September 7, 2009
First of all, my thanks to attorney Steven H Silton, whose article, Counseling Clients in Financial Distress, in the August 2009 issue of Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the inspiration for this blog. Bench & Bar of Minnesota is published by the Minnesota State Bar Association.
Here’s my personal reaction to what Mr. Silton says in his article.
The financial crisis, and your personal crisis, is really about what you can do.
The global financial crisis is real and can be a rude awakening to someone who does not pay attention to the economy, or who does and who has, until now, enjoyed prosperity. In fact, today’s circumstances can be particularly hard on you if you’re used to hard work, success, and success based upon your hard work. Sometimes it seems that what you’ve done has been for naught. But, understanding your limits, rethinking your life, and taking a holistic approach to life and work, can help — though nothing can guarantee that your investments, or your marriage, or your social position, or anything else for that matter, will keep on an upward curve. We are all subject to market forces, nature, and social forces beyond our control. We have to learn how to learn from failure; and we must learn how to best deal with the psychological and personal aspects of the situation we are in.
You need experts, carefully selected, to work your way through this.
You should work with professionals, experts, to deal with what you cannot handle on your own. There is no shame in this. This could involve an attorney, a financial advisor, a life coach, a realtor, or a therapist. You have to do your life work and engage others in this work as appropriate. Getting depressed can be part of this but we have to learn to work through all the aspects of our situation. To quote Mr. Silton, “Accepting responsibility is one thing, but there is no room for despair in a sinking ship…” We must focus on how to get through the present crisis and how to build a better future. Victories in these necessary struggles, instead of avoiding the struggle, are what build confidence and reduce anxiety.
Stress and strain require you to be careful, ethical, and honorable.
If you are stressed, if those with whom you deal are stressed, you and they are inevitably being pushed in the direction of making distressed, even desperate, decisions. Someone sinking into apparently hopeless debt and bankruptcy will not always make rational decisions about their finances or about anything else, for that matter. Many examples could be cited of a party in a divorce who spends what he does not have on his bar tab, his ‘toys,’ and in other ways to avoid thinking about and dealing with what is inevitable. Be careful in your dealings, guard yourself from those who are not and work at living your life as ethically and as honorably as you can.
August 16, 2009
When You Can’t Afford to Hire Attorneys
When You Can’t Afford to Hire Lawyers
Typically family attorneys do their fair share of pro bono work, as do lawyers in other areas of practice. However, from what we can see, some attorneys can only accept a very small number of pro bono legal cases, which meet their specific income and subject matter requirements. Chances are, you will have better luck going through one of the other pro bono services for your divorce, child custody case, or other family law matter.
Free Legal Advice from a Divorce Lawyer
Every family law litigant should have the right to compensated, competent legal representation in court, regardless of income. However, in these days of reduced court funding, this may not be an attainable goal. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota published an article this week on where to go if your circumstances require you to go into court without an attorney. Click Here for the link The article is not exclusively about family law but it does apply to someone seeking divorce attorneys or child custody lawyers as well as other areas of the law in Minnesota
Hire an Attorney for an Hour or Two
Even if you can’t afford an attorney to represent you in Court, get some legal advice to make sure you are on the right track, even if it means paying for an hour of an attorney’s time to look at your documents. We hope you find these links useful.
August 13, 2009
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
Cost, Dirty Tricks, Win / Lose and Divorce and Child Custody Attorneys
Several years ago, my lead attorney and I went to an American Bar Association seminar in Monterey, California. We met with many interesting and experienced family law attorneys. One of these lawyers was Mr. Mark Chinn of Jackson, Mississippi.
Mark Chinn’s Family Law Web Site
Yesterday, in the course of preparing some new written and web-based materials for helping our family law clients through divorce proceedings, child custody matters, etc., I realized that our law firm had actually implemented some legal strategies in divorce cases which Mark had discussed with us. For instance, we are a ‘wrap-around’ firm and, while not strictly speaking practicing collaborative law, we do productively collaborate with other attorneys and with other professionals who can help our family law clients through a difficult time.
Not only that. Reading Mark’s blog I soon realized that his approach to law firm billing, ethics, and strategy is quite similar to ours. I would encourage anyone reading this blog to follow the links to Mark’s family law blog and read there. Please bear in mind that Mr. Chinn practices in Mississippi, and the firm I work for practices in Minnesota. The laws are different. Still, I think Mr. Chinn’s divorce blogs are well worth the read.
Mark Chinn’s Divorce Law Blog
Capturing Costs and Containing the Bill in a Family Law Case
Eliminate Dirty Tricks in a Divorce or Dissolution Case
Take the Win / Lose out of Child Custody Battles
We hope you find these links useful.
Moore Family Law, P.A.
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:
Moore Family Law, P.A.
July 17, 2009
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.
And, to you who are reading this – thank you!
