Minnesota Budget Cuts Will Impact Courts and Consumers

 Budget Cuts for Minnesota Courts

The news from the Governor’s Desk is quite mixed for the judicial system.  The budget signed into law from Governor Pawlenty did contain some minor budget cuts for the Minnesota Courts.  The Courts were already operating on a very slim budget, so the cuts will affect services.   To minimize the impact on consumers of judicial services, the Courts intend to implement some fairly significant increases in filing fees.  

 

No Sales Tax on Legal Services

Also on the legislative radar this year was the imposition of a sales tax on legal services.  It did not pass.  Such a tax would have presented a great hardship to individuals seeking legal representation.  Not only would the tax have increased every legal bill in Minnesota by the sales tax percentage, but it would have increased overhead for attorneys who are unaccustomed to sales tax reporting and collections.  Overhead is the primary determinant of the price of legal services.  

 

Minnesota Court Funding

Full coverage of the court funding issues in Minnesota is at http://www.1000supporters.org/

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
Plymouth, MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

Financing Life during a Divorce

 Divorce and Earning Some Extra Cash 

One of my goals as a divorce attorney is to assist my clients obtain sufficient support to maintain their assets and meet their reasonable monthly needs during a divorce.  However, as families separate from one household into two, there might not be quite enough money to finance both households and the costs of a divorce.   In these cases, my clients often look for ways to make a little extra money each month.  If you find yourself in that category, and you consider yourself “crafty”, take a gander at www.etsy.com. It’s a place to sell your arts and crafts (or buy them from other people). I am not “crafty” but found the site inspirational.

 Divorce and Managing your Personal Finances 

Sometimes, divorce makes a person realize that they don’t know the first thing about how to run their personal finances.  I have read a lot of books on personal finance, but my favorite is by Jerrold Mundis.  “How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously for the Rest of Your Life,” will help you develop a personal spending plan, reduce and eliminate your debt, and live within your means.  Here’s the link:  http://www.amazon.com/How-Debt-Stay-Live-Prosperously/dp/0553382020/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243441837&sr=1-1

 Jennifer Moore

Moore Family Law
Plymouth,  MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

Market Risk and Divorce

April 22, 2009

Market Risk and Divorce

 

One of the biggest issues in divorce involves the liquidity of the assets.  In a typical divorce, there will be a house, bank and investment accounts, and retirement assets.  The house and retirement accounts are not readily convertible into cash (especially in this market).  The bank and investment accounts are cash equivalents.  A good divorce settlement will attempt to match the needs of each party to the liquidity of the assets awarded to them in the divorce.  Thus, if one party will need cash to go back to school or fund a new home purchase, he or she should be awarded enough liquid assets to accomplish this goal.  At the same time, however, market risk is inherent in less liquid assets.  For example, until recently, real estate was a phenominal investment, but in the last year, prices have declined substantially, and there is a chance that it will be difficult to sell the home. 

 

Consider this extreme example of an unbalanced divorce settlement:  http://consumerist.com/5215609/divorcing-a-tycoon-you-win-some-you-win-some  The comments to the story are also interesting reading. 

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
(763) 951-7330
mfl@moorefamilylawMN.com
www.moorefamilylawMN.com

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.

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

emily.matson@moorefamilylawmn.com

TIMES ARE TOUGH – Discussed by a Minnesota Family Attorney

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has read / watched / talked about the economy this past weekend and gone, “Yikes!”  Times are tough! This puts the emphasis on being very flexible, very opportunistic as it were, about how you stretch your precious few dollars and still get done what has to get done.  We find people faced with this every day in our family law practice.

BARTER

Remember the story about Abraham Lincoln, who took various items in trade for legal services?  True story!  I could also tell you a story about how my mother paid for her first baby’s delivery by selling her cow Becky.  Turned out she, and the baby, were quite happy with the results of the trade.  The point is, if there’s a service you really need, and you are short on money, find someone you may be able to make a trade with, and make an offer to them.  I wouldn’t expect the IRS to take a cow in trade (whether named Becky or not) but perhaps a solo lawyer, your accountant, or small practitioner would take some work on their house or office or car or home computer.  Try it!  And, be ready to be flexible. 

BARGAIN

Many of us are not good at this at all, except maybe during port time on a vacation cruise.  The point here, I think is to go for not the cheapest but the best you can afford.  I know of one family who always got everything the cheapest when they built a garage behind their house.  They spent a lot of time in the courts trying to get recovery from the fly by night contractor who swindled them, *and* the garage leaked, too.   Use your brain!  If, for example, you’re bargaining for a lawyer and the cheap one has to look up everything in a book before he answers you, while the higher priced one knows the law already… you may be better off with the “more expensive” attorney since she has a better chance of actually accomplishing what you want.

CUT BACK

OK, I’m preaching motherhood and apple pie here, but cut back cut back cut back.  More than a few people we know have discovered the parsimonious joys of shopping at that really bare bones – and small! – Grocery store chain.  What applies to groceries applies to much of what we need in life.  Yes we have to give up variety and some expensive favorites but if the alternative is between living parsimoniously or living on an ever increasing credit card balance, I for one would choose parsimony.

 DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Anticipation of a dire situation is often worse than the situation itself.  Someone once wrote that the fact that there is a problem means that the elements are already present in the situation, for a solution.  You just have to dig it out.  For myself, I find that doing *something* — provided I’ve put some thought into its appropriateness – is better than doing nothing.  And, if after consideration, nothing is what you are compelled to do, that can work too.

DO SWEAT THE BIG STUFF

Family, friends, your own dignity and honesty.  THIS *stuff* is well worth paying attention to; and making sure that even if at the cost of some short run advantages, there are principles you can stick to. 

Please come back to our blog as we discuss more topics about Family Law and the economy.  You can visit our website, or give Moore Family Law a call 763-951-7330, if you have questions that you need answered.  We would be happy to assist you.

BUDGET CUTS

 

Article XI of the Minnesota Constitution prohibits the State from running a deficit.

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/mncon/Article11.htm  When tax revenues are significantly lower than expected, the State must cut spending or raise taxes in order to balance the budget. 

 

Over the past couple of years, family law attorneys have observed some significant changes in the Courts as budgets have tightened.  Hennepin County Family Court’s offices are closed on Wednesday afternoons.

Family Court Services can no longer perform custody evaluations except in the most limited circumstances.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that Courts are less willing to grant fee waivers than in the past. 

 

Chief Justice Eric Magnuson has stated that if the Court does not receive an addition $43,000,000 in funding out of the state budget for courts, many cases will not be processed.  Of particular interest to family law attorneys, it is likely that harassment cases will not be processed, which could have implications for safety in cases of domestic violence.  Here is a link to an article discussing the problem.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/01/14/chief_justice_courts_need_an_additional_43_million/

 

In these tough economic times, it is even more important to have qualified family law attorneys on your side.  It’s not just about winning your case.  Sometimes, it’s about ensuring that you receive due process in a Court system that has few resources to provide it.  And sometimes, it’s getting sound advice to ensure your safety in the midst of a volatile family situation.

 

Jennifer Moore

Moore Family Law, P.A.

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN 55447

(763) 951-7330

Fax:  (866) 354-3531

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com