August 25, 2009
Your Divorce and Your Handicapped Child
When a child or adolescent needs special help managing behavior and / or coping with the symptoms of mental health disorders, families usually have to maneuver painstakingly through a maze of county, state, and federal regulations, agencies, and the individuals who represent them; in order to learn how to best advocate for their handicapped or special needs child. Combine these with a divorce, child custody battle; or with a death in the family and a probate court case; and the difficulty of everything, especially for your child, is multiplied.
Divorce Law and Disability Law
If you are the parent of a handicapped child and are undergoing divorce you will have to learn about not only family law but also the fundamental principles and procedures involved in disability law, special education, civil rights legislation including human rights legislation, IDEA legislation, The Minnesota Children’s Mental Health Act, county services, and quite possibly juvenile justice proceedings and other laws.
You will need to understand the structure of the courts and the various bodies involved in your child’s well being. You’ll need to decide the best way to proceed when you and / or your child are called before an administrator, when you have to fill out what can seem an endless sea of paper forms, and you’ll need to decide what to do when you must appear in court. The more the courts are involved, the more likely it is you will need to retain a family law attorney or a disability lawyer.
You will have to understand the differences between these laws and be able to decide what is most appropriate to used for meeting your child’s needs.
Appeals Court and Administrative Appeals
You may not get what you need for your child at the outset. You may need to learn the procedures and forms and contacts needed to file an appeal or a complaint regarding an administrative decision or court ruling. While in many cases, especially regarding your disagreement with a rule or an administrative decision, you may not need an attorney; you may be served best by at least hiring a knowledgeable lawyer to review the paperwork involved in caring for your child. This costs less than retaining a lawyer to become your advocate, and if possible it will provide you some basic legal advice.
You Will Learn to be Your Child’s Most Powerful Advocate
Finally, you will have to become expert in advocating for your special needs child; and learn also how to avoid and resolve disputes regarding your children.
It sounds like a lot and it is. We don’t know of any attorney or advocate who can do all this for you, even when you can afford to hire such an expert. Unfortunately, in extreme cases you may need to retain one attorney for your divorce, and another for your handicapped child.
Advocating for your child in Minnesota
There are several organizations that can help.
The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health is a statewide education and advocacy organization and a primary resource for children’s mental health. MACMH produces more than nine children’s mental health publications and organizes the annual Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference in Duluth, MN.
MACMH can be reached at The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health
Another resource for parents of handicapped or special needs children is The Arc of Minnesota. The Arc of Minnesota is a private, non-profit, statewide voluntary organization. The mission of The Arc of Minnesota is to support and advocate for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families as they choose how they live, learn, work and play. The Arc of Minnesota fight for persons with developmental disabilities so they can reach for a brighter, more inclusive future.
The ARC of Minnesota can be reached at The ARC of Minnesota
Thanks to the Minnesota Association of Children’s Mental Health for supplying the information used in this blog.
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.
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.
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 )
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.
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.
Plymouth, MN 55447
May 30, 2009
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
Moore Family Law
May 30, 2009
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”
“I Don’t Want to Work”
<With thanks to The Bellamy Brothers and Todd Rundgren.>
Have a great weekend!
Moore Family Law
Why a Depressed Market is not ALWAYS Bad in a Divorce
Divorce provides an economic opportunity for some individuals to start fresh with a pile of cash. Maybe the pile is not quite as high as it could have been, but your buying power might be greater, too. For example, the foreclosure crisis has created an unprecendented opportunity to obtain value for investment. Bargain hunting is also possible in the stock market. It is entirely possible that you can buy more long term investment vehicles with a smaller divorce settlement than you could have in the inflated market two or three years ago.
Your divorce attorney is almost certainly not a financial advisor. When your divorce atterney begins to discuss posssible outcomes for your case, it is time to consult with your financial advisor. You may want to ask your financial advisor to meet with you and your divorce attorney to help you develop a plan of action.
In the meantime, if you find yourself find yourself somewhat panicked by the recession, you might want to read the following piece from the Boston Globe from last year, http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/03/23/the_good_recession/. I found it to be quite thought provoking!
Moore Family Law, P.A.
May 12, 2009
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 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.
Moore Family Law, P.A.
May 7, 2009
Divorce, Valuation Dates, and Finances
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?
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.
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.
Moore Family Law, P.A.