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.


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.


“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.


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.

A Bufflo, MN Divorce Lawyer Talks About Cost

Calculating the average cost of a divorce is a bit like calculating the average price of a house. There is a significant discrepancy, to say the least. Former Today Show host Matt Lauer recently listed his Hamptons estate for $44 million. A small house in an older section of Buffalo will cost a lot, lot less than that. So, the average price of the two means almost nothing.

Therefore, if you ask a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer a question like “How much does the average divorce cost?”, the only honest answer is “more than you expect.” Marriage dissolution proceedings vary so much that such estimates are basically meaningless.

Additionally, divorce costs more than just money, at least in most cases. Typically, there is a significant emotional price as well. Many people alternate between intense sadness and intense happiness. Additionally, many spouses feel a profound sense of loss. They do not mourn the loss of a spouse as much as they mourn the loss of what might have been.

An experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer knows how to minimize both these costs and put long-term solutions in place for you and your family.

Reducing the Financial Cost of Divorce

Sometimes, attorneys have little or no control over the financial cost of divorce. If the adverse party agrees on most issues, the cost is generally lower. On the opposite end of the scale, if the adverse party bitterly contests every decision, the cost could skyrocket.

Specifically, many spouses try to conceal financial assets from the adverse party. That’s especially true in slow-fade divorces in which both parties anticipate marriage dissolution for several months.

People try lots of different things to hide money. Common schemes include voluntarily increasing wage withholding to make their paychecks look smaller, moving assets to LLCs or other entities, and “transferring” items or accounts to friends or family members. These plans always unravel eventually, but many times, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must work hard to make the house of cards fall.

Other times, however, attorneys have considerable control over divorce cost. Mediation is one of the best ways to reduce legal fees. The Department of Justice estimates that mediation and other alternative dispute resolution options saved litigants about $15 million in 2017.

Generally, it takes less time to prepare for mediation than trial. Mediation usually only lasts a full day or perhaps even a half day. There are no witnesses to question or cross-examine, no legal motions to argue, and no lengthy arguments to present. A trial, on the other hand, could last several days and include all these things.

Furthermore, mediation resolves divorce cases faster than trials. The DOJ also estimated that meditation reduced litigation time by a collective 13,886 days in 2017. Since time is money to clients and Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers, the faster the case is over, the lower the cost will be.

How Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers Reduce the Emotional Cost of Divorce

Mediation reduces the emotional cost of divorce as well.

Trials are almost always public record. All the court filings are public, and anyone can attend the proceeding. Especially if marital fault is an issue in the divorce or the property division, such scrutiny can be truly awful.

Mediation, on the other hand, is private. Mediation usually takes place in an office building instead of a courthouse. Furthermore, only the parties know the date, time, and location. The only public document is a brief mediation report, which simply states that the case either settled or did not settle.

Additionally, mediation increases civility. The parties spend most of the time in separate rooms. They only interact with the mediator, who uses shuttle diplomacy to try and facilitate a settlement. On a related note, mediation is also empowering. EWhen future disputes arise, and they always do, the parties often try to talk them out before they rush to hire Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers.

Trials, on the other hand, are emotional showdowns. These events are great theater for TV and movies, but they are often very hard on families.

On a final note, mediation increases control. The parties make important decisions instead of a Wright County family law judge. This added control is especially important if one or both parties have problems accepting authority.

Rely on a Dedicated Attorney

Mediation reduces all divorce costs. 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.

Getting Off to a Fast Start: The Divorce Temporary Hearing

Sports commentators often point out that baseball is a game of firsts. Teams which consistently score the first run of the game and record the first out of an inning usually win most of their games. In fact, the first-run winning percentage is .689, which translates to roughly 110 wins over the course of a season.

Your divorce is a lot like a baseball game. You probably did not see that comparison coming, did you? The temporary hearing is the first major event in a McLeod County marriage dissolution. Unless your Hutchinson divorce lawyer is thoroughly prepared and very aggressive, you will be playing from behind for the rest of the game. That’s not a good position to be in.

The Build-Up to the Temporary Hearing

Success at the temporary hearing depends on a diligent investigation of the facts, a good procedural foundation, and seizing the initiative in court.

There is no time to conduct extensive financial discovery, such as forensic audits. But there is time to collect and review basic documents, such as tax returns and incorporation instruments. There is also time to look for financial red flags, such as:

  • Account alerts that suddenly cease,
  • Employment income levels that unexpectedly drop, and
  • Correspondence addressed to unfamiliar entities.

All these things could indicate that your spouse is trying to hide money. For example, if take-home pay suddenly drops, the person may have adjusted income withholding to conceal funds.

If you see these red flags, do not confront your spouse. That will just drive him/her underground. Instead, review your concerns with your Hutchinson divorce lawyer.

A child custody investigation should include document reviews, like report cards and medical bills, as well as brief interviews with friends, clergy, and other witnesses. Since time is limited, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer should probably focus on before-and-after questions (e.g. the kids were doing well in school until they moved in with their mother or father).

