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

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Smiles are Optional

At Your Divorce Trial

 

Divorce Trial?  Who does that?

 

Most family law cases settle long before a divorce trial, but in a small minority of cases, clients find themselves preparing for a trial in divorce court.   You may think your case is too simple for a trial, but a divorce involves summing up all the lives of any given family.  These issues can be complex, and if the family doesn’t agree on what is fair and equitable, much less the basic facts, there will have to be a trial.

 

What Happens During a Divorce Trial?

 

Divorce trials are heard by judges, not by juries.   There may be short opening statements, although they are often waived.  Various people will testify about the case, including the parties and experts (such as custody evaluators, real estate appraisers, actuaries, forensic accountants, and therapists).  In some cases, friends, neighbors, relatives and teachers may be called to testify.   Documents about your financial situation and any other issue will be given to the Judge to help him or her decide the issues in the case. 

 

Once both parties have had the opportunity to present witnesses and exhibits to the Judge, the Court will ask for closing arguments.  In family court, these are often done in writing in the form of proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree.   This is where the attorneys summarize the case and ask the Court to decide a particular way. 

 

What Doesn’t Happen During a Divorce Trial?

 

There is rarely an “Aha! I’ve got you!” moment.  There will be cross-examination, but the Court is not impressed with courtroom theatrics.  What might be a relevant admission to one spouse will probably not impress the Court.  I have witnessed attorneys spend hours grilling a wife about the fact that her expenses will decrease when her children leave home in five or six years.  Honestly, I think time might have been better spent talking about the wife’s current needs and the wife’s current income, since maintenance can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances.  Similarly, Minnesota does have no-fault divorce, so testimony about infidelity and other misconduct are not relevant in the vast majority of cases.

 

A Winning Strategy for Divorce Court

 

The best strategy is to appear more reasonable than the other side.  Logic and reason are valued by the legal profession (judges included), even in the midst of the difficult emotions presented in family court.  Anger and hostility are understandable, but will not win a case.  Smiles are optional – but they can help!

 

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
(763) 951-7330
www.moorefamilylawMN.com

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

Market Risk and Divorce

April 22, 2009

Market Risk and Divorce

 

One of the biggest issues in divorce involves the liquidity of the assets.  In a typical divorce, there will be a house, bank and investment accounts, and retirement assets.  The house and retirement accounts are not readily convertible into cash (especially in this market).  The bank and investment accounts are cash equivalents.  A good divorce settlement will attempt to match the needs of each party to the liquidity of the assets awarded to them in the divorce.  Thus, if one party will need cash to go back to school or fund a new home purchase, he or she should be awarded enough liquid assets to accomplish this goal.  At the same time, however, market risk is inherent in less liquid assets.  For example, until recently, real estate was a phenominal investment, but in the last year, prices have declined substantially, and there is a chance that it will be difficult to sell the home. 

 

Consider this extreme example of an unbalanced divorce settlement:  http://consumerist.com/5215609/divorcing-a-tycoon-you-win-some-you-win-some  The comments to the story are also interesting reading. 

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
(763) 951-7330
mfl@moorefamilylawMN.com
www.moorefamilylawMN.com

The economy is affecting everyone in one way or another.  Even if you still have your job, you might be having a hard time making the house payment.  Even if you still have your house, you might be having a hard time buying groceries.  Something is getting cut along the way for everyone, and sometimes this has a greater impact than you might originally expect.

 

Minnesota Court Budgets

In the Court system, the situation is the same.  The budget that the Courts need and the budget that the Courts get are two different things, and the Courts have to make decisions about where to cut back.  Articles in the publications, including http://mnbar.org/benchandbar/2008/dec08/court.html  in “Minnesota Bench & Bar” and http://www.growthandjustice.org/Fewer_clerks_shorter_hours_Budget_cuts_slow_wheels_of_justice.html in “Growth and Justice”, have addressed the problems facing the Courts.  The Court websites themselves have posted bulletins about the budget cuts’ impact http://www.mncourts.gov/district/4/?page=3278  and how funding cuts threaten public safety http://www.courts.state.mn.us/district/0/?page=NewsItemDisplay&item=44518

 

The Impact on Family Law in Minnesota

The impact of the budget cuts on your family law matter could include the following:

  • Delay in filing matters and scheduling hearings and trials.
  • Delay due to lack of law clerks and court administrators to handle the work, and potentially less informed judicial officers.
  • Delay in filing due to courts being closed on Wednesday afternoons.
  • Lack of services such as arbitration and appointments of Guardians ad Litem.

