March 22, 2010
By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney
Hennepin County Court Judge Jay Quam told a local businessman that if he couldn’t prove that he was broke, he would go to jail for failing to pay support to his ex-wives.
This is part of the support enforcement process. If a payor fails to make child support or spousal maintenance payments, the payee (recipient of support) can ask the Court to issue an Order to Show Cause which will require the payor to appear in Court and prove why they should not be held in contempt. If the Court finds that there is no good reason why they didn’t pay support (i.e. they were unemployed through no fault of their own), it may order incarceration until such time as the payments are made.
Usually, jail is a last resort, since it is very difficult to obtain compliance with a support order from jail. Before a person is ordered to jail, they may be required to make some small token payments of support and participate in a job search program. However, the threat of going to jail can be a useful tool in enforcing support judgments.
February 23, 2010
By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney
The New York Times has published an interesting commentary about role reversals: whether current economic forces may lead to more stay at home fathers and whether societal norms support this. Personally, I’ve seen this in some of my most difficult cases, which tend to be role reversal cases.
Father as Primary Caregiver
Courts have sometimes had difficulty accepting the premise that the father has been the primary caregiver of the children. Where there is clear evidence that the father has been the primary caregiver, courts have been less accepting of the premise that it might be in the children’s best interest to continue primarily in the father’s care.
Husband in Need of Spousal Maintenance
Financially, courts have had even more difficulty with the premise that a man might meet the standards for an award of spousal maintenance, even where there is evidence that the husband has been unemployed for a long period of time and may not be capable of self-support without some retraining. Sometimes, the court will hang its decision against the non-working husband on the belief that he is voluntarily un- or under-employed. I have not always seen a clear emphasis placed on voluntary un- or under-employment in cases where the wife has chosen to remain unemployed for long periods of time.
If the purpose of spousal maintenance is to avoid any unfair economic consequence of divorce, I can only conclude that the Courts believe it is fair to hold both men and women to an outdated social contract.
November 23, 2009
By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney.
The New York Times has compiled a list of big-picture financial considerations you should make during your divorce. Our experience suggests that these are mostly good suggestions, although we do believe that the best way to proceed is with the advice of a lawyer or an attorney, who will be experienced in structuring financial settlements with these concerns in mind.
July 31, 2009
Mothers Who Choose To Give Up Child Custody
Non Traditional Child Custody and Parenting Time
More and more often, I see non-traditional custody and parenting time arrangements in divorces. Often, I talk to fathers who are afraid they won’t be able to have any kind of parenting time beyond every other weekend, and I have to do a lot of talking to convince them that 50/50 arrangements are not only possible, but common, and can even be healthy for children.
Mothers Who Give Up Child Custody and Parenting Time
Perhaps more difficult to comprehend, however, is the situation where a mother chooses to accept a custody arrangement that gives the father more than her. There are social expectations that a mother will be caring and nurturing, and that while the father goes off to work and visits the kids every other weekend, the mother will stay at home no matter what.
Fathers Who Have Primary Child Custody
Sometimes, however, the best interest of the children is to give the father primary custody, with the mother exercising the “over other weekend” – or even every summer – parenting time. The Marie Claire article looks at the families of three women, and why it was the right choice for them.
Child Custody, Parenting Time, Alimony, Child Support – What is Best for You?
The underlying message behind the idea that it’s ok for mother’s to not have primary custody? It’s that there is NEVER one right solution for every family. What is right for YOUR family is not necessarily what is right for the Joneses down the street or the Gosselins on the television. It is more important to figure out what is right for your family and best for YOUR children, than it is to worry about what people not in your family are going to think about it.
Moore Family Law
April 17, 2009
The economy is affecting everyone in one way or another. Even if you still have your job, you might be having a hard time making the house payment. Even if you still have your house, you might be having a hard time buying groceries. Something is getting cut along the way for everyone, and sometimes this has a greater impact than you might originally expect.
