I get this question a lot. The answer is that you cannot move your child to another state without obtaining a Court’s permission if there is a custody order in place. Court permission is obtained by making a motion to the Court and convincing the Court that a move is in the best interests of the child. Even if you and the other parent agree to a move, you should still get a Court order.

If you and the other parent don’t agree, you can expect the process to take some time. Sometimes, the Court will want to order a custody and parenting evaluation from Court Services or a private provider. And, the other party is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to contest the findings of the findings of the evaluation.

This process may seem quite involved. However, in hotly contested custody matters, it is the Court’s obligation to ensure that your children are being served well by your decision to move.

If you do take your child out of state, you may be subject to some fairly significant criminal charges. For an example how these issues play out in a real life case, read this article from today’s Star Tribune.

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By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

Parents do not always agree on the issue of child discipline. This is a major problem in custody cases.

Discipline May Affect a Child’s Preferences

Where one parent is permissive and the other parent is somewhat more strict, the permissive parent has an edge in a custody battle. Even though courts attempt to honor relationships with both parents, the more permissive parent will be favored by the children. This will be reflected in any custody evaluation, both in the children’s preferences, as well as in the evaluator’s observations regarding the children’s bond with each parent. As Arizona Judge Anne Kass states in her article, Divorce Pair Should Agree On Discipline, “the common way these quarrels over discipline methods will usually play out is that the children gravitate to the parent who is more lenient because children vote with their feet.”

Tools to Measure Discipline

It can be hard to win a custody battle if your argument is that the children need more discipline, even if it’s true. Psychologists have attempted to design tools, such as the “Discipline Index,” that measure the the level of discipline that each parent may use, without asking the child to take sides in the divorce. However, it is my experience that custody evaluators seldom use these tools.

Discipline May Lead to Allegations of Abuse

A greater problem is that conflicts over punishment styles can lead to allegations of abuse. I was chatting with a group of friends, ranging from age 25-50 the other day, and almost every one of them had stories of experiencing physical discipline as a child. Some of the stories would have raised significant issues in a custody dispute. Some may have given rise to a child protection investigation or criminal charge. In Minnesota, you can be charged with a crime if you engage in malicious punishment of a child. Minn. Stat. Sec. 609.377 provides that “A parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who, by an intentional act or a series of intentional acts with respect to a child, evidences unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances is guilty of malicious punishment of a child.”

Malicious punishment is a subjective determination. For example, A few years ago, there was rigorous debate over the propriety of “hot-saucing”, where the parent puts hot sauce on a child’s tongue as discipline. The practice has led to day care sanctions and even criminal charges, and has been the subject of custody litigation.

Attitudes and Beliefs About Discipline Vary by Community and Era

Salon.com has published an article about bibilical chastisement that shows the divergent nature of societal attitudes about corporal punishment. It is an almost certainty that Minnesota Courts would not regard “biblical chastisement” as an appropriate method of discipline, and such discipline would severely hinder a custody case.

What Discipline Style is Right for You?

We recommend that parents attempt to agree on a parenting style, and apply it consistently throughout their children’s lives. When cases come to us with discipline conflicts, we advise that the more strict parent modify their parenting style towards lenience, without giving up important parent child boundaries or risking the safety of their children. We also advise parents to avoid physical discipline in all cases. Sometimes, physical contact is necessary to protect yourself or your child. However, such contact should be loving, and intended to protect with every effort made to avoid any harm.

Where the parenting styles have been different for a long period of time, we advise that families engage in therapy and education together so that parents can parent more effectively with fewer misunderstandings and no false allegations of child abuse. Classes are available through the University of Minnesota Extension Service, and The Storefront Group.

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

I’ve heard it said that we are so fascinated by celebrity stories because they serve as modern morality plays. According to Slate, Bristol Palin is seeking sole custody of her daughter, and Levi Johnston is fighting it. Minnesota (as opposed to Alaska) has a statutory presumption in favor of joint custody. However, the presumption seems to be applied inconsistently. In many cases, the presumption is ignored in favor of an analysis of work and school schedules. In others, the parties are discouraged from raising significant issues of neglect and chemical dependency, based upon the experts’ opinion that these issues would not overcome the statutory presumption in favor of joint custody.

