June 8, 2009

Buckle Up, Minnesota, Buckle Up! 

(With a tip of our cap to “Buckle Down Winsocki, Buckle Down” lyrics:  http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/bestfootforward/buckledownwinsocki.htm )

 Safety First…

Beginning June 9, 2009, you can be stopped by a police officer if you do not have your seatbelt on.  This is a change, because in the past, police could only stop you if you committed some other violation in addition to a seatbelt violation.    http://www.startribune.com/local/47145682.html?elr=KArksUUUU

 And, Avoiding Problems in a Divorce Child Custody Dispute 

While I do not think it is a major crime not to wear a seatbelt, I have seen significant family law litigation over the failure to use seatbelts or car seats for children.  Often, the newly single parent does not have the means to purchase a car seat, or their cars are in poor repair.   Here is a guide to Hennepin County resources to assist parents in obtaining the proper safety restraints:  http://www.buckleupkids.state.mn.us/Hennepin%20County%20Guide%202005.pdf.  It is worth a little hassle to avoid custody litigation.

 Jennifer Moore
www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth, MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

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June 2, 2009

Home for the Holidays?

 Holidays and Children and Divorce

As a parents facing divorce, the biggest question you will face is determining custody and parenting time for your children.  This includes not only the day to day scheduling issues, but also the important days of the year that involve the holidays. 

Holidays must be addressed by every parenting schedule.  It is a question that must be addressed by every family; however, the answer to that question depends on your particular family.  

What a parenting time plan MUST include is a schedule that address where the children will be on the major holidays and vacations during the year.  This includes New Years Eve and Day, Spring Break, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Hanukah, and other that may be important to your religion and culture.  

Vacations and Children and Divorce

Additionally, parents may wish to reserve a one-week or two-week period during which they can take a vacation with the children.  Usually this is reserved to spring break, winter break, and summer break time periods so that the children’s school is uninterrupted. 

 Details and Children and Divorce

What I typically see in a parenting plan holiday schedule is that the parents alternate years – in even years, mom has the children for Christmas Eve, and dad has them for Christmas Day; in odd years, they switch.  It is also important to consider which holidays matter most to you.  Is it ok for your children to be with your spouse for Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas Day all in the same year?  If not, then you should look at the alternating schedule to make sure it reflects what you want to have happen. 

 Finally, make sure that your schedule specifies whether it covers the Holiday day, or Holiday weekend, and what time periods that covers.  Sometimes Thanksgiving is just one day, sometimes it’s a 4-day weekend.  Sometimes Christmas Eve ends at 10 PM; sometimes “Christmas Day” starts at 10 AM the next day.  It is important to discuss these potential solutions with your spouse at the time you draft your parenting time plan.  It is not safe to assume that you and your spouse will work on the same time frame once things are in place!

 Emily M. Matson, Esq.

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

Plymouth, MN 55447

Phone:  763-951-7330

emily.matson@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

Yet One More Closely Reasoned Essay

On the Seriousness of

Family Law and Estate Planning

 Oh, the heck with it!  I give up!  It’s Spring!

 What I’d really like to do today can be expressed thus:

 “Get into Reggae Cowboy” 

 http://www.amazon.com/Get-Into-Reggae-Cowboy/dp/B0011W7E96/ref=sr_f2_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1243684238&sr=102-1

 Or, 

“I Don’t Want to Work” 

http://www.amazon.com/Bang-Drum-All-Day-Version/dp/B0012FBZOW/ref=sr_f2_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1243684369&sr=102-1

 

<With thanks to The Bellamy Brothers and Todd Rundgren.>

 Have a great weekend!

 Tom Moore

Moore Family Law

FIRST DIVORCE, THEN ESTATE PLAN? 

After your divorce, things will have changed, forever.  Your income, home, automobiles, leisure time, family routines, time with or without the children; and how you feel about all this – will never be the same.  You may also have some hurts and real psychic damage to heal. 

 MOST DIVORCES…

Most divorces involve a full measure of unpleasant expense, conflict, and emotion.  Planning your estate, which contemplates your own personal demise; can also be fraught with negativity.  So why would anyone in their right mind want to do first one, then the other?  I would reason that because of and in spite of these traumas, this may be the very best time to plan your estate, your legacy

 FIRST,  EAT A BULLFROG

I’m returning here to a theme that has occurred to me in the course of our trusts and estates practice and our family law practice:  “Eat a bullfrog the first thing in the morning and everything else all day will taste delicious!”  <Author unknown.> My point is, you will have gone through a lot in your divorce.  It has no doubt strengthened you to take this necessary difficult step.  Now may be the time to use your strength and understanding to clean up the loose ends, start afresh, and look to the future.  Post divorce may be the best time of all for planning your estate.  There are a myriad of new legal tools for incapacity planning, wealth transfer planning and beneficiary protection.  I can only hint at what tools are available, but here they are.

 TOOLS THAT HELP PLAN YOUR ESTATE

You can use a revocable living trust to protect your assets.  An enhanced health care directive empowers individuals to carry out your medical decisions.  HIPAA authorization ensures family access to your health care information.

Your last will and testament or a beneficiary designation provide for the transfer of wealth.  

You can safeguard your family by establishing a beneficiary protection plan to designate guardians for your children, provide them child-rearing instructions.  You can establish trusts to protect beneficiaries by safeguarding their inheritance from excessive taxation, creditors and predators.  

 Thomas Moore

Moore Family Law, P.A.