Minnesota Court Budgets
In the Court system, the situation is the same. The budget that the Courts need and the budget that the Courts get are two different things, and the Courts have to make decisions about where to cut back. Articles in the publications, including http://mnbar.org/benchandbar/2008/dec08/court.html in “Minnesota Bench & Bar” and http://www.growthandjustice.org/Fewer_clerks_shorter_hours_Budget_cuts_slow_wheels_of_justice.html in “Growth and Justice”, have addressed the problems facing the Courts. The Court websites themselves have posted bulletins about the budget cuts’ impact http://www.mncourts.gov/district/4/?page=3278 and how funding cuts threaten public safety http://www.courts.state.mn.us/district/0/?page=NewsItemDisplay&item=44518
The Impact on Family Law in Minnesota
The impact of the budget cuts on your family law matter could include the following:
- Delay in filing matters and scheduling hearings and trials.
- Delay due to lack of law clerks and court administrators to handle the work, and potentially less informed judicial officers.
- Delay in filing due to courts being closed on Wednesday afternoons.
- Lack of services such as arbitration and appointments of Guardians ad Litem.
Until the economy turns around and more money is available for Court services, you should expect a longer delay in having your family matter resolved. Consider hiring an attorney help guide you through the process and explain the frustrating delays to help you through this difficult time.
Emily M. Matson, Esq.
April 13, 2009
Welcome! Today I’d like to address what’s happening in the legal profession and how it affects you as a client of a family law or probate law attorney.
YIKES! TODAY, IT LOOKS LIKE A CRISIS TO ME
There is no shortage of alarming headlines nowadays about legal matters. Look at these from the “Legal Strategy Review” published by CPA Global www.cpaglobal.com
- The Heat is on (the global economic crisis)
- Disputes on the Rise (There has been a big rise in wage-and-hour disputes)
- Opening the Book on Bankruptcy (Bankruptcy filings are expected to jump)
Here’s what I think after reading the magazine, with my thanks to the publishers for their inspiration.
IS YOUR ATTORNEY FOCUSED ON THEIR STRENGTHS?
The law firms that stay strongest during this economic and social crisis will be the ones planning for it and acting to meet it. One way to do this is for the lawyer to avoid the temptation to grab just any client that comes along. What is the smarter, more sustainable strategy is for the attorney to clarify and focus on what she does best, to help you discover those strengths, and to take the necessary steps to ensure that she can actually deliver what is promised.
Your focused attorney will use computerization, electronic record keeping, and paralegals and assistants to provide subordinate but necessary services to you (scheduling, discovery, document management) for less than the cost of a full blown attorney. They will also bring their strengths to bear on your case. Among these strengths would be:
- Honesty: they tell it like it is, as gently as possible – but the tell it.
- Empowerment: they work on a strategy that meets *your* needs.
- Commitment: they work for your commitment and work to win your case.
- Concern: they really do care about you and your goals.
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
These are stressful times. It pays to be in touch with your rational brain and with your feelings. If you feel an attorney is just not right for you, keep on looking. Think about it, yes, but if it does not feel right it probably isn’t. Some attorneys are pit bulls looking for one pit bull to represent and a third one yet to oppose! Some are not quite so pugnacious although just as effective advocates for your interests, in their own way. This is especially true in the area of family law: divorce, child custody, alimony, child support. Find a lawyer who fits you in every possible way.
YIKES! I OWE MY ATTORNEY HOW MUCH?
Sad but true, nothing is free. If your lawyer is doing their homework, they are thinking about such things as the following in addition to your case and those of their other clients:
- What is my cash flow. How can I increase it?
- What are my expenses. How can I cut them?
- What is my client base. How can I identify and recruit them?
- What are the needs of my clients. How can I meet them?
You will want to hire an attorney who has asked and answered these very questions. You want someone who has taken the steps to ensure, insofar as possible, that they will not be swept away in a flood of bankruptcy, crisis and broken contracts. If that happens, they can’t work for you, no matter how high or low their bill is. If they’re good enough to hire, they’re good enough to pay.
What you want, and what you don’t want, are major determinants of the size of your bill. Are you unwilling to compromise on any substantive issue? It’ll probably cost you more in money, time and anguish. Are you, for instance, bound and determined to get your wedding ring back? Ditto. To get what you want in the face of strong opposition, are you willing to pay your attorney an additional $5,000? $50,000? More? Think it through; talk it out with your attorney, and be reasonable.
