Smiles are Optional

At Your Divorce Trial

 

Divorce Trial?  Who does that?

 

Most family law cases settle long before a divorce trial, but in a small minority of cases, clients find themselves preparing for a trial in divorce court.   You may think your case is too simple for a trial, but a divorce involves summing up all the lives of any given family.  These issues can be complex, and if the family doesn’t agree on what is fair and equitable, much less the basic facts, there will have to be a trial.

 

What Happens During a Divorce Trial?

 

Divorce trials are heard by judges, not by juries.   There may be short opening statements, although they are often waived.  Various people will testify about the case, including the parties and experts (such as custody evaluators, real estate appraisers, actuaries, forensic accountants, and therapists).  In some cases, friends, neighbors, relatives and teachers may be called to testify.   Documents about your financial situation and any other issue will be given to the Judge to help him or her decide the issues in the case. 

 

Once both parties have had the opportunity to present witnesses and exhibits to the Judge, the Court will ask for closing arguments.  In family court, these are often done in writing in the form of proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree.   This is where the attorneys summarize the case and ask the Court to decide a particular way. 

 

What Doesn’t Happen During a Divorce Trial?

 

There is rarely an “Aha! I’ve got you!” moment.  There will be cross-examination, but the Court is not impressed with courtroom theatrics.  What might be a relevant admission to one spouse will probably not impress the Court.  I have witnessed attorneys spend hours grilling a wife about the fact that her expenses will decrease when her children leave home in five or six years.  Honestly, I think time might have been better spent talking about the wife’s current needs and the wife’s current income, since maintenance can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances.  Similarly, Minnesota does have no-fault divorce, so testimony about infidelity and other misconduct are not relevant in the vast majority of cases.

 

A Winning Strategy for Divorce Court

 

The best strategy is to appear more reasonable than the other side.  Logic and reason are valued by the legal profession (judges included), even in the midst of the difficult emotions presented in family court.  Anger and hostility are understandable, but will not win a case.  Smiles are optional – but they can help!

 

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
(763) 951-7330
www.moorefamilylawMN.com

jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

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Market Risk and Divorce

April 22, 2009

Market Risk and Divorce

 

One of the biggest issues in divorce involves the liquidity of the assets.  In a typical divorce, there will be a house, bank and investment accounts, and retirement assets.  The house and retirement accounts are not readily convertible into cash (especially in this market).  The bank and investment accounts are cash equivalents.  A good divorce settlement will attempt to match the needs of each party to the liquidity of the assets awarded to them in the divorce.  Thus, if one party will need cash to go back to school or fund a new home purchase, he or she should be awarded enough liquid assets to accomplish this goal.  At the same time, however, market risk is inherent in less liquid assets.  For example, until recently, real estate was a phenominal investment, but in the last year, prices have declined substantially, and there is a chance that it will be difficult to sell the home. 

 

Consider this extreme example of an unbalanced divorce settlement:  http://consumerist.com/5215609/divorcing-a-tycoon-you-win-some-you-win-some  The comments to the story are also interesting reading. 

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.A.
(763) 951-7330
mfl@moorefamilylawMN.com
www.moorefamilylawMN.com

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>

 

Moore Family Law Mission and Values

**************************

Mission

 

We help families in need create new futures.

 

 

Values

 

 

  1. Every client is part of a family.  We consider every client to be part of an interconnected group of people called a family.  What happens to the client happens to the family.  We will provide legal services to our clients which are sensitive to the fact that those services will impact others in the family.
  2. Each case will be handled in a way that promotes our clients’ best interests as expressed by our client.
  3. We will not accept or maintain representation where a client acts manifestly against what we perceive to be in the best interest of our client.
  4. All matters will be handled with no unnecessary delays. 
  5. Every client should view their attorney as the person in the firm most intimately involved in their case.  Legal services should be delivered by attorneys with the help of support staff.  Support staff should be used to add value to services personally delivered by attorneys and to facilitate the business operations of the firm.

Billing shall be scrupulously honest and reflect value received by the client.

 

******************************

 

Links You Can Use During Your Divorce  

 

Divorce Source Minnesota Divorce Support Groups

Divorce, Custody & Family Law–Minnesota State Courts Self Help Center

Divorce Recovery Support Groups

Thank you for your attention.

 

Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Moore Family Law, P.A.

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN  55447

(763) 951-7330

Cell: (763) 245-4586

Fax: (866) 354-3531

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Uncomfortable Planning – Prenuptial Agreements

 

Emily Matson here from Moore Family Law.  I’d like to talk a bit this week about an important area in family law:  Prenuptial Agreements. 

 

 

Minnesota statute § 519.11 authorizes the use of “antenuptial” agreements (prenuptial in every day language) in order to give parties the chance to disclaim any interest in nonmarital or marital property after they are married. 