No parent is perfect. I advise my clients to be careful to permit the other parent a certain freedom and autonomy to build their independent relationship with their children. That being said, I cannot advise my clients to ignore true dangers to the mental and physical wellbeing of their children.

BIG CLIENTS AND BIG ATTORNEYS

IN A FAMILY LAW OFFICE

As the office manager in a family law office, I have the opportunity to read about, reflect upon, and learn from our daily interactions with clients – and attorneys! – going through an emotional and stressful time.  Good thing I like a challenge!  Thinking things over, “Bigness” has been on my mind this week.

 And, before I forget; I’ve noticed there are a lot of people interested in the child support calculator and child support payment calculator.  Here’s a link you can use in Minnesota Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator

 Anyway, on to “Bigness.”

 The Big World

As I type this I’m listening to the “BBC World News” http://news.bbc.co.uk/ which is full of news about British doomsday planning for nuclear war in the 1980’s (which always ended in launching every nuclear armed missile possible), the disputed election in Iran (numerous persons killed), a subway train crash in Washington, D. C. (nine dead so far) and the bankruptcy of a local auto dealer here in Minneapolis, Minnesota (tax liens against his properties).  It gives one pause, and some perspective, while going about one’s daily routines.

 OK, here we go.  I work in a small firm and I’m not an attorney so naturally I’ve a specific point of view about “Bigness.”  My thanks to the American Bar Association magazine, “GPSolo” www.abanet.org/genpractice  for inspiration and thoughtful information.  These opinions of mine here are just that – my opinions.

 Big Ego Divorce Clients

We’ve said this before in this blog, but it bears repeating – you are not the only person involved in a divorce or other family law matter.  There’s the kids; the other party; and the law and the processes of the law.  Minnesota, where I’m located, is not the best place to go for the jugular in a divorce action  — we’re kind of common-sensical here, don’t ya know.  Juries don’t normally award big claims in accident cases; and judges, in our experience, usually are truly focused on justice and equity for all involved – especially for the children, whether it be specifically child custody or child support case or not.

 Big Ego Divorce Attorneys

Attorneys in our firm often return from court with the most interesting stories!  These sometimes involve lawyers for the opposing party who think bluster and arrogance substitute for preparation, careful litigation, a knowledge of the law, and skill.  They don’t; though they can needlessly run up the bill for their own clients and for the opposing party in a divorce.

 Big Attorney’s Offices

Yes, law firms have been known to dress for success!  As the guy who writes the checks around here, my advice is that what you want to look for is a location that reflects competence, success, and sympathy for your legal matter.  I have been to law offices located in rundown houses that were slums, really; and to those in a downtown high rise with subtle designer interiors and designer furnishings.  My take on this?  Avoid the slum for all the obvious reasons.  The downtown high rise lawyer might be just the ticket for you – but you are ultimately the one paying the rent and it’ll be reflected in your bill.

 Big Law Firms

If you are preparing for a divorce, child custody, alimony, or child support legal action, a big firm might be just the thing for you – I’d like to think my family law firm can handle *anything* but we all have our limits.  Do you have a really complex family law case – crossing numerous states, involving numerous family businesses, numerous residences and nearly non-existent record keeping?  A large firm might be best for you.

 Big Fees for Divorce Lawyers

This is related to the big law firm and the big attorney’s office threads.  Let me be blunt.  Your divorce attorney can’t advocate for you if you don’t pay the bill.  Additionally, would you rather they spend their time hassling with you over what you have contracted to pay them; or spend their time productively working on your case?  We don’t do checkbook justice, but you do get what you pay for.  This can be tricky.  I’d say, as the guy who sends out the bills here, look first for an attorney you can trust, who has the skills you need, and who is interested in your case.  Then, make sure you can pay them – remembering that a retainer is usually only a down payment.  If you can’t afford this particular attorney, don’t hire them.  Find another.  In any case, pay your bill; you’ll get a better professional relationship and a better result in your case.

 Thomas Moore

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth, Minnesota

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

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