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

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Why a Depressed Market is not ALWAYS Bad in a Divorce

Divorce provides an economic opportunity for some individuals to start fresh with a pile of cash.  Maybe the pile is not quite as high as it could have been, but your buying power might be greater, too.  For example, the foreclosure crisis has created an unprecendented opportunity to obtain value for investment.  Bargain hunting is also possible in the stock market.  It is entirely possible that you can buy more long term investment vehicles with a smaller divorce settlement than you could have in the inflated market two or three years ago. 

Your divorce attorney is almost certainly not a financial advisor.  When your divorce atterney begins to discuss posssible outcomes for your case, it is time to consult with your financial advisor.  You may want to ask your financial advisor to meet with you and your divorce attorney to help you develop a plan of action.

In the meantime, if you find yourself find yourself somewhat panicked by the recession, you might want to read the following piece from the Boston Globe from last year,  http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/03/23/the_good_recession/.  I found it to be quite thought provoking!

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
Plymouth, Minnesota

 

MN Family Law Attorney Discusses Alimony

Is $53,000 Per Week Too Much Alimony?

The wife of United Technologies Chairman George David is claiming that she requires an award of temporary maintenance (alimony) to cover her basic weekly expenses of $53,000.  http://www.nypost.com/seven/12192008/news/nationalnews/really_high_maintenance_144934.htm  That is $2,756,000 per year.   It’s hard to put your head around that kind of money, especially if you are the one being asked to pay alimony. 

 

In fact, in Minnesota maintenance (commonly referred to as alimony) is awarded based on a number of factors, including the standard of living during marriage.   In order to decide whether to award maintenance and the amount of an award of maintenance, both husband and wife will submit proof of their income and a proposed monthly budget.   The Court then balances the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance against the ability of the other spouse to pay.   

 

How About Zero Dollars per Week Alimony?

Not all cases warrant an award of maintenance. Sometimes, the marriage is not sufficiently long such that the spouse seeking maintenance has become accustomed to a higher standard of living or has lost opportunities to be self-supporting.  Sometimes, the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance are not sufficient to justify an award of maintenance.  And sometimes, there is no ability to pay.

 

Maintenance is a highly contentious issue.  In cases where maintenance is an issue, there is a much higher probability of going to trial and having a judge decide the case.  Unless a monthly budget is accompanied by solid supporting evidence, such as receipts, cancelled checks or other documentary evidence, it is likely that a Judge will red-line the budget, substituting his or her own judgment for the parties’.  $53,000 per week is likely to sound too high, even if it is consistent with the standard of living during the marriage.  

 

Similarly, if the Court must examine income information, the Court is likely to base its judgment on historical information, even though today’s economic reality might indicate that historical data is overly inflated. 

 

Your Attorney’s Job in a Divorce / Maintenance Case

The attorney’s job in a maintenance case is to give the Court less reason to disagree with your judgment about your needs and resources.  

 

 

Jennifer Moore

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

Moore Family Law, P.A.

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth, MN 55447
(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>

 

MN Family Attorneys On Child Custody

 

Child Custody and the People You Will Meet

When you are facing a tough custody battle, either as part of a divorce or not, there are many professionals who may be assigned, appointed, or hired to help you and the other parent figure out what is in the best interest for your children.  The following is a brief overview of some of the professionals who may be involved.  Every case is distinct, and there are many factors that go into whether a particular professional may or even can be involved in your case. 

 

Guardian ad Litem

If the court is concerned about the children based on some allegations of abuse or some other serious factor, it may order a Guardian ad Litem be appointed.  A Guardian ad Litem is someone who works for the county government and is trained to interview, observe, communicate, and make recommendations about the best interest of the children in a case.  They are the ones who speak for the children, and have a lot of influence in how the case will be viewed by the court. 

 

Custody Evaluator

There are many professionals that may be hired as a custody evaluator to help the parties and the court determine the best custody arrangement for the children.  These are often private practice attorneys or psychologists with an expertise in this field.  However, Hennepin County Family Court offers an Early Neutral Evaluation program that is a free service ordered early on in a case to help the parties attempt to work out their differences in a setting similar to a full evaluation.  If parties do not come to an agreement at the end of this process, however, the next step may be to hire a private Custody Evaluator. 

