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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72-Hour Holds Misused?

December 2, 2009

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney.

The Police Authority to Detain Individuals

In Minnesota, police have the authority to detain an individual for 72 hours if they are believed to be a threat to themselves or others. Hospitals comply with these administrative holds, because they bring in significant revenue.

Children, Teenagers, and the Handicapped

These holds are often used in cases of domestic violence involving unstable adults or teenagers, but can also be imposed upon disabled children and adults. As the step-mother of a child with disabilities, it has sometimes been difficult to orchestrate the placement of services in a way that protect caregivers as well as my step-son’s freedoms.

As a Family Law Attorney…

As a family law attorney, I have seen 72-hour holds used in cases of domestic violence. The consequences of such a hold is fairly dramatic. Jobs can be lost, relationships with children interrupted, and the “patient” put on a path of treatment and therapy that may preclude the family from a timely resolution of their separation and/or divorce. Sometimes, the danger to the family is obvious; sometimes not. It would be nice to think that authorities would not abuse this process.

Read more in the Star Tribune article, Paramedic: Cops abuse law to detain people.

By Thomas Moore, Family Law Office Manager

The Hennepin County Bar Association here in Minnesota is, obviously, an organization of, by, and for lawyers. I’m no lawyer, I just work for one (or two, or… But that’s a different story!).

Some lessons from a depression era attorney

Anyway, I was recently reading the October 2009 issue of Inside Hennepin Lawyer, the magazine of the Hennepin County Bar Association, and I found an entry entitled: “Of Bugs, Brontosauruses, and Daniel Boone.”   Quite a title, but what really caught my eye is that the two articles here are reprints from 1933. They were written in the depth of the great depression by Mr. Ben Palmer

Old fashioned thinking and the law

The first article is “Daniel Boone on Broadway,” In it Mr. Palmer points out that “Daniel Boon on Broadway is no more of an anachronism than the individual who carries the psychology of the frontier into the cooperative life of today.” We sometimes see this phenomenon in our family law and probate law practices, where someone seems blind to the reality that a divorce involves not just the plaintiff and the respondent but also, any and all children from their union. Their case also involves not just property but also the standard of living of the two sides – and that of the children. I think a law firm should strive to be the most reasonable party in the room – it should defend you, the client, but it should also bear in mind that others – especially the children – also have rights and that the adults have obligations. I think Mr. Palmer is making an important point for all of us

Rugged individualism is not an asset in a lawsuit

In the second article, “The Bug on the Brontosaurus,” Mr. Palmer refers to a nation of “streams of force – economical, social, political, religious – converging on certain focal points… The most romantic libertarian… can only act effectively through those organizations whose general goal coincides with his own heart’s desire. There is no such thing as splendid isolation.” Again, excellent point! In a divorce, child support dispute, child custody lawsuit, as well as in an alimony or probate case, these organizations that can be used for the outcome you seek include the law, the courts, your own attorney, and the opposing party’s lawyer. Otherwise, your case and the outcome you seek, will pass away to become as extinct as the once-mighty brontosaurus.

Read the article! I think you’ll find this wisdom, and much more, in it.

Mr. Palmer concludes that “There is no such thing as splendid isolation… It is adaptability, and not merely strength, that counts.” Again, read the article! Mr. Palmer makes his point with much more grace, and brings to bear much more experience, than can I.

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

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 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

Stress, Strain, and Divorce

A Few Words from A Family Law Office Manager

We live in stressful times. Half the people I know are depressed, it seems, agitated or both! Stressed out.

I can identify with you.  Take blogging.  Blogging is good for the spirit, provides a basis for helping folks out and of course is a great way to let other folks know who you – and your organization — are. But what if you’ve spent all week doing data entry and balancing the books? Dull, dull, dull!

What if you, like me, are not really qualified to blog about the most interesting things in the office? Here I am, office manager in a family law / probate / trusts and estates law firm with one paralegal, several attorneys – and me.  Everyone here is more qualified than I in the legal field.  My expertise is in marketing and cash management and, well, managing the office. 

Stress and Strain and the MTA (Marital Termination Agreement)

Recently a client came into the office to sign their MTA (Marital Termination Agreement – that’s legalese for divorce papers, at least here in Minnesota.  He was upset, he did / didn’t want to sign them. We talked. I was glad for a chance for some human contact and he and I actually have a lot in common – we’ve both been through a divorce and we’re both emotional about it – and committed to making it happen so we can move on.

Speaking of emotions, have you noticed the number of people going off the deep end lately and launching on various violent and destructive sprees? It’s a lot, it seems to me anyway. I think everyone is suffering from stress.  Divorce, like running or mountain climbing where you hit *the wall* and keep on going on raw will power – divorce, child custody, probate, estate planning – though divorce is the worst – all of these are emotional and often force you to go beyond what you think you can do and in fact sometimes do force you into situations where you really don’t know how to cope, or cope as well as you want.

Divorce and Self Help

Here’s my point.  Divorce almost inevitably involves real estate, child care arrangements, financial planning, health issues, and mental health issues. Seek help. If you had a broken leg you’d see a doctor. If you have to sell the house, find a realtor and a mortgage banker. If you have a spirit at risk of being broken, or a life in danger of being damaged, seek out not only friends you can talk with; but a support group, individual therapy, group therapy. Many of us have been there. It’s worth it.

So, that’s it!  Be your own best advocate for you and for your loved ones.

And the man who did / didn’t want to sign his divorce papers? He signed — *after* I promised that his attorney  would talk with him next week about it before proceeding.

Thomas Moore, office manager

Moore Family Law 

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

 Cost, Dirty Tricks, Win / Lose and Divorce and Child Custody Attorneys

Several years ago, my lead attorney and I went to an American Bar Association  seminar in Monterey, California.  We met with many interesting and experienced family law attorneys.  One of these lawyers was Mr. Mark Chinn of Jackson, Mississippi.

 

Mark Chinn’s Family Law Web Site

 Yesterday, in the course of preparing some new written and web-based materials for helping our family law clients through divorce proceedings, child custody matters, etc., I realized that our law firm had actually implemented some legal strategies in divorce cases which Mark had discussed with us.  For instance, we are a ‘wrap-around’ firm and, while not strictly speaking practicing collaborative law, we do productively collaborate with other attorneys and with other professionals who can help our family law clients through a difficult time.

 Not only that.  Reading Mark’s blog I soon realized that his approach to law firm billing, ethics, and strategy is quite similar to ours.  I would encourage anyone reading this blog to follow the links to Mark’s family law blog and read there.  Please bear in mind that Mr. Chinn practices in Mississippi, and the firm I work for practices in Minnesota.  The laws are different.  Still, I think Mr. Chinn’s divorce blogs are well worth the read.

 

Mark Chinn’s Divorce Law Blog

  

Capturing Costs and Containing the Bill in a Family Law Case

  

Eliminate Dirty Tricks in a Divorce or Dissolution Case

  

Take the Win / Lose out of Child Custody Battles

 We hope you find these links useful.

 

 Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

 Moore Family Law, P.A.

Plymouth, MN 

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com