I hope you have found this informative. I’m Tom Moore, office manager at Moore Family Law in Plymouth, Minnesota
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March 31, 2009
MN Family Law Attorney Discusses Alimony
Is $53,000 Per Week Too Much Alimony?
The wife of United Technologies Chairman George David is claiming that she requires an award of temporary maintenance (alimony) to cover her basic weekly expenses of $53,000. http://www.nypost.com/seven/12192008/news/nationalnews/really_high_maintenance_144934.htm That is $2,756,000 per year. It’s hard to put your head around that kind of money, especially if you are the one being asked to pay alimony.
In fact, in Minnesota maintenance (commonly referred to as alimony) is awarded based on a number of factors, including the standard of living during marriage. In order to decide whether to award maintenance and the amount of an award of maintenance, both husband and wife will submit proof of their income and a proposed monthly budget. The Court then balances the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance against the ability of the other spouse to pay.
How About Zero Dollars per Week Alimony?
Not all cases warrant an award of maintenance. Sometimes, the marriage is not sufficiently long such that the spouse seeking maintenance has become accustomed to a higher standard of living or has lost opportunities to be self-supporting. Sometimes, the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance are not sufficient to justify an award of maintenance. And sometimes, there is no ability to pay.
Maintenance is a highly contentious issue. In cases where maintenance is an issue, there is a much higher probability of going to trial and having a judge decide the case. Unless a monthly budget is accompanied by solid supporting evidence, such as receipts, cancelled checks or other documentary evidence, it is likely that a Judge will red-line the budget, substituting his or her own judgment for the parties’. $53,000 per week is likely to sound too high, even if it is consistent with the standard of living during the marriage.
Similarly, if the Court must examine income information, the Court is likely to base its judgment on historical information, even though today’s economic reality might indicate that historical data is overly inflated.
Your Attorney’s Job in a Divorce / Maintenance Case
The attorney’s job in a maintenance case is to give the Court less reason to disagree with your judgment about your needs and resources.
Moore Family Law, P.A.
3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth, MN 55447
March 30, 2009
Death and Divorce are Traumatic
OK, here you are seeking a divorce, or planning for the death or disability of yourself or a loved one. You seek out an attorney to handle the divorce, trust or estate. This is an emotionally charged time for you and your family. We understand. Many family law clients are angry, often but not always justifiably so. Divorce, child custody, child support, property settlement, and alimony are hard topics. So are probating a will, drawing up a will, crafting the estate plan you want for yourself or your loved one. No wonder people get angry!
Not every good lawyer gets every client mad, but a really good lawyer can actually get you more annoyed, not less! Why? Because they’re good, that’s why. How do I know? Look, I’m only the office manager at a small family law firm. But I have survived a divorce, I’ve taken people to court over civil matters, and I‘m the fly on the wall when the lawyers in the office make legal decisions.
What I notice is a lot of difficult communication. We have attorneys because the law is complex, changing and can be unpredictable in its outcomes. The law has been around for centuries — and it shows!
There are rules and regulations and laws the ordinary person cannot be expected to know about and who can be expected to have a difficult time grasping. There are doctrines in the law that are so much a part of everything that lawyers and courts do that it can be a culture shock to you, the client, when you find out about them. For instance in Minnesota family court fairness – not victory — is the point of the proceedings. Family courts in Minnesota are a really bad place to get revenge. You can get justice regarding your divorce, alimony, child support, child custody, the division of marriage property, yes; but these are based upon fairness to all parties concerned, especially the children. You cannot expect the court to base their decisions solely upon your case and especially not on your feelings. The courts and the laws are required to balance the needs of all parties concerned.
What a Real Divorce or Trusts and Estates Lawsuit is NOT!
If a lawyer is really good, she or he will do things you never thought possible, necessary, or sufficient for your case. Let me break this down. First, here are a few examples of what will not happen:
* A real case is not heard in a courtroom resembling “Judge Judy,”
“Law and Order” or “Boston Legal.” Emotions don’t win cases. Facts, a winning strategy, and understanding and applying the law wins your case.