There are procedural issues as well. The hearing cannot take place until the respondent is personally served. Some people are hard to find, and some people intentionally dodge service. If service is an issue, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer has some options. Private process servers, which more expensive than constables or sheriffs, are also usually more diligent. Alternative service, perhaps even including service via Facebook or other social media, may be available as well.

The initiative is very important as well. Your Hutchinson divorce lawyer should prepare temporary orders for the judge to sign. Many times, such a draft becomes the final temporary orders, with just a few modifications.

Issues at the Temporary Hearing

The proposal should cover all interim financial and parenting time issues in your divorce case. These decisions will probably remain in place until the judge enters a final decree of divorce.

Financially, it’s very difficult to divide property at this early juncture. The temporary orders may only cover FSOs (Family Support Obligations), like child and spousal support. If the couple has revenue-producing property, like a rent house, that income probably needs to go into an escrow account until the court decides whether the property is marital or non-marital property.

The status quo usually determines the parenting plan. At this point, the parents are almost always living apart. So, the children “live” with one parent and “visit” the other one. Unless there are some significant concerns, such as a physical abuse allegation, the existing arrangement will probably stay in place. So, if a Hutchinson divorce lawyer needs to change this arrangement, the aforementioned investigation is even more important.

Can a Hutchinson Divorce Lawyer Change the Outcome of a Temporary Hearing?

If the judge’s decision is unfavorable, it may be possible to appeal it. However, the law is unclear. Usually, an associate judge handles the temporary hearing, and this court is not a court of record. But, the temporary order is not a final order either. Under the law, parties can automatically appeal decisions not made at a court of record (i.e. no court reporter is present), and only final orders are appealable.

Later, if new evidence emerges during discovery, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer should immediately file a motion to modify the temporary orders. That’s especially true with regard to the parenting plan. The longer the current arrangement stays in place, the harder it is to undo it. Since divorce is such an unstable situation, most McLeod County judges don’t like to rock the boat any more than necessary.

Work with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

A fast start at the temporary hearing may be the key to protecting your legal and financial rights. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you call, the sooner we’ll start working for you.

A Hutchinson Family Law Layer Examines the Custody/Visitation Process

Although the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, it is still above 40 percent. Among subsequent marriages, the divorce rate is even higher. Not all these marriage dissolutions involve minor children, but most of them do.

In some states, divorce only partially resolves all the financial and emotional issues. But Hutchinson family law lawyers address all these things in one proceeding. As a result, family law matters in McLeod County are rather complex. While they are all different, most of them follow a common procedural pattern. Some basic knowledge helps our clients make better decisions about their family’s emotional and financial future.

Guiding Principles in a Custody/Visitation Dispute

These issues include both legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions, such as where the children will live, as well as the right to receive child support. Physical custody determines where the children spend their time. The standard every other weekend/every other holiday division is not as common as it used to be, but it still forms the basis for many parenting time arrangements.

According to Minnesota law, the parenting time division must be in the best interests of the children. Furthermore, there is a presumption that regular and predictable contact with both parents benefits children.

Sometimes, it is hard to break these overarching principles down and apply them to specific parenting plans. After all, every family is different. To make this process easier, Section 518.17 sets out a few factors to consider in these situations, and these factors have recently changed. Some highlights include:

  • Each child’s emotional, physical, medical, spiritual, cultural, and other needs,
  • Any special needs,
  • Child’s preference,
  • Parental preference,
  • History of domestic abuse, and
  • Ability to co-parent.

As outlined below, most parenting time disputes settle out of court. But a judge must still approve a settlement. That approval probably will not happen if one or more factors are substantially out of whack. For example, a judge may not approve an agreement that gives a physically abusive parent substantial parenting time, even if the incident is several decades old.

The Temporary Hearing

Hutchinson family law lawyers must hit the ground running in parenting time disputes. Things happen quickly, and it’s difficult to reverse decisions made early in the process.

At the temporary hearing, which usually occurs about two weeks into the case, the judge makes interim custody and support orders. Technically, these orders expire once the case is finalized. But as a practical matter, they are a blueprint for the final orders. Most children need consistency, so most judges want to leave the existing parenting time division in place, even if it is not perfect.

In other words, unless your Hutchinson family law lawyer is well-prepared and speaks up loudly at the temporary hearing, you may be playing from behind for the rest of the game. Comeback wins are certainly not impossible, but they are rather unlikely.

Social Services Investigations and Discovery

In most cases, McLeod County family law judges will not substantially change an interim custody plan unless compelling new evidence emerges. So, the social services investigation and discovery process are just as important as the temporary hearing.

Most judges appoint social workers in disputed parenting time cases. The social worker does some background research and, more importantly, interviews the children, parents, and other key people, such as doctors, teachers, and clergy.

The social worker then submits a report to the court, and this report usually includes a custody recommendation. That recommendation is not binding, but it does have considerable sway. Judges almost always accept the social worker’s conclusion.