 

Prenuptial agreements are almost a necessity when one party comes from a family farm heritage, or when one party is part of an on-going family business.  Prenuptial agreements will limit the outside-spouse’s interest in property that is intended to stay within a particular family unit, whether a divorce occurs or not. 

 

One reason people rarely want to discuss prenuptial agreements is because they contemplate divorce before you have even said “I do.”  However, it can also provide for certain property settlements in the event of death of one spouse, even when there is not a divorce. 

 

In order to be enforced in Minnesota, a prenuptial agreement must be made after a full and fair disclosure of the earnings and properties of each party, and each party must have had the opportunity to consul with legal counsel of their own choice.  One lawyer can NOT advise both parties to the agreement.  The agreement must be in writing, witnessed by two persons, and notarized.  If the agreement covers any real property, it should also be recorded in the county where the property is situated. We can handle all of that at our office in Plymouth, Minnesota.

 

What kind of property can be disclaimed in a prenuptial agreement?  Well, for the specifics of your case, you’ll have to make an appointment with us to sit down and discuss your particular situation. 

 

Emily M. Matson, Esq.

Moore Family Law, P.A.

3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C

Plymouth, MN 55447

Phone:  (763) 951-7330

Fax: (866) 354-3531

emily.matson@moorefamilylawmn.com

Parenting and Divorce

January 21, 2009

A New Parenting Time Guideline for Minnesota
 Jennifer Moore here, from Moore Family Law. 

 

 We are located in Plymouth, MN.  We serve clients throughout Minnesota, with the bulk of our family law practice being in Hennepin County and Wright County including the cities of Plymouth, Maple Grove, and Champlin.

 

This week, I want to address your attention an important Minnesota Supreme Court publication. A Parental Guide to Making Child-Focused Parenting Time Decisions (http://www.mncourts.gov/documents/0/Public/Court_Information_Office/PARENTING_TIME_PAMPHLET.pdf) is used by Courts all over Minnesota to assist it in educating parents about parenting amidst conflict. Many of my clients experience great difficulty in parenting during a divorce. They allow the conflict between the parents to leak into the parent-child relationship.

 

At Moore Family Law, we believe that the best way for you to protect your interests during a custody battle is to follow the guidance of the Courts. Do not discuss adult matters with children. Try to be positive about your children’s relationship with the other parent, even if, on the inside, you believe that the other parent is satan incarnate. Be flexible in the face of the other parent’s crazy behavior. Keep your cool. Think about your children’s needs.

 

What is a Civil Gideon?

Recently there has been a push by legal communities, including here in Hennepin, Anoka, and Wright counties in Minnesota, to investigate and implement something called a “Civil Gideon” – or a right to counsel in civil cases where important rights are at stake.  In 2006, the American Bar Association (link:

http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/sclaid/downloads/06A112A.pdf
) passed this resolution:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody as determined by each jurisdiction.

In 2008, the Minnesota State Bar Association has formed its own Civil Gideon Task Force (link:  http://www.mnbar.org/committees/CivilGideon/) to investigate whether a civil right to counsel should exist in Minnesota.

WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH FAMILY LAW?

When I first heard about this movement, I immediately thought of several family law situations in which the parties involved in proceedings which go beyond the “ordinary” legal issues arising out of divorce, alimony, child custody, child support – or even, in our Trusts and Estates practice – arising out of probate and other issues involving wills, heirs, and trusts – parties who have absolutely no resources to hire a private attorney—and lack the criteria to receive aid from the various legal aid agencies in Minnesota. 

Let me explain.  Once case in particular that comes to mind is a case where Moore Family Law represented the grandparents in their petition for third party child custody.  The mother, not our client, was only 19, had no job, and a history of substance abuse problems.  She was willing to accept help from the child’s grandparents as legal custodians for awhile—but she was scared of what might happen in the future regarding child custody.  As much as she knew she couldn’t care for her child in her current state, she still wanted to some day care for her child:  in the short run, she already had enough problems stemming from her previous divorce. 

I think we worked out a good compromise around the family law issues, a compromise that gives her room to rehabilitate herself and become a mother again; but she would have benefited greatly from having her own attorney during the child custody proceedings.  Here was a mother faced with losing her child, and she had no one to advocate for her or to explain the consequences of her decisions.  She needed an attorney not only for family law matters but also for legal matters arising from her substance abuse — but she could afford neither a family law attorney nor a criminal one; and legal aid providers do not typically take clients involved in third party child custody actions. 

Compare this with the situation in which an action has been initiated to terminate a mother’s parental rights.  This is by no means an easy situation but there, the right to counsel is specifically provided for in Minnesota statute:  “(a) The child, parent, guardian or custodian has the right to effective assistance of counsel in connection with a proceeding in juvenile court.”  Minn. Stat. .§ 260C.163, subd. 3.  Here, at least, the mother has some right to an attorney.

