A Family Law Attorney in Buffalo, MN Looks at Millennial Prenups

Since many Millenials are children of divorce, when they get married themselves, they are willing to think outside the box if it means keeping their unions intact. So, it’s little wonder that these couples are increasingly entering into premarital agreements before they tie the knot.

Prenuptial agreements are much more than divorce insurance. Frequently, they make marriages stronger. Money is one of the leading sources of marital friction. And, prenups remove financial matters from the equation before these issues have a chance to create tension.

Most agreements between spouses, including premarital agreements, are enforceable. However, Minnesota lawmakers have not adopted the Uniform Marital and Premarital Agreements Act. So, prenups are only enforceable in rather limited circumstances. Therefore, only an experienced family law attorney in Buffalo, MN should handle these matters, whether you are trying to make or break a premarital agreement.

Making Premarital Agreements

Money is not just one of the most problematic issues during a marriage. It’s also one of the most problematic areas during a divorce. And, if the unthinkable happens, most Millennials do not want to pay the steep emotional and financial costs associated with divorce.

Prenuptial agreements clearly distinguish marital property from nonmarital property. So, if the parties divorce, family law attorneys in Buffalo, MN need not spend vast amounts of time classifying property. That’s assuming the prenuptial agreement is enforceable, as set forth below.

Premarital contracts usually also include spousal support limitations. These provisions give people additional peace of mind. If Wife has substantially more money than Husband, Wife and her family both know that Husband is not marrying Wife for her money.

Emotional issues might be a consideration as well, especially if either spouse has been married before and the union involves a small business. Frequently, Minnesota’s antiquated intestacy laws do not keep up with modern families. Prenuptial agreements clarify inheritance and succession matters. To make these decisions even clearer and easier to enforce, mand family law attorneys in Buffalo, MN also draw up executory documents, such as wills and estate plans.

Only a few matters are off-limits in this area, such as child custody and child support. These matters must be in the best interests of the children, as opposed to the best interests of the parents.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Breaking Premarital Agreements

No contract is absolutely ironclad. There is usually a way to undo almost any kind of contract, and premarital agreements are no exception. Prenups are only enforceable in Minnesota if:

  • Recorded in Deed Records: Since they often affect real property, prenuptial agreements must be recorded in the deed records of Wright County, or wherever the prenup was signed. If the spouses move, the prenuptial agreement must move with them.
  • Voluntary: There is almost always some pressure to sign a premarital agreement. Sometimes, there is excessive pressure, such as a “sign or else” ultimatum. These things are usually not enough to invalidate a premarital contract. But sometimes, the pressure gets too great, and the pact is involuntary.
  • Full Disclosure: This bullet is related to the previous one. Agreements are involuntary if a spouse did not know what s/he was signing. The omission must be material to the issues in the contract. And, most judges also require challenging spouses to prove they could not have obtained the information elsewhere.
  • Unconscionable: A 60-40 division is uneven but probably not unconscionable. A division like “I get all the assets and you get all the debts” is clearly unconscionable. Additionally, the agreement must have been unconscionable when it was made. Stock is a good example. These certificates could be incredibly valuable one day and worthless pieces of paper the next day.
  • Separate Counsel Throughout: Each spouse must have an independent Buffalo, MN family law attorney throughout the entire process, and each spouse must have an equal opportunity to consult with counsel. Wife cannot spring the agreement on Husband at the least minute, even if Husband has a Buffalo, MN family law attorney.

Generally, the challenging party must prove the agreement was invalid by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of evidence in Minnesota.

Furthermore, most premarital agreements have severability provisions. If a judge invalidates one part, the remainder is still in force.

Contact a Diligent Lawyer

Premarital agreements are not just divorce insurance. In many cases, they are anti-divorce insurance. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Love, Baseball, Premarital Agreements, and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers

Those are four items you probably never thought you’d see in the same sentence. Yet beginning in the spring of 2011, they all came together. Well, all of them except for the Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers component. Nevertheless, the Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce saga has some important lessons for Wright County family law attorneys.

Some baseball fans might remember the McCourts. This billionaire power couple owned the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 2000s.

Minnesota is one of the few states which has not adopted the Uniform Marital and Premarital Agreements Act. Generally, lawmakers in St. Paul do not follow trends. They either start them or ignore them. Nevertheless, the issues presented in the McCourt prenup matter are very similar to the ones Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers face on an ongoing basis.

Prenups in Minnesota and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers: An Overview

Rich couples who own baseball teams are by no means the only people who should consider prenuptial agreements. For the most part, these pacts are much more than divorce insurance. Since they decide most financial matters in advance, prenups usually make marriages stronger. Money is the leading cause of marital distress. And, premarital agreements remove money from the equation.