* You won’t see someone on the other side break down and jump up
shouting from the witness chair, “Yes, I did it! I did it! I lied, lied about everything and I’m glad do you hear me, glad!!!” Nope, that’
s not going to happen.
* A real case, especially one in Minnesota regarding family law
(divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, etc.) or one involving trusts and estate (Trusts, estate planning, probate, legacy planning,
etc.) – is most probably not a celebrity case. It will not involve a phalanx of attorneys on either side and it will not involve a barn full of evidence and a courtroom full of perky, quirky and technical expert witnesses who work in those really futuristic crime labs like you see on
* Your case, with a good lawyer, will probably involve fewer
witnesses, fewer exhibits and less time and emotion, and quite possibly
more money, than you think necessary.
What a Competent, Caring Family Law or Trusts and Estates Attorney Will Do
How come? Well, here are some examples of what I think a good lawyer would do.
* A good attorney will bear in mind where he or she is practicing
law. We practice law in Minnesota. Not only does that involve knowing Minnesota law, it involves knowing what judges here tend to like, and dislike, what the case law is, what juries like, and dislike, and so on.
For instance, Hennepin county juries do not usually award large dollar settlements for anything.
* A good attorney will charge you what they are worth, because a
good attorney has to pay for research, computers, office staff, think time, writing time, and so on. You get what you pay for. This does not mean your bill will be astronomical, but it also does not mean you want to retain the cheapest attorney, or that you can make a decision based on hourly rates alone.
* A good attorney will carefully craft a strategy and tactics for
the case that will not only be designed to bring you justice but will also be designed to bring you the justice you can afford. Let me be clear – you may be able to get a settlement more favorable than might ordinarily be expected, but doing so will almost certainly cost you more time, anguish, money, and work than if you get a good, but not astronomical settlement – one you can afford to pay for.
* A good attorney who knows the family law and probate courts here
in Minnesota, will present the most telling argument, the most telling strategy, the most telling evidence, in your case. She or he will not necessarily present all of the evidence you have helped gather and paid your attorney to gather. Courts do not necessarily need to hear the same conclusion propped up in all sorts of different ways. The courts are usually most impressed by a tight, cogent and brief argument which they can assume is your best argument.
* A good attorney won’t just throw affidavits, evidence, and
arguments at your case. She or he will work to get the sharpest, most relevant argument winnowed out of the mass of emotions and data and paperwork involved.
I hope you have found this informative. I’m Tom Moore, the office manager at Moore Family Law. You can reach us at:
Moore Family Law, P.A.
3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth, MN 55447
January 19, 2009
Hello, Again, Tom Moore Here from Moore Family Law.
My blog today is about a happy event here at Moore Family Law in Plymouth, MN. Just before Christmas last, we hired Barbara Hagberg to serve as our paralegal, focusing on your divorce, child custody, alimony and child support issues but also here for you should you engage our probate, trusts, and estates practice.
Barb has 25 years experience with the law, 21 as a paralegal /legal assistant. Much of Barbara’s experience has been in litigation with the last 11 years in family law and about the same for her experience in probate, trusts, wills and estate law – in short Barb is strongly grounded in family law and in legacy planning. We’re proud to have her aboard! She is already proving to be a realy asset to our work, which is focused here in Hennepin and Wright Counties in the cities of Champlin, Maple Grove, Plymouth, and Minnetonka, MN.
Barbara Hagberg in Her Own Words
Here’s what Barbara has to say to you about her attitude towards our clients -and towards the difficult world we all inhabit.
“On my first day I knew I’d be happy here at Moore Family Law. I will do the best job I can for the firm and for our clients. I think we’re a good professional team here, I really do, and our firm has the right values.
“The economic financial stress has created a lot of stress for the family. It’s a hard, tough world and there’s much more litigation because everybody wants to hang on to what they’ve got. You have to tell your clients that a split has to be fair and equal. You were once a family unit – one can’t walk away with everything and the other get nothing. The division has to be fair and equitable to both parties. It’s hard to convince some clients of that.