 

Until the economy turns around and more money is available for Court services, you should expect a longer delay in having your family matter resolved.  Consider hiring an attorney help guide you through the process and explain the frustrating delays to help you through this difficult time. 

 

Emily M. Matson, Esq.

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

emily.matson@moorefamilylawmn.com

Welcome!  Today I’d like to address what’s happening in the legal profession and how it affects you as a client of a family law or probate law attorney.

 

YIKES!  TODAY, IT LOOKS LIKE A CRISIS TO ME

There is no shortage of alarming headlines nowadays about legal matters.  Look at these from the “Legal Strategy Review” published by CPA Global www.cpaglobal.com 

  • The Heat is on (the global economic crisis)
  • Disputes on the Rise (There has been a big rise in wage-and-hour disputes)
  • Opening the Book on Bankruptcy (Bankruptcy filings are expected to jump)

 

Here’s what I think after reading the magazine, with my thanks to the publishers for their inspiration.

 

IS YOUR ATTORNEY FOCUSED ON THEIR STRENGTHS?

The law firms that stay strongest during this economic and social crisis will be the ones planning for it and acting to meet it.  One way to do this is for the lawyer to avoid the temptation to grab just any client that comes along.  What is the smarter, more sustainable strategy is for the attorney to clarify and focus on what she does best, to help you discover those strengths, and to take the necessary steps to ensure that she can actually deliver what is promised.

 

Your focused attorney will use computerization, electronic record keeping, and paralegals and assistants to provide subordinate but necessary services to you (scheduling, discovery, document management) for less than the cost of a full blown attorney.  They will also bring their strengths to bear on your case.  Among these strengths would be:

  • Honesty:  they tell it like it is, as gently as possible – but the tell it.
  • Empowerment:  they work on a strategy that meets *your* needs.
  • Commitment:  they work for your commitment and work to win your case.
  • Concern:  they really do care about you and your goals. 

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

These are stressful times.  It pays to be in touch with your rational brain and with your feelings.  If you feel an attorney is just not right for you, keep on looking.  Think about it, yes, but if it does not feel right it probably isn’t.  Some attorneys are pit bulls looking for one pit bull to represent and a third one yet to oppose!  Some are not quite so pugnacious although just as effective advocates for your interests, in their own way.  This is especially true in the area of family law:  divorce, child custody, alimony, child support.  Find a lawyer who fits you in every possible way.

 

YIKES!  I OWE MY ATTORNEY HOW MUCH?

Sad but true, nothing is free.  If your lawyer is doing their homework, they are thinking about such things as the following in addition to your case and those of their other clients:

  • What is my cash flow.  How can I increase it?
  • What are my expenses.  How can I cut them?
  • What is my client base.  How can I identify and recruit them?
  • What are the needs of my clients.  How can I meet them?

 

You will want to hire an attorney who has asked and answered these very questions.  You want someone who has taken the steps to ensure, insofar as possible, that they will not be swept away in a flood of bankruptcy, crisis and broken contracts.  If that happens, they can’t work for you, no matter how high or low their bill is.  If they’re good enough to hire, they’re good enough to pay. 

 

What you want, and what you don’t want, are major determinants of the size of your bill.  Are you unwilling to compromise on any substantive issue?  It’ll probably cost you more in money, time and anguish.  Are you, for instance, bound and determined to get your wedding ring back?  Ditto.  To get what you want in the face of strong opposition, are you willing to pay your attorney an additional $5,000?  $50,000?  More?  Think it through; talk it out with your attorney, and be reasonable. 