In Minnesota, prenuptial agreements can cover more than property division, spousal support, and property management issues. These pacts also often address inheritance and succession matters, especially if the couple owns a family business and stepchildren are involved. Frequently, Minnesota’s antiquated inheritance laws do not jive with a couple’s intentions.

Generally, premarital agreements are valid as long as each couple had an independent Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, the agreement was properly recorded in the deed records, it was not blatantly one-sided, and it was voluntary. Those first two requirements are largely technicalities. The second two requirements, however, merit closer attention.

Dodgers Bankruptcy

Aided greatly by Kirk Gibson’s impossible home run in Game One, the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988. After that, the club fielded a succession of underachieving teams. Fan interest waned, and so did team revenues. When the McCourts bought the Dodgers in the early 2000s, they probably thought their investment epitomized the old axiom of buying low and selling high. Little did they know that the Dodgers would sink even lower before they rose again.

The team finally bottomed out in June 2011. Reportedly, Frank McCourt, who was the only remaining owner, did not have enough cash to make payroll. So, the club filed bankruptcy.

Then, something else impossible happened. The Dodgers suddenly became contenders again, largely due to the emergence of pitching ace Clayton Kershaw. Notoriously fickle SoCal fans returned and the team’s revenue exploded. As a result, Frank sold the team for a whopping $2.15 billion.

Breaking Down the McCourt Property Agreement

Just before the Dodgers went to bankruptcy court, the team owners were in divorce court. Supposedly, things came to a head for the feuding couple when Jamie had an affair with her bodyguard.

The divorce was contentious to say the least. Lawyers spent most of their time on the property division. Since the team was on the edge of bankruptcy and almost worthless, Jamie agreed to give up her half of the team for about $180 million in cash and property. That seemed like a good deal at the time.

Jamie’s jaw probably fell open when she saw the news of the sale. After all, California is a community property state. So, she argued in court, half that $2.15 billion was hers.

Eventually, a Superior Court judge disagreed. As mentioned above, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers can use these same arguments in Wright County.

  • Withheld Information: In both California and Minnesota, prenuptial agreements are invalid if a party withholds financial data. Jamie claimed that Frank misled her about the team’s value. However, the judge noted that Frank produced tens of thousands of financial documents during discovery. Additionally, even if Frank did lie to her, Jamie was a co-owner at the time. So, she could have reviewed all the financial data she wanted.
  • Unconscionable Agreement: By almost any definition, the property agreement’s result was unconscionable. It left Jamie $900 million shy of a 50-50 split in a community property state. However, the agreement was not unconscionable when it was made. According to the court: “Jamie simply chose the security of a guaranteed $131 million payment, plus more than $50 million in real and personal property, over the uncertainty and risk presented by the valuation and sale of the Dodger assets.”

So, Jamie lost her appeal and even had to pay her ex-husband’s legal fees. But her story has a somewhat happy ending. The longtime GOP fundraiser recently became the U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Prenups are not just for billionaires. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Alimony Determinations

A number of states, including Illinois, have recently changed their spousal support laws. In the Prairie State, alimony determinations are much like child support determinations. Judges use the parties’ income and the length of the marriage to determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments, at least in most cases. But Minnesota’s alimony law is still very subjective. Judges have quite a bit of discretion in this area. These same subjective principles apply in other areas, such as the need for alimony in the first place.

Both obligors (people paying support) and obligees (people receiving support) have substantial legal and financial rights in Minnesota. It’s important than an assertive Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer stands up for these rights, both in the courtroom and at the negotiation table.

Is Spousal Support Appropriate?

In many jurisdictions, judges automatically award alimony in almost all cases. The amount and duration of payments is the only issue. But in Minnesota, there is a presumption that a Wright County family law judge should not award alimony. A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer can rebut that presumption in the following situations:

  • Insufficient Property: Under Minnesota law, a divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden for either party. So, if a spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs, alimony payments might be appropriate. In this context, “reasonable needs” usually means a standard of living roughly equivalent to the standard of living during the marriage. This factor often comes into play if the obligor had substantial non-marital property.
  • Incapable of Self-Support: Lack of education or job experience generally does not render one incapable of self-support. These deficiencies can be addressed. A physical, mental, emotional, or other medical disability, however, probably does make the spouse incapable of earning enough money to meet reasonable needs.
  • Custody of Minor Disabled Child: The disability must be so severe that the child is incapable of living independently. There is sometimes a difference between inability to achieve self-sufficiency and unwillingness to do so. If the child is disabled to the extent that s/he requires constant care, the case for alimony is stronger.

