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 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.

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

When you owe a debt to the government, they may intervene in your divorce to collect. Consider the case of Walter and Caren Forbes, who were married 27 years. Walter was the former chairman of Cendant Corporation, who was sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison for the largest financial fraud of the 1990’s. When his wife Caren filed for divorce earlier this year, the federal government intervened in the divorce to collect money owed pursuant to an Order of restitution against Walter. The divorce may result in the receipt of billions of dollars in restitution.

Read more in the full article in the Star Tribune.

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.

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