 

Parenting Time Expeditor

The court may order a parenting time expeditor be appointed to help the parties with their parenting time plan or unforeseen circumstances not addressed by earlier agreement.  An expeditor is empowered by the court to make decisions on behalf of the court.  The cost of the expeditor is paid for by the parties. 

 

Parenting Time Consultant

The parties themselves outside of the court may make an agreement to hire a parenting time consultant (although this agreement can be memorialized in a settlement agreement put on the record with the court).  A consultant does not have the legal authority of an expeditor, but is generally given more free rein to deal with the broader scope of situations that may arise in parenting and custody disputes.

 

Emily M. Matson, Esq.

Moore Family Law, P.A.

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth

Phone:  763-951-7330

emily.matson@moorefamilylawmn.com

The Annual Family Law Institute in Minnesota

Every year at the end of March, the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Family Law Section (  http://www.mnbar.org/sections/family-law/  ) puts on the conference of the year for family law attorney:  The Annual Family Law Institute.  As we’re getting ready to attend this year’s conference, I am reminded of the excellent opening day speaker from the 2008 conference:  Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D. ( http://constanceahrons.com/ ), whose topic “Listening to Children About Divorce” confirmed what many of us in family law have been trying to explain to our clients – children are affected by how you and your spouse relate to each other and your children.

 

Family and Children after Divorce

Included in her talk was an overview of her article, “Family Ties after Divorce:  Long-Term Implications for Children,”  Family Process ( http://familyprocess.org/ ), Vol. 46, No. 1, 2007.  Dr. Ahrons’ analysis of the long-term affects of divorce on the well-being of children offers a lesson for all parents now starting the divorce process:

 

“No single factor contributed more to children’s self-reports of well-being after divorce than the continuing relationship between their parents.  Children whose parents were cooperated reported better relationships with their parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings.  Most of all, the children said that they wanted to have relationships with both parents.  What the children wanted was not for their parents to be friends as much as they wanted them to be cordial and not badmouth each other.”

 

Id., pp. 58-59.

 

If you are able to maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse, even if you don’t ever like each other again, your children will have better lives for it. 

 

Plan Now for Happier Milestones

When clients first come into the office and sit down and tell a story of heart ache and sadness and regret, and worse, I try to get them to think about the future, about when the divorce is done and it’s time to have a new start on life.  I ask them to think about their children – when they graduate high school, or college, or get married, picture being at their wedding and getting along with your former spouse for the sake of your child.  If you alienate your children and put them in the middle during the divorce, and subject them to the fighting that is going on between the two of you, then both parents might not be invited to those events.  If you want to make sure your children are going to have happy milestones that include you, make sure you have a relationship that means it can include your former spouse as well.

 

I’m Emily M. Matson:

Emily.matson@moorefamilylawMN.com

 

I’m family law and trusts and estates attorney at Moore Family Law: www.moorefamilylawMN.com

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN  55447

763-951-7330

MN Divorce Attorney Discusses Divorce and Laughter

 

Obviously, divorce is not a happy subject.  But there sure seem to be a lot of jokes about it.  I think that’s because it sometimes helps to laugh about painful subjects.  So, here is my favorite divorce joke:  “Have you heard of the new divorced Barbie doll? – She comes with all of Ken’s stuff!” 

 

My hope for my clients, both women and men, is that when they complete the process, they don’t feel like Ken.  

 

Here’s another classic:  A divorce court judge said to the husband, “Mr. Perry, I have reviewed this case very carefully and I’ve decided to give your wife $800 a week.” “That’s very fair, your honor,” he replied. “And every now and then I’ll try to send her a few bucks myself.”

 

I wish I could get that result!

 

For more divorce humor, go to http://www.divorcehq.com/humor.shtml .  I am not promising that these are tasteful jokes.  But I did laugh out loud.

 

 

Jennifer Moore

 

You can reach me at Moore Family Law
3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth, MN 55447
(763) 951-7330
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

VISITATION AND PARENTING TIME 


Today we no longer call a father’s time with his children “visitation”.  We call it “parenting time”. 