Generally, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must prove alimony eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Duration of Payments

Some judges award temporary alimony. Such payments are for spouses who need help meeting divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property rental deposits. To obtain temporary alimony, a Buffalo, MN lawyer must normally show the spouse lacks the means to pay these expenses. The case for alimony is weaker if the obligee was the filing spouse. These obligees cannot claim they were blindsided by the divorce.

Temporary support is subject to modification. These payments automatically terminate when a Wright County judge finalizes the divorce.

Short-term maintenance is the most common type of spousal support in Minnesota. As mentioned, many obligees need to “get on their feet” before they can meet their own reasonable needs. If the obligee has a specific rehabilitation plan, such as finishing school, the case for alimony is stronger. If not, the case for alimony is weaker.

Judges set specific ending dates for short-term support. Some judges use the length of the marriage (e.g. ten years of support payments following a ten-year marriage). Others assign a reasonable period based on the rehabilitation plan. If the obligee needs more support, the obligee can file a motion to extend payments.

A few judges still award long-term alimony, usually if the obligee has custody of a severely disabled child. These payments might also be available if the obligee is seriously disabled. “Long term” is not synonymous with “forever.” There is usually an end date. It’s just normally further out in the future.

Amount of Payments in Wright County

To determine the specific length, as well as the amount of payments, most Wright County judges consider the following factors:

  • Obligee’s financial need,
  • Amount of time needed for the obligee to achieve self-sufficiency,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Length of the relationship,
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the “homemaker” factor),
  • Relative age, health, and education of each spouse, and
  • Obligor’s ability to pay.

A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must also be mindful of these factors during settlement negotiations. Almost all marriage dissolutions settle out of court. However, a Wright County judge is unlikely to approve the settlement if it does not result in a just and right division of the marital estate.

Reach Out to Compassionate Attorneys

Alimony is usually, but not always, part of a divorce settlement. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Prenuptial Agreements and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers

No one wants or expects to die early. But responsible people obtain life insurance policies, especially once they have families. So, their families are protected if the unthinkable occurs.

In some ways, a prenuptial agreement is a lot like a life insurance policy. No one wants or expects to get divorced. Nevertheless, responsible spouses usually obtain premarital agreements. So, their families are protected if the unthinkable occurs. In this context, protecting one’s family usually means avoiding an expensive and protracted marriage dissolution.

In other ways, a prenuptial agreement is a lot more than a life insurance policy. Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers can draft prenuptial agreements that resolve financial disagreements before they become arguments. IN other words, a life insurance policy cannot prolonge your life. But a premarital agreement could very well prolonge your marriage.

Making a Prenuptial Agreement

Life insurance policies and prenuptial agreements are both contracts. So, both these documents must have all the basic elements of a contract, including:

  • Offer and Acceptance: A few Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers draft vague prenuptial agreements, reasoning that such documents are more flexible. That might be true, but such documents also might be unenforceable. All the terms must be clear. If circumstances change, a prenup can be modified later.
  • Consideration: An agreement in principle is not an enforceable contract. Each signatory must either get something of value or give up something of value. The consideration need not be substantial or even tangible, but it must be real.
  • Mutuality: This contract term often has two basic meanings. First, there must be a “meeting of the minds.” Both parties must agree to the same terms at the same time. Additionally, both spouses must have roughly equal bargaining power. If only one spouse has a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, mutuality is arguably absent.

Financial terms usually dominate most prenuptial agreements. Commonly, spouses classify property as marital or non-marital. This distinction is not always black and white. In fact, unless the parties have a prenup, property classification and division is usually the most time-consuming part of a divorce case.

Other financial provisions could include spousal support caps. That’s especially true if one spouse is substantially wealthier than the other spouse. Frequently, spousal support caps have stairstep provisions. The longer the marriage lasts, the smaller the cap becomes.

Many prenuptial agreements also contain nonfinancial provisions, specifically with regard to succession and inheritance matters. Children from a first marriage generally have no such rights. The same goes for stepchildren, unless the nonbiological spouse adopts them. Many times, people want to include their biological or stepchildren in these plans. A prenup, usually when combined with a will, might be the only way to accomplish this goal.