 

I hope you have found this informative.  I’m Tom Moore, office manager at Moore Family Law in Plymouth, Minnesota

 

Our web site is at:

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

 

You can email us at:

mfl@moorefamilylawMN.com

 

You can call us at:

763-951-7330

Death and Divorce are Traumatic

 

OK, here you are seeking a divorce, or planning for the death or disability of yourself or a loved one.  You seek out an attorney to handle the divorce, trust or estate.  This is an emotionally charged time for you and your family.  We understand.  Many family law clients are angry, often but not always justifiably so.  Divorce, child custody, child support, property settlement, and alimony are hard topics.  So are probating a will, drawing up a will, crafting the estate plan you want for yourself or your loved one.  No wonder people get angry!

 

 

Not every good lawyer gets every client mad, but a really good lawyer can actually get you more annoyed, not less!  Why?  Because they’re good, that’s why. How do I know?  Look, I’m only the office manager at a small family law firm.  But I have survived a divorce, I’ve taken people to court over civil matters, and I‘m the fly on the wall when the lawyers in the office make legal decisions. 

 

 

What I notice is a lot of difficult communication.  We have attorneys because the law is complex, changing and can be unpredictable in its outcomes.   The law has been around for centuries — and it shows!

 

There are rules and regulations and laws the ordinary person cannot be expected to know about and who can be expected to have a difficult time grasping.  There are doctrines in the law that are so much a part of everything that lawyers and courts do that it can be a culture shock to you, the client, when you find out about them.  For instance in Minnesota family court fairness – not victory — is the point of the proceedings.  Family courts in Minnesota are a really bad place to get revenge.  You can get justice regarding your divorce, alimony, child support, child custody, the division of marriage property, yes; but these are based upon fairness to all parties concerned, especially the children.  You cannot expect the court to base their decisions solely upon your case and especially not on your feelings.  The courts and the laws are required to balance the needs of all parties concerned.

 

 

What a Real Divorce or Trusts and Estates Lawsuit is NOT!

 

If a lawyer is really good, she or he will do things you never thought possible, necessary, or sufficient for your case.  Let me break this down.  First, here are a few examples of what will not happen:

 

*             A real case is not heard in a courtroom resembling “Judge Judy,”

“Law and Order” or “Boston Legal.”  Emotions don’t win cases. Facts, a winning strategy, and understanding and applying the law wins your case.

*             You won’t see someone on the other side break down and jump up

shouting from the witness chair, “Yes, I did it!  I did it!  I lied, lied about everything and I’m glad do you hear me, glad!!!”  Nope, that’

s not going to happen. 

  

*             A real case, especially one in Minnesota regarding family law

(divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, etc.) or one involving trusts and estate (Trusts, estate planning, probate, legacy planning,

etc.)  – is most probably not a celebrity case.  It will not involve a phalanx of attorneys on either side and it will not involve a barn full of evidence and a courtroom full of perky, quirky and technical expert witnesses who work in those really futuristic crime labs like you see on

CSI:  Miami!.

 

*             Your case, with a good lawyer, will probably involve fewer

witnesses, fewer exhibits and less time and emotion, and quite possibly

more money, than you think necessary.   

 

 What a Competent, Caring Family Law or Trusts and Estates Attorney Will Do

 

How come?  Well, here are some examples of what I think a good lawyer would do.

 

*             A good attorney will bear in mind where he or she is practicing

law.  We practice law in Minnesota.  Not only does that involve knowing Minnesota law, it involves knowing what judges here tend to like, and dislike, what the case law is, what juries like, and dislike, and so on.

 

For instance, Hennepin county juries do not usually award large dollar settlements for anything.  

 

*             A good attorney will charge you what they are worth, because a

good attorney has to pay for research, computers, office staff, think time, writing time, and so on.  You get what you pay for.  This does not mean your bill will be astronomical, but it also does not mean you want to retain the cheapest attorney, or that you can make a decision based on hourly rates alone.

 

 

*             A good attorney will carefully craft a strategy and tactics for

the case that will not only be designed to bring you justice but will also be designed to bring you the justice you can afford.  Let me be clear – you may be able to get a settlement more favorable than might ordinarily be expected, but doing so will almost certainly cost you more time, anguish, money, and work than if you get a good, but not astronomical settlement – one you can afford to pay for.