WHAT MOORE FAMILY LAW IS DOING TO HELP IN MINNESOTA

Because I so often see cases where a party needs family law representation and also needs another type of lawyer, and because I think it is an injustice to not provide for those parties who face not only divorce, alimony, custody and child support issues but also issues of mental health, substance abuse, and in some cases criminal matters, — because we at Moore Family Law want to provide for those most in need, I am on the Civil Gideons Task Force, serving on the unmet needs committee. 

Here I am able to bring the expertise of Moore Family Law to focus on the tasks at hand.  Our job is to investigate what potential clients are out there who are not being served.  There is ample data on the services provided by legal aid; but what about those cases turned away?  And what about those cases where legal aid can only provide an attorney that knows the specific area of the law in a very general way?  Is that adequate counsel?  These are questions that we discuss at our committee and Task Force meetings so that we can lay a strong basis for the right to legal counsel where it is needed most.   

Emily Matson, 
Moore Family Law – Representing Your Family’s Future 

Happy New Year! Jennifer Moore here. 

FAMILY LAW, TRUSTS AND ESTATES, AND THE NEW YEAR

What are your New Years’ Resolutions?  Mine is to carve out time for a morning routine.  Commuting from home to our offices in Plymouth is not always my idea of fun!  Maybe your resolution involves a bigger change….  Perhaps you are contemplating a change in family structure, such as marriage, divorce, or a change of custody of your children. 

Family law attorneys such as Emily Matson and me here at Moore Family Law, observe that requests for initial consultations increase dramatically after January 1st.  We do still have openings for initial consultations, but they are filling up fast.  Call to reserve your time now!

YOUR INITIAL CONSULTATION AT MOORE FAMILY LAW

What can you expect during an initial consultation?  Moore Family Law offers free consultations.  You can expect to be greeted at our office by our Office Manager or our newly-hired Paralegal who will ask you to fill out a short form and will offer you a bottle of water or a cup of coffee.  Once you complete your form, you will meet with an attorney – Emily Matson or me – who will give you real legal advice regarding your divorce, custody, alimony concerns; or, alternatively, regarding your trust, estate, or probate issue.  We will give you our best estimate as to the cost, effort and time we believe your matter will take.  We will advise you about steps you can take to resolve your family law or trust and estate matter without involving an attorney, as well as if your matter is one that really does require the services of an attorney. 

If you are concerned about costs, we will brainstorm with you ways to keep the costs down and to obtain the funds necessary to retain us.   

Once the consultation is over, we will send you a letter and a proposed legal representation agreement.  You have no obligation to retain us for your family law or trust and estate matter, although we hope you will. 

JOINT CUSTODY IN THE NEWS

On another note, I was flipping through the December 14th issue of Newsweek yesterday and discovered the following article about joint custody arrangements: 

http://www.newsweek.com/id/174698

This is an interesting article.  In our family law practice we have definitely noticed a trend towards joint custody arrangements.  Often, these arrangements are the result of both parents coming to an amicable agreement about custody.  However, we have had success in obtaining joint custody arrangements for our clients even where the parties have not necessarily been able to agree about what’s in the best interests of the child.  One of the keys is involving an attorney early on in the process who can advise you as to the best way to approach the issue with an eye towards possible litigation. 

Next week, I will discuss how focusing on the best interests of the children is the best litigation strategy in a divorce, no matter whether the immediate  .  And, yes, we have a link for that too! See Minn. Stat. Sec. 518.17. https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=518.17

 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.

 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

 “Representing your family’s future”

MOORE FAMILY LAW

I’m Jennifer Moore of Moore Family Law in Plymouth, Minnesota. Our legal practice encompasses trusts, estate law and probate as well as family law. But the holidays present a special challenge for families that are going through a divorce, a process which often brings with it disputes over emotional hurts, property, child support and alimony, custody and visitation.

DIVORCE AND HOLIDAYS DO NOT MIX

I advise my clients to try to put matters involving family law “on hold” during the peak of the holidays. It’s not just that the children need to be protected from the divorce during the holidays. The parents do, as well.

During a divorce, you may find yourself more emotional, clumsy or forgetful, and not quite yourself. The holidays bring the stress of a heavy social calendar, added expenses, and interactions with helpful family and friends. Nothing good can come from adding a divorce proceeding to this combination of stressors.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

Divorce attorneys routinely experience a December slump and a January surge, especially regarding divorce matters. We’re no different here at Moore Family Law, but there are steps you can take now that will get you ready for January. You can start gathering your financial documents. Make copies of tax returns. Get current pension / retirement account statements. Collect your bank statements for the last 2-3 years. Run a credit report. Open your own bank account at a bank other than the one you use for joint finances.

Schedule an appointment with a therapist, for some “fun-for-me time,” or at a spa.

Schedule a face-to-face consultation with us at our offices in Plymouth, MN, just so you know what you can expect if you do decide to act in January. Our consultations take about an hour, they are usually free of charge, and we will be glad to help you in this joyful yet difficult season.

WE WISH YOU THE BEST

Moore Family Law: Advocating Your Family’s Future

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.