By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could have major implications for poor parents who are sued in child protection cases (See The Star Tribune). The question, interestingly enough, isn’t whether parents parents who can’t afford an attorney in a child protection case are entitled to representation. They are. Instead, the question is whether the Court has the authority to require a county to pay for a private attorney or whether representation must be by a public defender. Public defenders are paid for out of the judiciary budget. In the case to be decided by the state supreme court, a Rice County judge appointed a private attorney to represent the indigent parents in a child protection case, ordering the county to pay for it out of their budget.

Private Attorney v. Public Defender

I cannot say enough about the quality of public defenders we have here in Minnesota. However, it is likely that most people would choose a private attorney over a public defender. I did read an interesting article in The Concurring Opinion that theorized that the experience obtained by public defenders make them a better choice for most defendants than a private lawyer. Another problem is that the pay rate for private attorneys performing public defender services can be very low. In Wisconsin, for example, a private attorney who takes a public defender appointment will earn $40 an hour, when the average hourly pay for attorneys in Wisconsin is $188 an hour. (From All Business.) In fact, that $40 an hour is only $5 an hour higher than was paid for public defender appointments in 1978, when the public defender statute was passed.

Public Defender Overload

With the current economic situation, there is a serious problem with overload in the public defender’s office, especially in out-state Minnesota. (See The LaCrosse Tribune and The Star Tribune). Hiring private attorneys to help with the backlog in time-sensitive child protection cases must be a serious temptation to judges balancing their own overcrowded dockets against the welfare of abused and neglected children.

Of course, if the Courts expect private attorneys to accept appointments to represent indigent clients, there needs to be a mechanism to pay the attorney for their time. The attorney who was appointed in the Rice County case has not yet been paid.

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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

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

A MN Family Lawyer Talks Candidly About Divorce, a Will, and Estate Planning

 

OK, You Need a Divorce, a Will, or some Estate Planning, but…

This blog is difficult!  Have you ever felt – or been – disappointed and disorganized, dull and depressed?  I have! 

 After mulling this over this not-so-cosmic realization for a while it finally occurred to me that I’ve noticed a few interesting things lately, all of which can be summed up as “we are in crisis.”  Well, some of us, perhaps many of us, are in a crisis.  I don’t see this as basically anyone’s personal failing.  I think the whole society is in a crisis.  This may hit us personally in various ways – we need to change our will, set up a trust for our handicapped or flighty children, we need a divorce or a change in child support payments or alimony.  It hits us in many ways, but it is objective, originating outside of us, and there’s not a lot we can do about the huge changes in our society right now.  But, there are some things we can change for the better. 

 

Legal Problems are Compounded When You Have the Blahs or the Blues

Look, you’re reading this because you’ve found the Moore Family Law blog on the Web and probably because you’re considering divorce, a will, or some other not-necessarily-pleasant life change, right?  If you’re like many of the people we are seeing in our family law practice and in our trusts and estates practice this spring, you are justifiably angry, hurt, or both.  Still, getting your life back on the right track is something you need to do, regardless of how you feel right now and regardless of whatever confusion and indecision you may be feeling right now.

 

So Get Off the Couch and…

May I offer a suggestion?  Leap off the cliff and figure out on the way down how to invent the parachute.  In short, do something, anything that needs to be done, no matter how minor it may be.  Just do something.  It’ll get you off the couch and open up your mind, your will power, and your emotions to tackle the bigger stuff – that divorce or estate plan I mentioned above.

 

Still with me?  I’m talking from experience here.  When I suddenly snap to the fact that I’m watching infomercials, for goodness’ sake, but then get up and do something productive, when I start to get energized, I suddenly discover that I’m more optimistic, active and happy; and I’m  getting things done, too.  The point isn’t that, hey, all that got done was the trash got taken out or the oil changed in the car — big whoop.  Nope, the point is that when you start taking control in any area of your life, the benefits for you are truly global.

 

Once you’ve gotten this far, you can take the occasion S.T.O.P:  Meaning

 

  • Stop what you’re doing
  • Take stock of your situation and the situation outside of yourself
  • Orient yourself in the new situation
  • Proceed

 

But that’s another blog!  
 

The Proof is in The Pudding!


