MY DIVORCE

I was divorced a while back and now I’m the office manager of a family law firm that deals mostly with divorce, custody; etc. Interesting!

So when my wife Jennifer mentioned The Huffington Post blog today, she piqued my curiosity and some memories of my own divorce.

The Huffington Post has a divorce section: www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce No matter what you may think of Ms. Huffington’s politics, you may find her blog interesting if you’re in / thinking of / recently out of a divorce.

I can understand why people get so emotional about these things. One of the worst days in my life was when my soon- to- be Ex took the children off to Minnesota (as we had planned) and I was left alone in Texas. When we said goodbye, I stood in the now empty echoing and no-longer-ours house and implored them, “Please don’t go!” I cried. They went.

My Ex and I had just grown apart. The stress of her needing a heart transplant and of having two handicapped children was tremendous and I in particular had a hard time dealing with it. Furthermore I had just started on a new career (professor of history) and was in grad school doing great – and it took a lot of my attention and time leaving less than my children needed.

Then with a lot of misery on my part–and with a sudden jolt — I realized that I could choose either my children or my career. I chose the children and gave up my new career with a forthright letter to my favorite history prof.

I’ve always been a private person in my way, in many aspects that really matter to me. I had not really discussed the emotional impact of all this – career, children, political differences — with my wife – therapists, yes but at first that didn’t work either. This was a really hard decision and I could have used my wife’s help more than I could ask for. I knew the history work I was doing would be a boon to mankind but it had to go. I dropped my history writing project but not before writing out my conclusions and sending them where I thought they should go. This small part I am proud of.

I finally found a suitable therapist in Texas: “Mr. Bill.” I let myself enjoy life a but more — well maybe more than a bit – and came to understand more the arc of my life from southern white boy (born in Connecticut!) to labor organizer to family man and computer consultant and historian to divorce and fatherhood. I could not let my children go. When my job in Houston finished, as I knew it would, I had an epiphany: “If I’m doing the right thing staying in Texas, why do I feel so miserable?” Every day I cried and screamed and bemoaned my fate. These outpourings of emotions would not do – though for a while I had to do them. I did learn to “deal with” in other ways – therapy, taking more responsibility for the kids, meditation.

So I had my epiphanies. I packed up a rental truck in the warm rainy and green Houston spring (it was 70 degrees and January) and drove to Minnesota to be near my kids (it was so cold the diesel fuel froze in the tank). I got there just before my Ex’s heart transplant, which was a great success.

Don’t get me wrong. Things were still rough, especially on the children, and it took me years to figure out and get a grip on my anger and my hostility, but I finally did and I finally accepted that I had made the right, the necessary, choice.

So, if you’re going through something similar, know you are not alone. A divorce even when it is for the best is usually a great loss of pride, family, familiarity. Some may breeze through a divorce but I didn’t. You probably would not either. It took years to get back close again to my children – after an estrangement totally my own fault. I grew up in the process – finally reaching adulthood as a fifty-something male.

Which brings us back to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce Try an article or two. Makes ya think. Especially the part about building and using a network of friends and professionals (investment advisors, therapists, mentors, fellow workers,) according to your needs.

And, don’t forget to cultivate, smell, and pick the roses along the way.

Tom Moore
Moore Family Law

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

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