By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could have major implications for poor parents who are sued in child protection cases (See The Star Tribune). The question, interestingly enough, isn’t whether parents parents who can’t afford an attorney in a child protection case are entitled to representation. They are. Instead, the question is whether the Court has the authority to require a county to pay for a private attorney or whether representation must be by a public defender. Public defenders are paid for out of the judiciary budget. In the case to be decided by the state supreme court, a Rice County judge appointed a private attorney to represent the indigent parents in a child protection case, ordering the county to pay for it out of their budget.

Private Attorney v. Public Defender

I cannot say enough about the quality of public defenders we have here in Minnesota. However, it is likely that most people would choose a private attorney over a public defender. I did read an interesting article in The Concurring Opinion that theorized that the experience obtained by public defenders make them a better choice for most defendants than a private lawyer. Another problem is that the pay rate for private attorneys performing public defender services can be very low. In Wisconsin, for example, a private attorney who takes a public defender appointment will earn $40 an hour, when the average hourly pay for attorneys in Wisconsin is $188 an hour. (From All Business.) In fact, that $40 an hour is only $5 an hour higher than was paid for public defender appointments in 1978, when the public defender statute was passed.

Public Defender Overload

With the current economic situation, there is a serious problem with overload in the public defender’s office, especially in out-state Minnesota. (See The LaCrosse Tribune and The Star Tribune). Hiring private attorneys to help with the backlog in time-sensitive child protection cases must be a serious temptation to judges balancing their own overcrowded dockets against the welfare of abused and neglected children.

Of course, if the Courts expect private attorneys to accept appointments to represent indigent clients, there needs to be a mechanism to pay the attorney for their time. The attorney who was appointed in the Rice County case has not yet been paid.

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Stress, Strain, and Divorce

A Few Words from A Family Law Office Manager

We live in stressful times. Half the people I know are depressed, it seems, agitated or both! Stressed out.

I can identify with you.  Take blogging.  Blogging is good for the spirit, provides a basis for helping folks out and of course is a great way to let other folks know who you – and your organization — are. But what if you’ve spent all week doing data entry and balancing the books? Dull, dull, dull!

What if you, like me, are not really qualified to blog about the most interesting things in the office? Here I am, office manager in a family law / probate / trusts and estates law firm with one paralegal, several attorneys – and me.  Everyone here is more qualified than I in the legal field.  My expertise is in marketing and cash management and, well, managing the office. 

Stress and Strain and the MTA (Marital Termination Agreement)

Recently a client came into the office to sign their MTA (Marital Termination Agreement – that’s legalese for divorce papers, at least here in Minnesota.  He was upset, he did / didn’t want to sign them. We talked. I was glad for a chance for some human contact and he and I actually have a lot in common – we’ve both been through a divorce and we’re both emotional about it – and committed to making it happen so we can move on.

Speaking of emotions, have you noticed the number of people going off the deep end lately and launching on various violent and destructive sprees? It’s a lot, it seems to me anyway. I think everyone is suffering from stress.  Divorce, like running or mountain climbing where you hit *the wall* and keep on going on raw will power – divorce, child custody, probate, estate planning – though divorce is the worst – all of these are emotional and often force you to go beyond what you think you can do and in fact sometimes do force you into situations where you really don’t know how to cope, or cope as well as you want.

Divorce and Self Help

Here’s my point.  Divorce almost inevitably involves real estate, child care arrangements, financial planning, health issues, and mental health issues. Seek help. If you had a broken leg you’d see a doctor. If you have to sell the house, find a realtor and a mortgage banker. If you have a spirit at risk of being broken, or a life in danger of being damaged, seek out not only friends you can talk with; but a support group, individual therapy, group therapy. Many of us have been there. It’s worth it.

So, that’s it!  Be your own best advocate for you and for your loved ones.

And the man who did / didn’t want to sign his divorce papers? He signed — *after* I promised that his attorney  would talk with him next week about it before proceeding.