If you’re stuck with some unpleasant task that you really have to do that you don’t want to, that you’re afraid of failing in, that you don’t understand – do it anyway.  The fact that you realize that you have a problem is proof that you can find a solution to it; and the fact that you are doing something positive is part of that solution.

 

Have a great day!

 

I’m Tom Moore, the office manager at Moore Family Law.  We hope you find this blog amusing – and informative.  You can contact Moore Family Law at:

 

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN  55447

mfl@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Come back and visit our blog, or if you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office  at 763-951-7330

 

 

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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIMES ARE TOUGH – Discussed by a Minnesota Family Attorney

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has read / watched / talked about the economy this past weekend and gone, “Yikes!”  Times are tough! This puts the emphasis on being very flexible, very opportunistic as it were, about how you stretch your precious few dollars and still get done what has to get done.  We find people faced with this every day in our family law practice.

BARTER

Remember the story about Abraham Lincoln, who took various items in trade for legal services?  True story!  I could also tell you a story about how my mother paid for her first baby’s delivery by selling her cow Becky.  Turned out she, and the baby, were quite happy with the results of the trade.  The point is, if there’s a service you really need, and you are short on money, find someone you may be able to make a trade with, and make an offer to them.  I wouldn’t expect the IRS to take a cow in trade (whether named Becky or not) but perhaps a solo lawyer, your accountant, or small practitioner would take some work on their house or office or car or home computer.  Try it!  And, be ready to be flexible. 

BARGAIN

Many of us are not good at this at all, except maybe during port time on a vacation cruise.  The point here, I think is to go for not the cheapest but the best you can afford.  I know of one family who always got everything the cheapest when they built a garage behind their house.  They spent a lot of time in the courts trying to get recovery from the fly by night contractor who swindled them, *and* the garage leaked, too.   Use your brain!  If, for example, you’re bargaining for a lawyer and the cheap one has to look up everything in a book before he answers you, while the higher priced one knows the law already… you may be better off with the “more expensive” attorney since she has a better chance of actually accomplishing what you want.

CUT BACK

OK, I’m preaching motherhood and apple pie here, but cut back cut back cut back.  More than a few people we know have discovered the parsimonious joys of shopping at that really bare bones – and small! – Grocery store chain.  What applies to groceries applies to much of what we need in life.  Yes we have to give up variety and some expensive favorites but if the alternative is between living parsimoniously or living on an ever increasing credit card balance, I for one would choose parsimony.

 DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Anticipation of a dire situation is often worse than the situation itself.  Someone once wrote that the fact that there is a problem means that the elements are already present in the situation, for a solution.  You just have to dig it out.  For myself, I find that doing *something* — provided I’ve put some thought into its appropriateness – is better than doing nothing.  And, if after consideration, nothing is what you are compelled to do, that can work too.

DO SWEAT THE BIG STUFF

Family, friends, your own dignity and honesty.  THIS *stuff* is well worth paying attention to; and making sure that even if at the cost of some short run advantages, there are principles you can stick to. 

Please come back to our blog as we discuss more topics about Family Law and the economy.  You can visit our website, or give Moore Family Law a call 763-951-7330, if you have questions that you need answered.  We would be happy to assist you.

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.

 

 

 

 

Plymouth Minnesota Attorney Firm

Welcome to the Moore Family Law blog. I’m Tom Moore, the Office Manager here at our offices in Plymouth, MN.  I’d like to write briefly on something important for our practice of family law dealing with divorce, custody, alimony and support; and also to our estate planning practice dealing with wills, trusts, estates, and legacy planning.  My thanks to “Professional Legal Management Week” magazine for the articles which inspired this post.

Efficiency
You may never meet me in person, but the important result of the work I do for you is that Moore Family Law can always provide superior legal advice and that we can do so at the lowest practicable cost to you.

As Office Manger, my job is to handle the business side of the firm – finances, computer systems, paying the bills. This helps ensure that our attorneys, Jennifer Moore and Emily Matson, have the time and energy to focus on what they do best – representing you and our other clients at a difficult time. Since Jennifer and Emily are not interrupted by the details of the business, they are more able to focus on the strategy, legal issues, and details of your case.

Thank you!
I plan to post weekly to the Moore Family Law blog. We hope that by providing some relevant behind-the-scenes information on the practice of family law and estate planning law, you will come to better understand how and why we do what we do the way we do. It’s all part of advocating your family’s future.