Prenuptial agreements cannot cover child custody or child support matters. These decisions must be in the best interests of the children, as opposed to the best interests of the parents.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Breaking Prenuptial Agreements

Very few contracts are set in stone, and prenuptial agreements are generally no exception. In addition to the technical requirements listed above, there are several other ways for a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer to successfully challenge an unfavorable premarital agreement:

  • Failure to Record: This technicality usually only applies to contracts which affect property rights. Premarital agreements almost always fall into this category.
  • No Separate Counsel: Each spouse must have an independent Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer. An attorney usually cannot represent both spouses in a family law matter, even if they agree to joint representation. Their interests are too adverse.
  • Failure to Disclose Information: This requirement is not as broad as it seems. First, the withheld information must have been material. Lying about a tax debt probably does not affect a property division. Second, the challenging spouse cannot plead ignorance. If the information was available elsewhere, the other spouse probably did not have a duty to disclose it.
  • Unconscionable Division: There is a difference between uneven and unconscionable. 70-30 is uneven, but probably not unconscionable.
  • Involuntary Agreement: The same principles apply here. Pressure to sign, even if it includes a “sign or else” ultimatum, is usually insufficient. But sometimes, the pressure is too much. For example, Wife might spring a prenup on Husband the night before a destination wedding in Barbados.

Most prenuptial agreements in Crow Wing County have severability clauses. So, if a judge invalidates one part because it is unconscionable or whatever, the remainder is still valid.

Reach Out to Diligent Attorneys

Premarital agreements often make marriages last longer and divorces less taxing. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

A Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer Talks About Grey Divorce

As recently as the 1990s, divorce over 55 was almost unheard of, even though the overall divorce rate was much higher than it is today. Instead, if older couples drifted apart, they usually obtained “Irish divorces.” The spouses remained legally married, but they led separate lives.

Things are different now. Divorce’s moral acceptability rating recently hit an all-time high. Couples who never would have considered divorce in prior years now see marriage dissolution as a legitimate way to end an unsatisfying marriage. And, in 1995, Irish voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing divorce.

Overall, grey divorces involve the same financial and emotional issues as marriage dissolutions in other age groups. But grey divorce issues have a slightly different twist. So, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer needs a special skill set in order to successfully resolve these matters.

Child Custody Matters

Most couples over 55 no longer have minor children at home. However, grey divorces still often involve child custody matters, usually regarding grandchildren.

Frequently, adult children have a much harder time accepting their parents’ divorce than younger children. Adults are often less emotionally resilient than children. Furthermore, adult children have a lifetime of happy family memories to deal with. Young children might only remember one or two good family Christmases.

So, adult children often blame one of their parents for the divorce. Children often punish the targeted parent by severing emotional contact.

Assume Bill and Joan have a son, Bill Jr., and a grandson, Bill III. Ever since Bill III was born, he usually spent at least one weekend a month and two or three weeks a summer with his grandparents. Bill and Joan divorce after forty years of marriage. Bill Jr. believes that his father’s infidelity caused the breakup. So, he forbids Bill III to see his grandfather.

In many states, Bill Jr. can almost unilaterally sever the bond between Bill III and his grandfather. But Minnesota is different. The Gopher State has a very broad grandparents’ rights law. According to Section 257C, “the court may, upon the request of the parent or grandparent of a party, grant reasonable visitation rights to the unmarried minor child, after dissolution of marriage.” The court will grant reasonable visitation if:

  • Such contact is in the best interests of the child, and
  • The contact does not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

What does this law mean for Bill? Based on his prior relationship with Bill III, continued contact is probably in Bill III’s best interests. One weekend a month and two weeks in the summer would obviously decrease Bill Jr.’s parenting time. But it may or may not “interfere with the parent-child relationship.” That’s a different question.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Retirement Account Division

Emotional and financial issues are both involved in retirement account divisions.  Emotionally, 401(k)s and other nest eggs represent long-term security. Financially, these accounts are typically one of a family’s largest marital assets.

Minnesota is an equitable division state. All marital property must be divided equitably. Even if only one spouse made financial contributions, retirement accounts are marital property, at least as to the amount of growth during the marriage. There is a presumption that 50-50 is equitable, but a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer can change that proportion based on several factors.

As for the division itself, each plan has its own rules, because each plan has a separate Plan Administrator. But generally, the nonowner spouse may choose one of the following options:

  • Do nothing and receive a proportionate share of future disbursements,
  • Pay a financial penalty and cash out, or
  • Roll the portion into a new tax-deferred account (most nonowner spouses choose this option).

Military retirement accounts are different. Usually, the government only divides these accounts if the servicemember spouse has at least ten years of service and the marriage lasted at least ten years. Even then, only a 50-50 division may be available. In other situations, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer has other options.

Home Equity Division in a Grey Divorce

Younger people often have little home equity. During the first half of a mortgage loan, most installment payment money goes to prepaid interest. But older couples often have substantial equity. Frequently, it’s best to sell the house and divide the proceeds, both from a financial and emotional standpoint.

Alternatively, one spouse could keep the house and the other spouse could receive an owelty partition lien. That lien is for a proportionate share of the equity. Later, when the remaining owner sells the house, that lien must be paid. A setoff might be appropriate as well. For example, Bill could let Joan keep the house if Joan gives up her half of Bill’s retirement account.

