By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could have major implications for poor parents who are sued in child protection cases (See The Star Tribune). The question, interestingly enough, isn’t whether parents parents who can’t afford an attorney in a child protection case are entitled to representation. They are. Instead, the question is whether the Court has the authority to require a county to pay for a private attorney or whether representation must be by a public defender. Public defenders are paid for out of the judiciary budget. In the case to be decided by the state supreme court, a Rice County judge appointed a private attorney to represent the indigent parents in a child protection case, ordering the county to pay for it out of their budget.

Private Attorney v. Public Defender

I cannot say enough about the quality of public defenders we have here in Minnesota. However, it is likely that most people would choose a private attorney over a public defender. I did read an interesting article in The Concurring Opinion that theorized that the experience obtained by public defenders make them a better choice for most defendants than a private lawyer. Another problem is that the pay rate for private attorneys performing public defender services can be very low. In Wisconsin, for example, a private attorney who takes a public defender appointment will earn $40 an hour, when the average hourly pay for attorneys in Wisconsin is $188 an hour. (From All Business.) In fact, that $40 an hour is only $5 an hour higher than was paid for public defender appointments in 1978, when the public defender statute was passed.

Public Defender Overload

With the current economic situation, there is a serious problem with overload in the public defender’s office, especially in out-state Minnesota. (See The LaCrosse Tribune and The Star Tribune). Hiring private attorneys to help with the backlog in time-sensitive child protection cases must be a serious temptation to judges balancing their own overcrowded dockets against the welfare of abused and neglected children.

Of course, if the Courts expect private attorneys to accept appointments to represent indigent clients, there needs to be a mechanism to pay the attorney for their time. The attorney who was appointed in the Rice County case has not yet been paid.

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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.

By Thomas Moore, Office Manager

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.

By Jennifer Moore, Attorney

Some things never change in family law – including the costs of divorce!

Divorce, alimony, child support, child custody have always been a strain – even for some who really are well off.   Read the “Special to The New York Times” for Sunday, August 9, 1903, regarding the unfortunate Mr. Frederick L. Champlin, “the once wealthy clubman” of Chicago, Illinois.

Even a Family Attorney Needs a Break!

Take the Kids Camping!

 

This is the last unofficial weekend of summer, and the last chance to take a long weekend camping at any of the many Minnesota State Parks      .    I recommend going to some of the ones further outside the Twin Cities than usual.  I spent a long weekend at the beginning of August at  Bear Head Lake     State Park outside Ely, MN,     the wanna-be-hosts of the    2016 Olympics  .)   

This weekend I’m venturing to  

Upper Sioux Agency State Park, where I plan to hike some trails and kayak some waters.  Favorites in the past have included Gooseberry Falls State Park outside of Duluth, and Sibley State Park, outside Wilmar.

 

State Parks are a great destination for families, small and large.  At Bear Head, our neighbors included a large family reunion with people from all over the five state area.  I enjoyed watching uncles teach nieces to fish, and grandpa argue with son over who snored louder.  State Parks have nice sized campsites, some with electricity for RVs, shower facilities, and well-informed staff that can help you make the most of your time out in the wild.

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. 

 

Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Moore Family Law, P.A.

Plymouth, MN 

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

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

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.

 

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth, Minnesota 

Moore Family Law

A Family Law Attorney’s advice on Preventing Divorce

 
Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of divorce.  I’m not sure how many were preventable.  I do know that many of my clients did not want the divorce.  But in Minnesota, if one party wants a divorce, a divorce is granted by the Courts.  I’ve heard good things about Divorce Busting.   http://www.divorcebusting.com/  Maybe it will prevent some of you from becoming a client. 
 

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

Plymouth,  MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com