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 17, 2009
New Court Filing Fees in Minnesota
As of July 1, 2009, new filing fees have gone into effect. While I knew “they” (The courts in Minnesota) were talking about raising rates, I had no idea by how much. Wow.
Court Filing Fees in Hennepin County, MN
Filing for dissolution (divorce) in Hennepin County has gone from $332 to $402. Filing a motion of any kind such as for child custody or in regard to a trust or estate planning legal matter has gone from $55 to $100. A complete list of Hennepin County filing fees is available online at the Hennepin County website
Court Fees in All Minnesota Counties
Filing fees vary by county and by type of matter (Family law, divorce, trust and estate, etc). Check the State of Minnesota website for the fee for your particular county and matter.
Emily M. Matson, Esq.
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.
A Family Law Lawyer Comments on Michael Jackson and Child Custody
Michael Jackson and Child Custody
With the death of Michael Jackson, there has been significant speculation as to what will happen with the custody of his three children. In his will, Jackson designated his mother as the children’s guardian. However, a guardianship designation in a will does not supersede the rights of a parent. As to the two older children, at least, the children’s mother, Debbie Rowe, may have superior rights to Jackson’s mother. Ultimately, the California Court will have to determine if it would be detrimental to the children’s best interests to be placed in the custody of Ms. Rowe. See this story on the BBC: Michael Jackson Child Custody
Debbie Rowe and Child Custody
At this time, there is no custody dispute. Ms. Rowe has filed no suit, and the children are in the custody of Jackson’s mother. As a family law attorney, I am happy to say that parents are usually motivated by the best interests of the children in these circumstances. If a parent has not been part of the child’s life for a significant period of time, they may not be motivated to step in if there is a more suitable custodian. They may, on the other hand, want to negotiate some quality time with the children. In this case, even if Ms. Rowe does not want custody of the children, the death of their father may provide her with an opportunity that didn’t exist prior to Jackson’s death to be part of her children’s life.
Of course, there is a potential jackpot here, since Jackson’s estate may provide the children’s custodian with access to a very large amount of cash.
Finally, since Ms. Rowe is not the biological parent of Jackson’s youngest child, who was the product of a surrogacy arrangement, additional complications may surface.
July 2, 2009
Jon and Kate, co-parenting
Jon and Kate and Child Custody
Last week, we discovered that, indeed, Jon and Kate are going to divorce. They are planning to use a very common co-parenting technique, called “bird-nesting”. “Bird-nesting” leaves the children in a single home, with the parents switching out. The best practice involves both parents obtaining a second residence, in addition to the one used for parenting time with the children. However, sometimes, co-parents can share a single residence for a short period of time.
“Bird-nesting” and co-parenting
“Bird-nesting” is not usually a long term solution for co-parenting, as people increasingly find it hinders their ability to pursue other relationships, as well as infringes upon their privacy. There is at least some thought that bird-nesting is not in the best interests of the children. See the All Academic web site. (purchase required). In my experience, children handle divorce a lot better than parents think they will. Unless your children have special needs, it is likely that they can handle having more than one bed.
In Jon and Kate’s situation, bird-nesting might be a necessity, since few people want to duplicate a home that will satisfy the needs of eight children as well as two individuals that will be going their own way.
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 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.