A Family Lawyer’s Wish List

December 15, 2009

By Emily Matson, Family Law Attorney

The company next door to our firm has a large “wish list” on its door. It got me thinking about what I would wish for not only myself, but for our firm and our clients this holiday.

  • A legal administrative assistant to take care of scheduling, filing, and all that good stuff. A small office must make do with the resources it has, but sometimes I miss the structure of a large firm.
  • More money for the Minnesota courts and a right to counsel (also called “Civil Gideon”) in family law.
  • That every parent going through a divorce attend and learn something from the state-required Parenting After Divorce class.
  • For all my unresolved matters to settle so that no one has to pay for the pain of going through a trial.
  • A trip to Portland, Oregon, to visit friends.
  • A new computer to play World of Warcraft faster!

What’s on your wish list?

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By Emily Matson, Attorney

CNN recently published Japan Father Abduction, the story of a father from Tennessee who, despite having joint legal custody of his children, was arrested when he sought to recover his children from Japan, where their mother, and the man’s ex-wife, had taken them.

In Japan, custody is given to only one parent in a divorce.  This is the opposite of our own country and Minnesota’s legal tradition and precedent that assumes joint legal custody is in the best interest of a child.

Legal Child Custody in Minnesota

The definition of legal custody is set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.003, subd. 3(a): “the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.”  Compared to physical custody, which is the right to make day to day routine decisions about the child’s welfare, legal custody is about the “big picture” decisions that affect the way the child will learn about and be raised in the world.  See Basics on Child Custody and Parenting Time at the Minnesota Courts Self Help Center.

Joint Legal Child Custody

Most of the clients that come into my office seek joint legal custody.  Both parents want to continue to have an influence in the major decisions of their child’s life, and most of the time, it is in the child’s best interest to continue to have both parents as actively involved as possible.

The case of the father being arrested in Japan for trying to exert his right of legal custody should be a reminder to us not to take our legal custody rights to be involved in our children’s lives for granted.

Social Networking During Divorce

Divorce and Communication 

When parents divorce, they often have to find new ways to communicate with each other about their children.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to pass a notebook along with the children when they go for parenting time.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to set up an account at   Our Family Wizard    to to keep track of important dates on a shared schedule.  

Divorce, Child Custody, Alimony, Child Support and Social Networking

One thing that is NOT a good idea, however, is to use online social networking services, such as    Facebook      or    MySpace  as a soap box to talk about your former spouse in a negative way.  

Social networking sites allow you to share content with family, friends, colleagues, strangers, anyone with access to the internet.  There is great potential to help you keep in touch with people, but it also has great potential to help you alienate people and look like the worst possible parent.  

 From Where I stand as a Family Lawyer

I urge you to resist the temptation to find out where your former spouse is posting online, and even more, I urge you to resist the temptation to respond to anything he or she posts.  Do not start a passive aggressive flamewar by posting on YOUR site in reaction to something posted on his or her site. 

 

There is no good that can come of this.  If you need to vent, do so over the telephone or a cup of coffee to a friend or trusted family member.  Do not post it publicly and permanently on a website where people will see and judge you for it.  People do not know your whole history, and posting a one-word essay on the unfitness of your former spouse is not likely to make anyone agree with you – they are more likely to turn against you.

 Take the High Road

Social networking gives you the opportunity to practice taking the high road, and to make choices that are concerned with the best interest of your children.  That includes refraining from fighting or vilifying the other parent in a way that will only vilify yourself. 

 

Emily Matson

Emily.Matson@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Moore Family Law, P.A.

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.

emily.matson@moorefamilylawMN.com

Moore Family Law

Plymouth, MN

Mothers Who Choose To Give Up Child Custody

This morning on the   Today show  they had a brief spot highlighting an article in Marie Claire focusing on mothers who choose to give up custody of their children.

Non Traditional Child Custody and Parenting Time

More and more often, I see non-traditional custody and parenting time arrangements in divorces.  Often, I talk to fathers who are afraid they won’t be able to have any kind of parenting time beyond every other weekend, and I have to do a lot of talking to convince them that 50/50 arrangements are not only possible, but common, and can even be healthy for children. 

Mothers Who Give Up Child Custody and Parenting Time

Perhaps more difficult to comprehend, however, is the situation where a mother chooses to accept a custody arrangement that gives the father more than her.  There are social expectations that a mother will be caring and nurturing, and that while the father goes off to work and visits the kids every other weekend, the mother will stay at home no matter what. 

Fathers Who Have Primary Child Custody

Sometimes, however, the best interest of the children is to give the father primary custody, with the mother exercising the “over other weekend” – or even every summer – parenting time.  The Marie Claire article looks at the families of three women, and why it was the right choice for them.

Child Custody, Parenting Time, Alimony, Child Support – What is Best for You?

The underlying message behind the idea that it’s ok for mother’s to not have primary custody?  It’s that there is NEVER one right solution for every family.  What is right for YOUR family is not necessarily what is right for the Joneses down the street or the Gosselins on the television.  It is more important to figure out what is right for your family and best for YOUR children, than it is to worry about what people not in your family are going to think about it. 

Emily Matson

Emily.Matson@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Moore Family Law

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

MySpace, Facebook and Divorce 

Social Networking and Child Custody

When parents divorce, they often have to find new ways to communicate with each other about their children.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to pass a notebook along with the children when they go for parenting time.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to set up an account at   ourfamilywizard   to keep track of important dates on a shared schedule. 

 MySpace and Facebook

One thing that is NOT a good idea, however, is to use online social networking services, such as Facebook or MySpace     as a soap box to talk about your former spouse in a negative way. 

 Social networking sites allow you to share content with family, friends, colleagues, strangers, anyone with access to the internet.  There is great potential to help you keep in touch with people, but it also has great potential to help you alienate people and look like the worst possible parent. 

 I urge you to resist the temptation to find out where your former spouse is posting online, and even more, I urge you to resist the temptation to respond to anything he or she posts.  Do not start a passive aggressive flame war by posting on YOUR site in reaction to something posted on his or her site.  There is no good that can come of this. 

 Take the High Road during your Divorce or Child Custody Case

If you need to vent, do so over the telephone or a cup of coffee to a friend or trusted family member.  Do not post it publicly and permanently on a website where people will see and judge you for it.  People do not know your whole history, and posting a one-word essay on the unfitness of your former spouse is not likely to make anyone agree with you – they are more likely to turn against you.

 Social networking gives you the opportunity to practice taking the high road, and to make choices that are concerned with the best interest of your children.  That includes refraining from fighting or vilifying the other parent in a way that will only vilify yourself.

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.  

Emily Matson

Emily.Matson@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

 Moore Family Law, P.A.

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

 Plymouth, MN

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

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!

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
Plymouth, Minnesota