Thomas Moore, office manager

Moore Family Law 

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

 World of Warcraft, Life Balance and Your Divorce Lawyers

Stress:  Something You Can Do with your Divorce Lawyer

As office manager in a family law firm, I must acknowledge that, from time to time, things get stressful indeed.  Two days this week were just that:  two court appearances, several cases of unexpected illness in the office, deadlines looming in a very ‘paper intensive’ matter, rescheduled court dates and on and on.

 That’s when I was reminded, again, of the necessity of a meaningful life – work balance, especially if you are doing something life changing such as retaining a divorce attorney, child support lawyer, etc.  So, I talked with some professionals I know and a number of them it turns out are enthusiasts of   World of Warcraft (WOW)    They socialize both with online friends and with ‘real time’ friends through this game.  They get great satisfaction from raiding in the different dungeons in the game.  I also know at least one divorce attorney who just loves Judge Judy  Not for me, and possibly not for you either, I know, but still everybody needs something!  For me, it may be just firing up the lawn mower and attacking the lawn – again.  Or, it may be a quiet afternoon chatting with my son while he cleans up his apartment.  You will have your own way of achieving that balance I am sure. 

 The point here is when you are dealing with divorce, a last will and testament, drawing up a trust, estate planning, child support or child custody – work with the professionals in your life to manage rationally the stress, time, and intensity you put into the various areas of your life – work, sleep, family, relaxation, and the family law or other legal matter you are involved in.

 Stress:  Resources Your Divorce Attorneys Probably Can’t Provide

I realize I write so many blogs about stress in relation to family law, divorce lawsuits, and so on – but it is true that we need that life – work balance.  We hope you can find yours.  It helps when you have help.  Here are some links to resources I hope you’ll find useful:

 Volunteer Lawyers and Attorneys in Minnesota

 

Parents without Partners

 

Twin Cities Men’s’ Center, MN

 

Self Advocacy in Minnesota

 Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Moore Family Law, P.A.

Plymouth, Minnesota

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Thankful Things in Divorce Law

Family Law and Peace and Quiet

It’s Friday, we have been very rushed all week and we have a firm retreat this weekend. Tonight we plan to have a summer cookout with friends. Hopefully today will be a quiet one! As it is I have a few minutes here to count our blessings. It may sound odd to think of being thankful in a law practice consisting of divorce cases, child custody cases and – more and more, recently – child support actions. Still, looking at the bright side really isn’t a luxury but a necessity; and it struck me earlier this week that I was really being inordinately grouchy!

The Bright Side of Working With Divorce, Child Custody, and Probate

Here are a few bright sides to our family law practice here in Minnesota.

1. Helping a client through a difficult divorce, custody dispute, etc.

The old saying that what does not break us makes us stronger can sound smug, I know, but I think it is, for me at least, true. Takes work!

2. Helping a client – and myself — grow to learn to apply the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) prayer

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.” No matter what your belief, or disbelief, in God, I think this works and I am thankful that I have the opportunity at least to try to apply this to myself.

3. Making things go more smoothly in my daily tasks

Which result in more timely and economical delivery of our product – legal opinions – to our clients; with less friction along the way. 4. Hearing that what I do has actually helped someone in their divorce, probate, estate plan, child custody case.

5. Collaborating in the office with our family law and probate attorneys

To provide the best service we can to our clients.

6. In a divorce or probate legal case, successfully balancing

The emotional needs of our clients to the very practical matters of deadlines, paperwork, fees, billing, and so on.

7. Helping mesh everyone’s different styles, strengths, and emotions

In a productive way, whether they be lawyers, opposing counsel, client, vendor, or just me.

8. At the end of the day, knowing I have done my duty

To the firm and to our clients to the best of my ability.

Thank You

 And, to you who are reading this – thank you!

Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Moore Family Law

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

Plymouth, Minnesota

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com