Connect with a Compassionate Attorney

Grey divorces involve special financial and emotional issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Divorce Lawyers in Buffalo, MN and Grey Divorce

As recently as the 1990s, divorce over 55 was almost unheard of. In the ensuing years, the overall divorce rate dropped even further. But the over-55 marriage dissolution rate has doubled since then.

There are several reasons why the grey divorce rate has increased so significantly. The average lifespan has increased since then, and the quality of life for people over 65 has improved as well. To many 50-somethings, another twenty-five years is a long time to spend in an unsatisfying marriage, especially since most of those years should be active years.

Furthermore, divorce’s moral acceptability rating recently hit an all-time high. So, people who never would have considered divorce are at least giving this proceeding a second look.

Grey divorces present special issues for Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers. Financially, couples in this age bracket usually have more assets than debts. Emotionally, they may no longer have children at home, but there are still some child custody issues to deal with.

Home Equity Division

Due to loan amortization, people who have lived in their homes for fewer than ten years generally have little equity. The lion’s share of each monthly installment payment goes to prepaid interest instead of the UPB (unpaid principal balance). Simply stated, the bank gets paid before homeowners build equity.

During the second half of the loan period, the division is reversed. Since the loan’s interest is mostly paid, much of each payment goes to home equity. In other words, the house is an asset instead of a debt.

In financial settlements, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers often go with sale-and-division language. Selling the house and dividing the proceeds gives everyone a clean break. Additionally, many couples of this age downsize their housing, whether or not they stay together. But the sell-and-split approach is not always best, particularly if the market is depressed.

So, an owelty partition lien might be an option. One spouse stays in the house, and the other spouse receives a lien for his or her share of the equity. Later, when the owner spouse sells the house, that lien must be paid.

A couple of housekeeping notes may be appropriate. First, Minnesota is an equitable division state. Marital assets, including home equity, must be divided equitably, which is not necessarily the same thing as equally. Second, divorce changes the names on the deed, but does not change the names on the note. Refinancing the loan is usually the only way to delete a borrower’s name.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Visitation Issues

Most couples over 55, and certainly most couples over 65, no longer have minor children at home. But that doesn’t mean there are no child custody issues.

Young children usually adjust fairly well to a parental divorce. But many adult children have a hard time dealing with their parents’ split. Adults are not as emotionally resilient as children. Furthermore, adults have a lifetime of happy family memories.

So, the children often “blame” one of their parents for the divorce. Children might exact revenge on the at-fault parent by cutting off visitation between grandchildren and grandparents.

If that happens, grandparents might be able to obtain some limited visitation rights. The parental presumption in Minnesota is very strong, so for the most part, parents have an almost unlimited right to decide where their children spend their time. But some limited visitation might be available, based on factors like:

  • Prior grandparent/grandchild relationship,
  • Extent of the relationship (i.e. were the grandparents mostly caregiver or mostly babysitters), and
  • Best interests of the child.

A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer is obviously not a family therapist, but there are some ways to avoid these unpleasant confrontations. Be open with your adult children about the reasons for the divorce. Furthermore, avoid bringing paramours to family functions and make an effort to get along well with your ex.

Retirement Account Division

Back to marital property division. Other than home equity, an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement nest egg is probably a couple’s largest asset. Retirement accounts also have an emotional value. They represent security and reward for diligent savings.

Even if only one spouse contributed money to the account, the account is still marital property subject to equitable division. Many non-owner spouses elect to roll their shares into a new tax-deferred account. They can keep making contributions and not pay a tax penalty. Others choose to cash out their shares and pay a penalty. Still others elect to do nothing and receive an equitable share of future disbursements.

Special rules apply in military retirement account divisions. Generally, the government will not authorize anything other than a 50-50 division, and that’s assuming the marriage lasted at least ten years and the account-holder has at least ten years of service.

Connect with an Assertive Attorney

Over-55 divorces have some special financial and emotional issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Selecting the Right Property Division Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer

The marriage dissolution rate has fallen steadily since the 1980s. Some experts predict that it may soon bottom out at around 33 percent. Part of that decline is due to a lower marriage rate. Many couples have fewer debts and more assets when they get married. So, the divorce rate may be lower, but the divorces themselves are more complex, especially with regard to property division.

In this economic and social environment, a prenuptial agreement is usually a good idea. Prenups eliminate money fights before they start and also make a future divorce much less emotionally taxing. They are basically whole life insurance policies which both build equity and help couples prepare for the unexpected.

Premarital agreement or not, a good Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer is essential. Without such representation, there will be no one to stand up for your legal and financial rights during a property division proceeding.

