By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

A Surprising New Ruling by IRS Regarding Child Support

Recently, the Seattle Times reported that the IRS determined that a single mother of two who worked as a hairdresser could not claim her children as dependents on her tax return, because she could not prove that she provided over 50% of their children’s support. This is a surprising result, since, in this case, it leads to the anomaly that no one can claim these children as dependents.

Tax Law, Child Custody, and Tax Planning

Although I am not a tax lawyer, as a family law attorney, I am often asked to help my clients allocate the dependency exemptions fairly. Parents are able to trade dependency exemptions back and forth quite liberally, regardless of who provides the most support, or who the children live with most of the time. The default is that the parent who has custody most of the time is entitled to the dependency exemption. However, tax planning often dictates that the other parent will get the most use of the dependency exemption. Often, families simply want to divide the tax benefit by alternating the dependency exemptions.

Apparently, however, if the hairdresser’s case is taken as new law, low-income tax payers will need to maintain records as to how much they’ve expended on support for their children. See the IRS Guidelines for more information.

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By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney.

I ran across a review for the movie Couples Retreat. The review makes it sound like the movie might not be worth the price of a matinee, but I wholly endorse the concept of marriage counseling.

There really are couples retreats out there that might help a marriage stay together. For example, there is a retreat in Vermont called “Marriage Quest“, and in Sedona, there’s a couples’ retreat called “Sedona Soul Adventures – a place I’d certainly like to go some day!

You don’t need a vacation therapy retreat, though. Marriage counseling with a licensed professional may be just as effective. You can obtain a referral from your family physician or therapist. One local therapist here in Minnesota who offers marriage counseling is Janet Schlegel, located in the northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney.

The New York Times has compiled a list of big-picture financial considerations you should make during your divorce. Our experience suggests that these are mostly good suggestions, although we do believe that the best way to proceed is with the advice of a lawyer or an attorney, who will be experienced in structuring financial settlements with these concerns in mind.

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.

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.

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

JON AND KATE DIVORCE?

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.  

Jennifer Moore
www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth,  MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

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

Minnesota Budget Cuts Will Impact Courts and Consumers

 Budget Cuts for Minnesota Courts

The news from the Governor’s Desk is quite mixed for the judicial system.  The budget signed into law from Governor Pawlenty did contain some minor budget cuts for the Minnesota Courts.  The Courts were already operating on a very slim budget, so the cuts will affect services.   To minimize the impact on consumers of judicial services, the Courts intend to implement some fairly significant increases in filing fees.  

 

No Sales Tax on Legal Services

Also on the legislative radar this year was the imposition of a sales tax on legal services.  It did not pass.  Such a tax would have presented a great hardship to individuals seeking legal representation.  Not only would the tax have increased every legal bill in Minnesota by the sales tax percentage, but it would have increased overhead for attorneys who are unaccustomed to sales tax reporting and collections.  Overhead is the primary determinant of the price of legal services.  

 

Minnesota Court Funding

Full coverage of the court funding issues in Minnesota is at http://www.1000supporters.org/

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
Plymouth, MN
jennifer.moore@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