 

 

*             A good attorney who knows the family law and probate courts here

in Minnesota, will present the most telling argument, the most telling strategy, the most telling evidence, in your case.  She or he will not necessarily present all of the evidence you have helped gather and paid your attorney to gather.  Courts do not necessarily need to hear the same conclusion propped up in all sorts of different ways.  The courts are usually most impressed by a tight, cogent and brief argument which they can assume is your best argument.

 

 *            A good attorney won’t just throw affidavits, evidence, and

arguments at your case.  She or he will work to get the sharpest, most relevant argument winnowed out of the mass of emotions and data and paperwork involved.  

 

I hope you have found this informative.  I’m Tom Moore, the office manager at Moore Family Law.  You can reach us at:

 

 

 

Moore Family Law, P.A.

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com <http://www.moorefamilylawmn.com/>

 

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN  55447

(763) 951-7330

 

mfl@MooreFamilyLawMN.com <mailto:mfl@MooreFamilyLawMN.com>

 

Minnesota Family Attorney Discusses The Financial Recession of a Divorce 
Recessions are financially sobering affairs.  The value of your assets decrease while the uncertainty of your paycheck increases.  In a recession, you need to take charge of your financial affairs in order to ensure that you are not spending money needlessly. 

Divorces are no different.  The first step to a successful divorce is to gather knowledge about your finances.   Your lawyer will need your tax returns, bank statements, and credit card statements for the last three years.  She/he will also need current investment and retirement account statements.  If you claim a non-marital interest (because you owned it prior to marriage or it was bequeathed or gifted to you) in any financial account, your lawyer will need to see documents that reflect the value of the asset when you married or when it was gifted to you. 
Consider having your home appraised.  The cost of a home appraisal is minimal compared to the uncertainty of the market.  If you are cash strapped, ask a real estate agent to prepare a market analysis for you. 
If you have an interest in a defined benefit pension, you should know before you begin negotiations with your spouse that its present value may be higher than the value listed on your pension statement. 

Next, consider that you may be able to negotiate payoffs with various creditors.  You may be able to obtain a lower interest rate or some other concession that will reduce the financial pain that is inevitable when you split one home into two. 

It may be that you cannot obtain certain information from your banks and/or creditors, because the accounts are in your spouse’s name.  You may be able to obtain a substantial amount of information by looking around the house.  If not, do not despair.  Your attorney can obtain this information through a process called “discovery” where the other party is required to ask questions and provide documents requested by you.

Ultimately, however, the more work you do now, the less work your lawyer will have to charge you for. 

My favorite resource for financial advice is www.consumerist.com.  You should be able to find a lot of tips there for lowering your monthly payments and negotiating lower interest rates, as well as reducing your debt, and obtaining the best customer service from unfriendly customer service professionals.

 

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth,  MN 55447
(763) 951-7330
Fax:  1-(866) 354-3531
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, ABC’s Good Morning America had a feature on couples that are going through the divorce process while still living together.  Here is the link to the story:  http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6912479

Be Careful About Living Arrangements During Your Divorce

I find this to be a very difficult choice for my clients.  Divorce places you in an adversarial situation with your spouse.  You are often fighting over very limited resources.  And it’s not uncommon for the couple to have diverse views about the future.  If you can work out some ground rules that allow you to continue living together, it is a cost-saving option.  Such ground rules should definitely include issues such as sleeping arrangements, parenting time, financial responsibilities, family time, and when/where/how the divorce will be discussed.  You will have to be more adult than your emotions may want you to be.

Think of Your Children

Other cost-saving options include moving in with family or friends, moving in with a room-mate, and renting a smaller apartment than you might otherwise want.  If you have children, ensure that you obtain living arrangements that will permit parenting time.  Your space doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be safe for your children. 

 Thank you!  You can return to www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com for more information on family law, divorce, alimony, spousal support, custody, and child support.  There you will also find information on our will drafting, legacy planning, trusts and estates and probate practice.

 

 

 

 

Parenting and Divorce

January 21, 2009

A New Parenting Time Guideline for Minnesota
 Jennifer Moore here, from Moore Family Law. 

 

 We are located in Plymouth, MN.  We serve clients throughout Minnesota, with the bulk of our family law practice being in Hennepin County and Wright County including the cities of Plymouth, Maple Grove, and Champlin.