Experience in Property Division Matters

In equitable distribution states like Minnesota, property division is not simply a matter of dividing everything by two. First, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must distinguish marital and nonmarital property. This process is usually not easy, particularly after a lengthy marriage. Next, the property settlement must equitably divide marital property. “Equitable” is not necessarily the same thing as “equal.”

Given these complexities, your divorce is no time for on-the-job training. So, there is no substitute for experience. There are many aspects of divorce law that cannot be learned in law school.

During the attorney search process, it’s important to take a close look at experience. Years of experience often tell only part of the story. In Minnesota and other no-fault states, many divorces are not much more than paperwork. If you have a significant estate to divide, like a small business, you do not need a paper-pusher. You need a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer who is experienced in property division matters. Do not be afraid to ask for some examples of prior cases.

Accessibility

A new restaurant may have five stars, but if there is a two-hour wait for a table, it’s probably better to go somewhere else. On the other end of the spectrum, if the new restaurant has no cars in the parking lot, that’s usually a bad sign.

These same issues arise with Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers. If you must wait several weeks for an appointment, that may mean the attorney is too busy to give your case the attention it deserves. That delay may also mean that an associate lawyer, or even a paralegal, might do most of the work.

Conversely, if the attorney always has time to see you and/or personally answers the phone on the first or second ring, that probably means the lawyer has few clients and few staff resources. Such lawyers can easily handle uncontested divorces, but they may not be equipped to deal with complex property divisions.

A Dedicated Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer

Family law is under the litigation umbrella. But divorce property division is a lot different from contract disputes and some other forms of litigation. Dedication to the craft may be key.

The late Grant Cooper, who represented Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, might be a good example of a solid yet undedicated litigator. Cooper had solid credentials. In the early 1960s, he was President of the American College of Trial Lawyers. But Cooper was a celebrity lawyer and not a criminal lawyer. According to many people, he left some stones unturned during the Sirhan defense. Maybe his lack of dedication affected the outcome, and maybe it did not. However, we do know for sure that Sirhan is still in prison over fifty years later.

Additionally, a good murder defense lawyer is more than a good courtroom advocate. Such professionals must also have some forensic and investigative skills, which Cooper may have lacked. Likewise, a good Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer is not just a good courtroom advocate. These professionals must also be good negotiators. Most marriage dissolution matters settle out of court. And, in the property division context, some accounting and other skills are necessary as well.

Location

“Divorce lawyer near me” is not just a phrase that people type into search bars. A nearby location is often a critical quality in a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer.

The attorney-client relationship should be more than provider and customer. Attorneys and clients are more like partners. A close working relationship typically yields the best results. These relationships are difficult if the lawyer is on the other side of town.

Many Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers are mobile, so this factor is not as important as it once was. Attorneys can meet with clients in library study rooms, coffee houses, and other such places. All relevant information is probably on a laptop, so these conferences are more efficient than they were in ye olden days.

Price

Legal fees should probably be the least important consideration in your quest for the best Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer. You are not buying a washing machine. Divorce property division is your financial future.

However, as it does in many other areas, price is usually an indication of quality. You get what you pay for, as the old saying goes. If the fees are very low, the attorney is usually understaffed and inexperienced. But there is an upper limit. Many times, extraordinarily high fees do not mean that lawyer is the best available. Those high fees just mean the lawyer thinks s/he is the best one available. There’s a big difference.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

The right legal representation might be the most important decision you make in a marriage dissolution matter. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Five Ways a Hutchinson, MN Divorce Lawyer Can Change Guideline Child Support

In a perfect world, child support checks would always come on time and the child support guidelines would always apply. This arrangement would be ideal for both parents and children. But alas, child support payments are often late, and in fact, they sometimes never come at all. And, Minnesota’s child support guidelines are not applicable in every situation.

However, the guideline presumption is quite strong. So, unless there is very strong evidence on at least one of the points listed below, a Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer should assume the guidelines apply.

These areas apply in both initial determinations and subsequent modifications. In fact, it may be easier to apply these workarounds in modifications, In these situations, residential parents can point to a payment history and identify its inadequacies.

Complete Financial Picture

In the words of the statute, income generally accurately reflects “all earnings, income, circumstances, and resources of each parent.” But that is not always the case.

Many people have indirect income. Perhaps they drive a company car or have similar benefits. Other people live in half of a duplex and rent the other half. If a parent has indirect income, the situation becomes complex. A Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer must convert that benefit into a cash amount and include that amount in the income calculation.

A brief word here about overall child support. Minnesota is an income share state. So, the income of each parent is relevant in the child support determination.