 

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF JOINT CUSTODY

James Cook died on February 21, 2009 at the age of 85.  He is considered to be the founding father of joint custody laws in the United States.  In the 1970’s, Cook was going through a bitter divorce.  He asked for joint custody of his son, but was denied because the law favored giving custody of the children to the mother.  He ultimately lost his battle for custody, but lobbied extensively for the joint custody laws that we enjoy today.  http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-james-cook12-2009mar12,0,1547708.story

 

HOW MINNESOTA FAMILY COURTS TEND TO VIEW JOINT CUSTODY

There is still a strong presumption that the mother is the primary caretaker of young children.  This is not codified in anywhere in the law, but is certainly present in the results of disputed custody cases.  Consider that in disputed custody cases, both parents will typically present themselves as being primary caretakers of the children.  In such cases, Courts routinely rely on the impressions of custody evaluators or guardians ad litem to provide investigative feedback as to which parent served as primary caretaker (along with other factors which may not be as gender-skewed).  Then, if the case does not resolve itself after a custody evaluation, the Court (at least in Minnesota), will accept the custody evaluation as evidence in the case, and will take testimony to determine who is, in fact, the primary caretaker of the children.  Any bias by any professional involved in the case may result in a result that is gender-biased against the father–even though the law is gender neutral.

 

WHAT EXPERIENCE TEACHES US ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY

In my experience, these biases are best resolved by carefully establishing through testimony and documentary evidence that my client performs all or many of all the tasks associated with being a primary caretaker.  It is especially helpful if this evidence is objective.  For example, if my client took the children to every doctor and dentist visit, the care provider notes will indicate it.  If my client attended all student conferences, there will be a record of it.  If my client signs off on all the children’s homework, there is evidence.  If my client does all the transportation to and from daycare or extracurricular activities, there may be no documentary evidence of it, but there is probably some testimonial evidence of it. 

 

I would not risk my client’s relationship with his children based on the ideal of the unbiased judiciary.

 

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

Divorce Suicide – Discussed by a Minnesota Family Lawyer

 

Everyone has had a stressful time and *almost* everyone has had occasion to think back on how we might have done things better at some crucial moment.   Legacy planning — drawing up your will, setting up a trust for your special needs or minor child – is stressful, but you have to do it.  Obtaining a divorce, fighting for the alimony or child support you need, protecting you child with proper custody arrangements – is stressful, but if you have to do it, you have to.  I’ve given a lot of advice on this blog – some of it helpful, I hope! – but it has occurred to me that sometimes a bit of *negative* advice is in order.  So, here are few ways you can really really mess up your divorce.  Enjoy!

 

1.         Put your head in the sand, drink away and drug away your problems, leave town unannounced, quit your job, quit your friends, quit your insurance – then that SOB / tramp will be sorry!  And, they’ll *have* to pay you alimony!

 

2.         Misdirect your anger, blame the messenger — your attorney — for the message — divorce is often necessarily painful,

 

3.         Make off-the-wall demands.  Make your case the vehicle for revenge, for making the other side suffer, really suffer. Threaten that you will take your ex-to-be for every penny, ensure that he / she never sees the kids again, absolutely guarantee that they get absolutely nothing from the house, the lake house, both cars and the 401K too!

 

4.         Get hysterical in general.  Blame somebody, anybody, everybody, for everything!

 

5.         Accuse your attorney of working for the other side, refuse to help your attorney prepare your case, stiff your attorney for their bill, take legal advice from some guy you met last Friday night in a bar and disregard your attorney’s advice.

 

6.         Insist upon impossible and impractical results.  Make your case the vehicle for resolving global warming, ending injustice to men (or women), establishing some abstract rule of some higher law over everyone, or some such. 

 

7.         Disobey Court Orders

 

8.         Kidnap the children. 

 

That’s it!  We hope you have enjoyed – and learned from – the above.  We know divorce can hurt.  We know making out your will, drawing up a trust, planning your estate, can be disturbing and uncomfortable.  Summing it all up, recognize your fears and hopes and take the steps you need to do what is best for you and your loved ones.

 

http://www.moorefamilylawmn.com/

 

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN  55447

(763) 951-7330

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