 (763) 951-7330

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

 www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Divorce, Valuation Dates, and Finances

Question:  

Consider for a moment that you and your spouse decided to divorce in May of 2007, separated your households and began living apart, but you did not file for divorce until May of 2009.  You know that your house is worth less than it was worth two years ago.  You may even be under water on the house now, whereas two years ago, you may have had $20,000 or $30,000 worth of equity in your home.  What date is used to value the house in a divorce?

 Answer: 

Under Minnesota law, the valuation date is presumed to be the date of the first regularly scheduled pretrial hearing.  However, parties to a divorce can agree to use a different valuation date.  More importantly, a different valuation date can be used by the Court if it finds that the alternative valuation date is more fair and equitable under the circumstances.   This used to be an issue that was rarely litigated, but with the global economic crisis affecting the value of houses and retirement assets so dramatically, it is now a topic of divorce litigation in almost all of my cases here in Minnesota. 

 Workarounds: 

There are ways around the issue.  For example, with retirement and investment assets, parties can agree to simply split the asset equally without placing a value on the asset.  Or, parties can trade similar assets that have been affected equally by the economy without placing a value on either asset.   What you can work out depends of course on how much cooperation you can get from the opposing party.

 Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com 

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

Discovery –

It’s Not Just an Expensive Cable Channel!

When you are in the process of getting a divorce, there is a period of time called “discovery.”  Much like Discovery the channel, it’s about finding out information you may or may not have known.  It is a broad term that includes requests for documents, written questions to each other, and possibly a deposition.

Formal v. Informal Discovery

In Hennepin County, MN and many other counties in Minnesota, there is a preference for doing “informal discovery” in family law.  This is because often the parties are able to share information easily and completely without having to go through more expensive legal channels.  It can be as simple as your lawyer writing to the other lawyer and asking for some pay stubs, tax records, and anything else that might be financially relevant. 

However, when the parties are in disagreement about what information is relevant, or the scope of relevant information, the lawyers might proceed with formal discovery.  Formal discovery includes formal pleadings requesting information.

Request for Production of Documents

One of the formal pleadings you may receive or serve on the other party is called “Request for Production of Documents.”  This is a detailed list of documents that you ask the other side to provide.  Some of the documents might be things you think you have, but you ask for them anyway in case you find you’re missing something.  This will likely include requests for income statements, financial records, health records, and any written information about potential experts that might testify at trial.  You have approximately 30 days to provide this information, unless the other side grants you an extension of time.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories is the formal pleading that is simply just a lot of questions about who you are, what your plans are, what your thoughts are.  It will likely include questions about your job history, your relationship with your children, your thoughts about custody, who else you think might testify at the trial.  Like the request for production of documents, these are due within 30 days as well.

Depositions

In my experience, depositions are rare in family law.  However, sometimes the first two formal methods of obtaining information do not give the attorneys clear and complete information.  In that case, you have the right to depose the opposing party.  The person being deposed might be asked to bring additional documents to the deposition, and to discuss his or her opinion of them.  The deposition might take a few hours to all day, and will be recorded by a court reporter.  Depositions can be expensive and stressful if you are unprepared, and your attorney should sit down with you before hand to let you know what to expect and how to act during the deposition.  They can often be a good tool to help the parties better understand each other and therefore avoid a trial. 

Emily M. Matson, Esq.

Moore Family Law, P.A.

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

Phone:  763-951-7330 

emily.matson@moorefamilylawmn.com

High Net Worth?

Get Divorced Now

 

The January 2009 issue of the ABA Journal (American Bar Association www.abajournal.com  ) contains an interesting and relevant article for our high net worth readers, written by Eleanor Breitel Alter.

 

With thanks to Ms. Alter, here is my take on her article.

 

Ms. Alter, who practices in New York City, cites her own experience of getting a steady stream of high-net-worth divorce clients starting from the time Lehman Brothers failed in September of last year.  From a rational viewpoint, this makes sense:  divorcing when your net worth is down means that you will have less to divide up with your soon-to-be ex, and it means disencumbering yourself when you have major concerns regarding finances, life style, career, and children. 

 

At the same time, faltering markets, unsure markets, down markets all force your hand.  The article cites increased reappraisal of assets and increased scrutiny of values during the divorce proceedings.  Where I office, we are finding increased litigation as spouses do battle over who will get the house that’s under water, the summer cabin that can’t be sold, and the retirement and investment funds they both fear will be worth, in round numbers, zero.  Now can be a good time to quantify these potential losses, come to grips with them, and move on.

 

Furthermore, Ms. Alter points out, there are clients with large incomes and expenditures just as large, at best.  More than one family has been maintaining a certain life style on a deficit, and the consequences of being wedded to a spendthrift, or of being one, are usually painful.  Our experience here in Minnesota bears this out.  We are finding that all the above can combine for a more complex, harrowing, and expensive divorce.

 

Which brings us to another of Ms. Alter’s points — and a hopeful one:  these conditions can also be motivation for both sides of the divorce to work together to come up with a rational, fair, and less traumatic, divorce.  Often, decrees are negotiated with an eye to renegotiating them again when economic and personal conditions change in the future, reducing the complexity and expense of trying to predict what is inherently unpredictable.  It’s up to you.

 

All of which we hope is food for thought.

 

Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Moore Family Law, P.A.

 

Our web site:

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

 

Our email:

mfl@moorefamilylawMN.com