November 30, 2009
By Thomas Moore, Family Law Office Manager
The Hennepin County Bar Association here in Minnesota is, obviously, an organization of, by, and for lawyers. I’m no lawyer, I just work for one (or two, or… But that’s a different story!).
Some lessons from a depression era attorney
Anyway, I was recently reading the October 2009 issue of Inside Hennepin Lawyer, the magazine of the Hennepin County Bar Association, and I found an entry entitled: “Of Bugs, Brontosauruses, and Daniel Boone.” Quite a title, but what really caught my eye is that the two articles here are reprints from 1933. They were written in the depth of the great depression by Mr. Ben Palmer
Old fashioned thinking and the law
The first article is “Daniel Boone on Broadway,” In it Mr. Palmer points out that “Daniel Boon on Broadway is no more of an anachronism than the individual who carries the psychology of the frontier into the cooperative life of today.” We sometimes see this phenomenon in our family law and probate law practices, where someone seems blind to the reality that a divorce involves not just the plaintiff and the respondent but also, any and all children from their union. Their case also involves not just property but also the standard of living of the two sides – and that of the children. I think a law firm should strive to be the most reasonable party in the room – it should defend you, the client, but it should also bear in mind that others – especially the children – also have rights and that the adults have obligations. I think Mr. Palmer is making an important point for all of us
Rugged individualism is not an asset in a lawsuit
In the second article, “The Bug on the Brontosaurus,” Mr. Palmer refers to a nation of “streams of force – economical, social, political, religious – converging on certain focal points… The most romantic libertarian… can only act effectively through those organizations whose general goal coincides with his own heart’s desire. There is no such thing as splendid isolation.” Again, excellent point! In a divorce, child support dispute, child custody lawsuit, as well as in an alimony or probate case, these organizations that can be used for the outcome you seek include the law, the courts, your own attorney, and the opposing party’s lawyer. Otherwise, your case and the outcome you seek, will pass away to become as extinct as the once-mighty brontosaurus.
Read the article! I think you’ll find this wisdom, and much more, in it.
Mr. Palmer concludes that “There is no such thing as splendid isolation… It is adaptability, and not merely strength, that counts.” Again, read the article! Mr. Palmer makes his point with much more grace, and brings to bear much more experience, than can I.
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
May 30, 2009
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/
Moore Family Law, P.A.
April 24, 2009
Smiles are Optional
At Your Divorce Trial
Divorce Trial? Who does that?
Most family law cases settle long before a divorce trial, but in a small minority of cases, clients find themselves preparing for a trial in divorce court. You may think your case is too simple for a trial, but a divorce involves summing up all the lives of any given family. These issues can be complex, and if the family doesn’t agree on what is fair and equitable, much less the basic facts, there will have to be a trial.
What Happens During a Divorce Trial?
Divorce trials are heard by judges, not by juries. There may be short opening statements, although they are often waived. Various people will testify about the case, including the parties and experts (such as custody evaluators, real estate appraisers, actuaries, forensic accountants, and therapists). In some cases, friends, neighbors, relatives and teachers may be called to testify. Documents about your financial situation and any other issue will be given to the Judge to help him or her decide the issues in the case.
Once both parties have had the opportunity to present witnesses and exhibits to the Judge, the Court will ask for closing arguments. In family court, these are often done in writing in the form of proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree. This is where the attorneys summarize the case and ask the Court to decide a particular way.
What Doesn’t Happen During a Divorce Trial?
There is rarely an “Aha! I’ve got you!” moment. There will be cross-examination, but the Court is not impressed with courtroom theatrics. What might be a relevant admission to one spouse will probably not impress the Court. I have witnessed attorneys spend hours grilling a wife about the fact that her expenses will decrease when her children leave home in five or six years. Honestly, I think time might have been better spent talking about the wife’s current needs and the wife’s current income, since maintenance can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. Similarly, Minnesota does have no-fault divorce, so testimony about infidelity and other misconduct are not relevant in the vast majority of cases.
A Winning Strategy for Divorce Court
The best strategy is to appear more reasonable than the other side. Logic and reason are valued by the legal profession (judges included), even in the midst of the difficult emotions presented in family court. Anger and hostility are understandable, but will not win a case. Smiles are optional – but they can help!
Moore Family Law, P.A.