Moore Family Law
June 23, 2009
BIG CLIENTS AND BIG ATTORNEYS
IN A FAMILY LAW OFFICE
As the office manager in a family law office, I have the opportunity to read about, reflect upon, and learn from our daily interactions with clients – and attorneys! – going through an emotional and stressful time. Good thing I like a challenge! Thinking things over, “Bigness” has been on my mind this week.
And, before I forget; I’ve noticed there are a lot of people interested in the child support calculator and child support payment calculator. Here’s a link you can use in Minnesota Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator
Anyway, on to “Bigness.”
The Big World
As I type this I’m listening to the “BBC World News” http://news.bbc.co.uk/ which is full of news about British doomsday planning for nuclear war in the 1980’s (which always ended in launching every nuclear armed missile possible), the disputed election in Iran (numerous persons killed), a subway train crash in Washington, D. C. (nine dead so far) and the bankruptcy of a local auto dealer here in Minneapolis, Minnesota (tax liens against his properties). It gives one pause, and some perspective, while going about one’s daily routines.
OK, here we go. I work in a small firm and I’m not an attorney so naturally I’ve a specific point of view about “Bigness.” My thanks to the American Bar Association magazine, “GPSolo” www.abanet.org/genpractice for inspiration and thoughtful information. These opinions of mine here are just that – my opinions.
Big Ego Divorce Clients
We’ve said this before in this blog, but it bears repeating – you are not the only person involved in a divorce or other family law matter. There’s the kids; the other party; and the law and the processes of the law. Minnesota, where I’m located, is not the best place to go for the jugular in a divorce action — we’re kind of common-sensical here, don’t ya know. Juries don’t normally award big claims in accident cases; and judges, in our experience, usually are truly focused on justice and equity for all involved – especially for the children, whether it be specifically child custody or child support case or not.
Big Ego Divorce Attorneys
Attorneys in our firm often return from court with the most interesting stories! These sometimes involve lawyers for the opposing party who think bluster and arrogance substitute for preparation, careful litigation, a knowledge of the law, and skill. They don’t; though they can needlessly run up the bill for their own clients and for the opposing party in a divorce.
Big Attorney’s Offices
Yes, law firms have been known to dress for success! As the guy who writes the checks around here, my advice is that what you want to look for is a location that reflects competence, success, and sympathy for your legal matter. I have been to law offices located in rundown houses that were slums, really; and to those in a downtown high rise with subtle designer interiors and designer furnishings. My take on this? Avoid the slum for all the obvious reasons. The downtown high rise lawyer might be just the ticket for you – but you are ultimately the one paying the rent and it’ll be reflected in your bill.
Big Law Firms
If you are preparing for a divorce, child custody, alimony, or child support legal action, a big firm might be just the thing for you – I’d like to think my family law firm can handle *anything* but we all have our limits. Do you have a really complex family law case – crossing numerous states, involving numerous family businesses, numerous residences and nearly non-existent record keeping? A large firm might be best for you.
Big Fees for Divorce Lawyers
This is related to the big law firm and the big attorney’s office threads. Let me be blunt. Your divorce attorney can’t advocate for you if you don’t pay the bill. Additionally, would you rather they spend their time hassling with you over what you have contracted to pay them; or spend their time productively working on your case? We don’t do checkbook justice, but you do get what you pay for. This can be tricky. I’d say, as the guy who sends out the bills here, look first for an attorney you can trust, who has the skills you need, and who is interested in your case. Then, make sure you can pay them – remembering that a retainer is usually only a down payment. If you can’t afford this particular attorney, don’t hire them. Find another. In any case, pay your bill; you’ll get a better professional relationship and a better result in your case.
June 19, 2009
Should You Avoid Divorce For Sake of the Children?
Marriage, Divorce… and the Effect on the Children
People fall in love, get married, have kids, and then… they’re out of love, but they still have the marriage and the kids. You can get a divorce. The marriage can be dissolved so that the legal ties that bind are no longer there to hold unhappy and unwilling partners together. However, your children will always be a connection the two of you will share.
It’s a tricky question of whether to avoid divorce or separation just for the sake of the children, however. Recently on the “Today” show website http://today.msnbc.msn.com a contributor, Dr. Ruth Peters, wrote an article titled “Should you stay together for the kids?” www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13924018/ It’s a good look at the complicated issues that can affect your decision.
Marriage, Divorce… and the Effect on the Rest of the Family
Myself, I think that if you’re unhappy and engaging in an unhealthy relationship, you are teaching your children that it’s ok to be unhappy and to have unhealthy relationships. How you live your life will affect your children more than giving them an occasional talk that includes “Do as I say, not as I do.”