“I like to listen to people – their problems, their situations. I don’t like to see our clients (or anybody for that matter) get hurt. The process is supposed to be fair, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to explain to people getting a divorce.”
Thank you, Barb; and again, welcome to Moore Family Law.
Service to You is Our Goal
Our family law and probate law goals with all our staff are to enhance what is never an easy experience for you, our clients. Our goals in hiring Barbara are to provide:
- MORE service without overkill – we have another head and another pair of hands, pair of eyes to help us help you
- BETTER service by responding more swiftly and by going that extra mile that just may prove to be what it takes for your case to prevail
- MORE ECONOMICAL service by providing some services at a paralegal billing rate rather than at the higher attorney rate.
Moore Family Law
Representing Your Family’s Future
January 13, 2009
What is a Civil Gideon?
Recently there has been a push by legal communities, including here in Hennepin, Anoka, and Wright counties in Minnesota, to investigate and implement something called a “Civil Gideon” – or a right to counsel in civil cases where important rights are at stake. In 2006, the American Bar Association (link:
) passed this resolution:
RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody as determined by each jurisdiction.
In 2008, the Minnesota State Bar Association has formed its own Civil Gideon Task Force (link: http://www.mnbar.org/committees/CivilGideon/) to investigate whether a civil right to counsel should exist in Minnesota.
WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH FAMILY LAW?
When I first heard about this movement, I immediately thought of several family law situations in which the parties involved in proceedings which go beyond the “ordinary” legal issues arising out of divorce, alimony, child custody, child support – or even, in our Trusts and Estates practice – arising out of probate and other issues involving wills, heirs, and trusts – parties who have absolutely no resources to hire a private attorney—and lack the criteria to receive aid from the various legal aid agencies in Minnesota.
Let me explain. Once case in particular that comes to mind is a case where Moore Family Law represented the grandparents in their petition for third party child custody. The mother, not our client, was only 19, had no job, and a history of substance abuse problems. She was willing to accept help from the child’s grandparents as legal custodians for awhile—but she was scared of what might happen in the future regarding child custody. As much as she knew she couldn’t care for her child in her current state, she still wanted to some day care for her child: in the short run, she already had enough problems stemming from her previous divorce.
I think we worked out a good compromise around the family law issues, a compromise that gives her room to rehabilitate herself and become a mother again; but she would have benefited greatly from having her own attorney during the child custody proceedings. Here was a mother faced with losing her child, and she had no one to advocate for her or to explain the consequences of her decisions. She needed an attorney not only for family law matters but also for legal matters arising from her substance abuse — but she could afford neither a family law attorney nor a criminal one; and legal aid providers do not typically take clients involved in third party child custody actions.
Compare this with the situation in which an action has been initiated to terminate a mother’s parental rights. This is by no means an easy situation but there, the right to counsel is specifically provided for in Minnesota statute: “(a) The child, parent, guardian or custodian has the right to effective assistance of counsel in connection with a proceeding in juvenile court.” Minn. Stat. .§ 260C.163, subd. 3. Here, at least, the mother has some right to an attorney.
WHAT MOORE FAMILY LAW IS DOING TO HELP IN MINNESOTA
Because I so often see cases where a party needs family law representation and also needs another type of lawyer, and because I think it is an injustice to not provide for those parties who face not only divorce, alimony, custody and child support issues but also issues of mental health, substance abuse, and in some cases criminal matters, — because we at Moore Family Law want to provide for those most in need, I am on the Civil Gideons Task Force, serving on the unmet needs committee.
Here I am able to bring the expertise of Moore Family Law to focus on the tasks at hand. Our job is to investigate what potential clients are out there who are not being served. There is ample data on the services provided by legal aid; but what about those cases turned away? And what about those cases where legal aid can only provide an attorney that knows the specific area of the law in a very general way? Is that adequate counsel? These are questions that we discuss at our committee and Task Force meetings so that we can lay a strong basis for the right to legal counsel where it is needed most.
Moore Family Law – Representing Your Family’s Future