Child’s Extraordinary Needs

The most important word here might be “extraordinary.” All children are unique, so they all have certain gifts and/or certain disabilities. Unless the gift or disability significantly affects the child’s daily life, it is probably not an “extraordinary” need. A variation of the collateral source rule may come into play as well. For example, if the child has a disability but health insurance covers most of the costs, a Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer might not be able to overcome the guideline presumption.

Furthermore, there is a difference between needs and wants. It is not always easy to draw the line. Musically gifted children should develop their gifts, but they do not necessarily need to attend expensive private schools or take pricy private lessons.

Standard of Living During the Marriage

Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyers also deal with this factor in alimony matters. Statistically, divorced women are more likely to live in poverty than divorced men. So, children who reside with their mother might need additional financial support to have a similar standard of living.

But not so fast. First, the guideline presumption is very strong. It takes more than statistics to overcome it. Second, the statute includes a disclaimer. The award must “recogniz[e] that the parents now have separate households.” In other words, the children may not have as much as they had before. As long as the dropoff is not unreasonably large, the guidelines amount probably applies.

Foreign Residence

This factor does not apply very much. If the children live in a foreign country for more than a year, and the cost of living is substantially lower in that county, a child support reduction may be in order. The same thing applies in reverse. Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyers may be able to increase child support payments if the foreign cost of living is substantially higher. The good news is that, if this factor is relevant, it is relatively easy to prove in court.

Hutchinson, MN Divorce Lawyers and Child Tax Exemptions

On the other hand, this factor almost always comes up. Residential parents routinely claim the federal child tax credit. Residential parents also usually claim the dependent care credit. In most cases, these credits are a few thousand dollars a year, which translates to a few hundred dollars a month. So, if a family has several children and most or all of them are in daycare, an adjustment might be in order.

The wild card in all these factors may be the child support income limits. Guideline amounts apply in most income situations, but not in all of them. Additionally, obligors cannot pay more than half of their income for child support and child support arrearage, no matter what.

Work with a Compassionate Attorney

Child support guidelines are not always applicable in original determinations and subsequent modifications. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area offices to serve our clients.

A Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Talks About Family Law Mediation

In many family law cases, the parties agree on broad, general issues. Parenting time disputes are a good illustration. Most parents agree that these orders should be in the best interests of the children. But most parents disagree as to what constitutes “best interests” in a given situation.

Quite often, a good family law mediator can bridge the gap between an agreement in principle and a specific, enforceable agreed order. In fact, assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation may succeed in as many as 90 percent of cases.

In a nutshell, “good faith” means that both parties are willing to make reasonable concessions to get a deal done. Good faith also means that, especially in property division and other financial matters, both parties place all their cards on the table.

Because of the success rate, and the other benefits of mediation outlined below, Hutchinson, MN lawyers often use mediation to resolve even high-conflict divorce and family law matters.

When Should a Mediator Intervene?

In some cases, early mediation is the best way to solve problems and bring the matter to a speedy conclusion. In other situations, however, it is better to wait until the litigation process is at least partially complete.

Pre-filing mediation, the earliest time a mediator may intervene, is often successful in parenting plan modification disputes. Many times, these disputes center around the residential parent’s relocation. If the non-residential parent wants to block the move out of spite, early mediation may be a waste of time. But if the non-residential parent has some legitimate concerns about the loss of parenting time, pre-filing medation often works.

Assume Mother gets a teaching offer from the University of Wisconsin, and she wants to move to Madison with the children. Madison is not on the other side of the world, but it is far enough away to end weekly visitation. If Father objects, a mediator might convince Mother to offer some concessions, like a longer summer visitation period, to offset the loss.

If pre-filing mediation is successful, the parties can present an agreed order to a McLeod County judge. Since most judges approve agreed orders without a hearing, the process moves much more quickly.

Sometimes, a family law case, especially a divorce, is a complete surprise. Additionally, since no case has ever been filed, a court does not yet have jurisdiction over the parties. Therefore, pre-filing mediation is probably not an option. However, early mediation may still be a good alternative for most Hutchinson, MN lawyers.

Early mediation, perhaps shortly after the judge issues temporary orders, is often effective in these cases. Early mediation maximizes the benefits of mediation. That’s assuming there are no major issues to resolve.

In other situations, the litigation process may need to go further. As mentioned, in financial matters, some spouses try to conceal their assets. Before mediation is effective, the discovery process must go forward in these cases. Quite often, a McLeod County judge must rule on a motion to compel discovery or a similar subject.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Mediation Procedure

Emotional courtroom showdowns make great theater in movies and TV shows. But for Minnesota families with children, such emotional shootouts are usually not a good idea. After a divorce, the parties must be good co-parents. The more hard feelings there are, the more difficult co-parenting becomes.