 

This week, I want to address your attention an important Minnesota Supreme Court publication. A Parental Guide to Making Child-Focused Parenting Time Decisions (http://www.mncourts.gov/documents/0/Public/Court_Information_Office/PARENTING_TIME_PAMPHLET.pdf) is used by Courts all over Minnesota to assist it in educating parents about parenting amidst conflict. Many of my clients experience great difficulty in parenting during a divorce. They allow the conflict between the parents to leak into the parent-child relationship.

 

At Moore Family Law, we believe that the best way for you to protect your interests during a custody battle is to follow the guidance of the Courts. Do not discuss adult matters with children. Try to be positive about your children’s relationship with the other parent, even if, on the inside, you believe that the other parent is satan incarnate. Be flexible in the face of the other parent’s crazy behavior. Keep your cool. Think about your children’s needs.

 

What is a Civil Gideon?

Recently there has been a push by legal communities, including here in Hennepin, Anoka, and Wright counties in Minnesota, to investigate and implement something called a “Civil Gideon” – or a right to counsel in civil cases where important rights are at stake.  In 2006, the American Bar Association (link:

http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/sclaid/downloads/06A112A.pdf
) passed this resolution:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody as determined by each jurisdiction.

In 2008, the Minnesota State Bar Association has formed its own Civil Gideon Task Force (link:  http://www.mnbar.org/committees/CivilGideon/) to investigate whether a civil right to counsel should exist in Minnesota.

WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH FAMILY LAW?

When I first heard about this movement, I immediately thought of several family law situations in which the parties involved in proceedings which go beyond the “ordinary” legal issues arising out of divorce, alimony, child custody, child support – or even, in our Trusts and Estates practice – arising out of probate and other issues involving wills, heirs, and trusts – parties who have absolutely no resources to hire a private attorney—and lack the criteria to receive aid from the various legal aid agencies in Minnesota. 

Let me explain.  Once case in particular that comes to mind is a case where Moore Family Law represented the grandparents in their petition for third party child custody.  The mother, not our client, was only 19, had no job, and a history of substance abuse problems.  She was willing to accept help from the child’s grandparents as legal custodians for awhile—but she was scared of what might happen in the future regarding child custody.  As much as she knew she couldn’t care for her child in her current state, she still wanted to some day care for her child:  in the short run, she already had enough problems stemming from her previous divorce. 

I think we worked out a good compromise around the family law issues, a compromise that gives her room to rehabilitate herself and become a mother again; but she would have benefited greatly from having her own attorney during the child custody proceedings.  Here was a mother faced with losing her child, and she had no one to advocate for her or to explain the consequences of her decisions.  She needed an attorney not only for family law matters but also for legal matters arising from her substance abuse — but she could afford neither a family law attorney nor a criminal one; and legal aid providers do not typically take clients involved in third party child custody actions. 

Compare this with the situation in which an action has been initiated to terminate a mother’s parental rights.  This is by no means an easy situation but there, the right to counsel is specifically provided for in Minnesota statute:  “(a) The child, parent, guardian or custodian has the right to effective assistance of counsel in connection with a proceeding in juvenile court.”  Minn. Stat. .§ 260C.163, subd. 3.  Here, at least, the mother has some right to an attorney.

WHAT MOORE FAMILY LAW IS DOING TO HELP IN MINNESOTA

Because I so often see cases where a party needs family law representation and also needs another type of lawyer, and because I think it is an injustice to not provide for those parties who face not only divorce, alimony, custody and child support issues but also issues of mental health, substance abuse, and in some cases criminal matters, — because we at Moore Family Law want to provide for those most in need, I am on the Civil Gideons Task Force, serving on the unmet needs committee. 

Here I am able to bring the expertise of Moore Family Law to focus on the tasks at hand.  Our job is to investigate what potential clients are out there who are not being served.  There is ample data on the services provided by legal aid; but what about those cases turned away?  And what about those cases where legal aid can only provide an attorney that knows the specific area of the law in a very general way?  Is that adequate counsel?  These are questions that we discuss at our committee and Task Force meetings so that we can lay a strong basis for the right to legal counsel where it is needed most.   

Emily Matson, 
Moore Family Law – Representing Your Family’s Future