One Good Co-Parenting Link
Every county in Minnesota requires that divorcing parents take a class on co-parenting after divorce. Hennepin County lists its on its website the www.courts.state.mn.us/district/4/?page=647 Divorce Education Requirements page . www.courts.state.mn.us/district/4/?page=647
This education requirement is not about teaching you how to parent: you obviously have figured that out by this point. The class will teach you how to effectively co-parent with someone you are no longer married to, which is far more important than people often anticipate. The class is more than worth the time you will spend in it. My clients often come back and tell me that they wish they could make their former spouse attend the class three more times.
Moore Family Law, P.A.
June 16, 2009
Meeting Your Attorney
The Initial Consultation
When you are dealing with any legal matter, — divorce, child custody, estate planning, or something else; you will of course have to meet your lawyer. While every attorney handles this meeting in his or her own way, here is one take on how that meeting would proceed.
First, you’ll have to find their office! Be sure to ask, or to map it, or to get directions on the phone. You do not want to be late to this meeting or arrive flustered by a frustrating chase around unfamiliar streets looking for an office. Some attorneys do make house calls or visit you at some spot convenient for you, but most prefer to meet you in their office. That this is “their turf” and not yours may be part of their approach, in order to ensure that you are capable of making some commitment to what can be an exhausting, long-term, and expensive relationship – hopefully resulting in you prevailing in your lawsuit, obtaining your divorce, drawing up and instituting your estate plan. Your prospective attorney may want to see if you’re up to at least some inconvenience and effort on your own part.
First Impressions Matter to You – And to Your Lawyer
OK, you’re in their office. Pay attention. Are you greeted immediately and courteously? Are you expected? Is this place like the offices on “Boston Legal” or “L.A. Law?” Probably not! So, being realistic, you’ll want to assess this first impression when you decide to employ this attorney – or not.
The first person you meet may be your attorney, a paralegal, or an office staffer. You may be handed a form to fill out, offered coffee, tea, or bottled water. You may be asked if you have brought any paperwork relating to your matter. Eventually – hopefully soon! – You will be invited into your prospective attorney’s office.
Bear in mind that the law is not just about statute, litigation, and precedent. It is also a very psychological matter – so you’d be advised to be aware not only of your intellectual, mental interaction with this person; but also of how you feel about him or her. Do you have a battle ahead over, say, child support? If so, do you want a lawyer who is a compromiser / nice guy; a battleaxe / bulldog; or something unique you can’t quite put your finger on yet?
How Your Family Law Attorney Might Proceed
She would ask what brought you to her, giving you a chance to expand upon your motivation; and asking more directed questions to bring out what might be important to your cause. It’s a back and forth question and answer format. The law can be abstruse and non-common-sensical at times, so by all means ask questions back. The point is to build some trust between you now, if possible.
She will talk about the attorney – client relationship and confidentiality.
She will outline what she sees your case to be and give some generic raw legal advice. You cannot expect her to lay out her entire role for you here – especially since the initial client interview is often free to you. This is an interview in both directions, actually: you are trying to see if she is the attorney for you; and so is she.
She will talk about the legal process you face. In some jurisdictions and for some types of law this can be very standardized; in others, not.
She will talk about two basic strategies in almost any case: settlement (no trial) or trial. Neither one is perfect and both typically involve both some work and some compromise.
The attorney will explain the business of the law. You have to pay the fee to get the advocacy you need.
Finally, the lawyer and you will end the interview. He or she will let you know what follow up you can expect – usually a letter or email.
Is This the Lawyer for You?
That’s it! Now, it’s time for you to make a choice – this attorney? Another? Drop the whole plan? Good luck!
June 16, 2009
JON AND KATE DIVORCE?
There’s been a lot of news about Jon and Kate Gosselin, the parents of sextuplets and twins who have documented their life on TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus Eight (http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/jon-and-kate/jon-and-kate.html). It’s juicy gossip. Jon is accused of infidelity. Kate is accused of having a volatile temper. It appears they are headed for divorce. Lime Life reports they spent their 10th Anniversary apart. http://www.limelife.com/blog-entry/Jon-and-Kate-Gosselins-10-Year-Anniversary-Apart/6438.html. The National Register claims that Jon wants to quit the show. http://www.nationalledger.com/artman/publish/article_272626504.shtml
Would Jon Get Child Custody?
It’s all great gossip. What makes the potential for divorce particularly enticing for the gossip mill is that there is a good chance that Jon, a stay-at-home father, would assume primary custody of the children. Kate has been spending a lot of time away from home on business related to her books and publicity for the show, while Jon has stayed home to care for the children. Kate is also rumored to be a less than ideal parent–although I have a hard time judging anyone’s parenting skills, much less a mother of eight young children.
What About Jon and Kate’s Marital Property?
In all likelihood, Jon’s infidelity is less important to a court than Kate’s parenting skills. But, how do you value the Gosselin estate? How do you split it up?
As we obtain more information, I will attempt to interpret it here.