So, family law mediation is extremely low key. These sessions usually occur in office suites instead of courthouses. Moreover, the parties spend most of their time in separate rooms.

After the Hutchinson, MN lawyers give brief opening statements, the family law mediator usually conducts shuttle diplomacy. The mediator conveys settlement offers and counter-offers back and forth until an agreement is reached. Typically, family law mediation sessions last a full day. Sometimes, they last a half day.

Accommodations are available. For example, if there are verified allegations of domestic abuse, a more secure environment makes everyone more relaxed.

Some Mediation Benefits in McLeod County

Reduced cost is probably the most frequently-cited mediation benefit. Hutchinson, MN lawyers may spend several weeks getting ready for trial, but only several hours getting ready for mediation. Additionally, mediation ends the case early, and time is money.

As mentioned, civility is important as well. If the parties are to be good co-parents, there needs to be a solid foundation. Many times, mediation provides that foundation. The parties often believe that, if they solved their problems without going to court once, they can do so again.

On a related note, mediation increases control over the outcome. A detached McLeod County judge does not dictate orders from the bench. Rather, the parties essentially draft their own orders. This arrangement often increases voluntary compliance, which is good news for everyone.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

If done properly, family law mediation usually works. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Property Division

Almost without exception, property division is the simplest component of a marriage dissolution in Wright County, or it is the most complex portion of the proceeding.

If the couple was married only briefly, there may not be very many assets and debts to divide. Most property is probably nonmarital. These divisions are also usually straightforward if the couple had a prenuptial agreement. These pacts classify and divide property in advance, thus avoiding costly and time-consuming litigation.

Litigation avoidance is one reason more people are getting prenuptial agreements. There are other reasons as well, but they are the subject of another blog.

In other cases, property division is extremely complex. Assume Louis and Marie buy a new car after several years of marriage. Marie drives for Uber and she places her earnings in a separate account. Louis finds out, hits the roof, and files for divorce. The Uber money could be Marie’s nonmarital property or marital property subject to division. Likewise, the remaining car payments could be Marie’s separate obligation or a joint debt.

Intricate issues like these are especially difficult for Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers to unravel because the division also presents some emotional issues (i.e. this is my side hustle).

Classifying Property in a Wright County Divorce

The Uber dispute is an example of commingled property. Over time, the distinctions between yours, mine, and ours become blurred.

This example also includes a transmutation problem. Louis and Marie bought the car after the marriage, so it was clearly a marital debt at the time. But since Marie used the car in her side business, she may be responsible for future car payments. That’s especially true if, as is probably the case, she primarily drove the car at all times.

Classification could be a financial issue as well. Many times, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers partner with forensic accountants and other professionals who trace spending and receipts to determine ownership. If you think this process sounds time-consuming and expensive, you are right. However, it is also a necessary part of a divorce. Unless property is classified properly, it is impossible to divide it equitably, and that is the next step.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Marital Property Division

Minnesota is an equitable division state. Note that “equitable” is not necessarily synonymous with “equal.” The Wright County judge must divide property in such a way that it represents a just and right division of the marital estate and the divorce is not an unfair financial burden on either party. Some factors to consider include:

  • Length of the Marriage: The relationship’s length is basically a multiplier or a divider. The longer the marriage lasted, the more pronounced the following factors become. Conversely, shorter marriages diminish these factors, especially the noneconomic contributions to a marriage.
  • Any Prior Marriages: Previous property divisions, and previous property awards, could affect current property distributions. That’s especially true with regard to home equity amounts and retirement accounts.
  • Relative Age, Health, and Occupational History: In many respects, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers must divide property so each spouse can live basically the same lifestyle. Young and healthy people with strong job backgrounds can usually earn more money than people who do not have these traits.
  • Economic Contributions to the Marriage: These contributions are usually easy to ascertain, especially with the help of a financial professional.
  • Noneconomic Contributions: This factor may be the property division wild card. If one spouse gave up a lucrative career to be a caregiver, this factor may be substantial, especially if the couple had young children. In other cases, however, the so-called “homemaker factor” may be negligible or even nonexistent.

Wright County family law judges usually approve any agreements between the parties, as long as the agreement is roughly in line with the aforementioned factors.

Property division, unlike alimony or child support, is usually a one-time matter. Once the court divides property, it is almost impossible to reconsider the division. This fact is especially important with regard to revenue-producing property. If Marie’s side hustle is marital property, Louis is entitled to a proportionate share of not only past income, but also any future income. So, it is important for a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer to be very thorough and get things right the first time.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

Complex property division matters often involve both financial and emotional considerations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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Phone: (218) 736-9429
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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Phone: (320) 289-4761
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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
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