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

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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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

The “D” Word

 

Family attorneys are not in the business of breaking up families.  We are about helping people manage family transitions.  If there is one piece of advice I could give to stay married, it would be to never threaten divorce during an argument.

 

Don’t use the “D” word.

 

Just don’t.

 

If you are the one using the “D” word in the heat of an argument, chances are you don’t really mean it.  People who are seriously contemplating divorce don’t throw the “D” word around much.  Instead, they quietly go about locating the information they need to make the decision to divorce and implementing a plan for future independence. 

 

On the other hand, the person hearing the “D” word in the midst of battle will begin to quietly locate the information needed to protect him or herself in the event of a divorce and implement a plan for the inevitable transition from married to single.

 

See the problem?  If you are not serious about divorce, you do not want to get your spouse serious about divorce. 

 

Finally, if you aren’t serious about divorce, try marriage counseling:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/marriage-counseling/MH00104.

 

 

Jennifer Moore

Moore Family Law, P.A.

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth,  MN 55447

(763) 951-7330

Fax:  (866) 354-3531

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com