including first-degree murder. Juveniles could be sentenced to serve mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole, if found guilty.

However, a June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of 5-4 stated that mandatory sentences such as these are form of cruel and unusual punishment and are therefore unconstitutional. The majority decision noted that such legislation fails to acknowledge the potential for cognitive and character development in minors. Hoe Home to over 350 juvenile lifers, Michigan has the second highest number of incarcerated minors in the United States. This alarming statistic has remained stationary as state and federal courts debate the possibility of retroactivity for minors with life sentences—particularly, whether the decision will apply to all underage lifers or just those on direct appeal and future offenders.

House Bill 4806, introduced last month by Republican Representatives Joe Haveman, Al Pscholka and Margaret O’Brien is expected to offer a few solutions.

According to the proposed legislation, the bill would allow minors with life sentences or prosecuting attorneys to request a resentencing hearing. During that time, the judge would have the opportunity to consider all of the circumstances of the case (including the juvenile’s age at the time of their offense) before either confirming the original sentence or open to an alternative.

The Detroit defense attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law are excited about both the Supreme Court ruling and proposed legislation to eliminate mandatory life sentences without parole for minors. Stunting minor’s during particularly moldable periods in their lives, it is important that Michigan lawmakers remember the entire point behind incarceration: rehabilitation.