Indirectly, a Hutchinson family law lawyer controls this process. Typically, the parties have considerable input in the social worker selection process. Some of these individuals are biased toward mothers or fathers. An attorney can also suggest certain approaches (e.g. please interview Dr. Smith) and prepare the parent for the sometimes-intimidating home study.

Speaking of medical records, these are very important during discovery, as they reveal a lot about a family. For example, some parents “doctor shop” by going to different physicians until they find one who agrees with their conclusions. Other doctors prescribe large amounts of strong drugs for rather minor conditions.

Sometimes, the parties conduct discovery by agreement, and the process is quick and cheap. Other times, disputes arise, and these disputes can be protracted and expensive.

How Do Hutchinson Family Law Lawyers Resolve Child Custody Disputes?

Mediation resolves most parenting time disputes and other family law cases in McLeod County.

Curiously, the vast majority of people believe that mediation will be a waste of time. If we could have talked out our problems, they reason, we would not have hired Hutchinson family law lawyers. But mediation is at least partially successful about 75 percent of the time. Mediation eliminates millions of dollars of legal fees and thousands of hours of litigation. These savings have significant benefits for area families.

Work with Assertive Attorneys

Preparation and understanding are very important in custody/visitation disputes. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson family law lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we’ll start working for you.


Five Ways to Break a Minnesota Prenup

Premarital agreement rules are still rather intricate in Minnesota, largely because lawmakers have still not adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreements Act. For most of its history, the Gopher State has never been a follow-the-crowd jurisdiction. If Minnesota is not the first state to make a move, there is little support for change. That’s probably the main reason marijuana is still mostly illegal in Minnesota.

However, there is a strong presumption in Minnesota family law in favor of out-of-court settlements. If the parties resolve issues their issues in advance, that’s even better. So, to break a premarital agreement, a Buffalo divorce lawyer typically uses one of the following tried-and-true approaches.

Unrecorded Agreement

Because they concern property matters, premarital agreements must be recorded in the county deed records. This seemingly minor technicality has brought down more prenuptial agreements than you may think.

Many people think the matter is finished once both parties sign on the dotted line, so they never record the instrument. Other times, the couple moves from one county to another one, and their premarital agreement does not move with them.

There are some practical considerations as well. To overcome this objection, the other spouse simply needs to record the instrument. But that’s not as easy as it seems. No one wants to spend several hours digging through old records and recording documents in courthouses. And, the more hurdles that runners must jump over, the less energy they have for the final sprint to the finish line.

Furthermore, failure to record says something about the other attorney. When clients want to challenge premarital agreements, Buffalo divorce lawyers should check the deed records to make sure the agreement is there. If they do not do so, that usually means they don’t have much family law experience and/or they overlook details. Knowledge of an opponent’s weaknesses often comes in handy.

No Separate Counsel

Minnesota State Bar rules make it very clear that one lawyer cannot represent both a husband and a wife in any divorce-related proceeding. But, like failure to record, the lack of separate counsel requirement often has a profound effect.

The key is that both husband and wife must have separate counsel. If Husband generously agrees to pay Wife’s legal bills or graciously refers Wife to a certain attorney, Wife arguably did not have separate counsel. And, unlike recording, lack of separate counsel cannot be undone. If the Buffalo divorce lawyer was not 100 percent independent, the premarital agreement may be hopelessly flawed.

Lack of Full Disclosure

Premarital agreements are only valid in Minnesota if both spouses put all their cards on the table. If Wife does not disclose a separate bank account, even though it’s nonmarital property and technically not part of the premarital agreement, Husband could successfully overturn the agreement.

There may be a corollary here. Some courts impose an additional requirement. If the information was available elsewhere, and the challenging spouse did not diligently look for it, the judge may overlook the lack of disclosure. This issue normally only comes up when both the spouses were business CEOs or otherwise on equal education and vocational footing.


There is almost always some pressure to sign a premarital agreement. Emotional bribery and cajoling (e.g. “If you really love me you’ll sign”) do not make a prenup involuntary. Even if one spouse issues a “sign or else” ultimatum, the agreement is probably not involuntary.

However, there may be some additional circumstances. If Husband springs the prenup on Wife at the last moment, especially if the ceremony is a lavish destination wedding, the pressure to sign could be too much. More than likely, this unfortunate Wife did not have separate counsel either. So, these arguments sometimes overlap.


Sometimes, the proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes. Blatantly one-sided contracts, including premarital agreements, are usually unenforceable.

There are some important points here. First, there is a difference between uneven and unconscionable. A 60-40 split is uneven but not unconscionable, and the same could be said for a 70-30 or even 80-20 split. Only a division like “I get the assets and you get the debts” is clearly unconscionable.

Second, the agreement must have been unconscionable when it was made. Buyer’s remorse is not enough to overturn a premarital agreement. Stock divisions often fall into this category. Company ownership could be worthless today and extremely valuable tomorrow (e.g. Amazon stock in 1994).

Work with a Tenacious Attorney

Premarital agreements usually stand up in court, but they are not ironclad. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

What to Expect When a Buffalo Family Law Attorney Handles Your Divorce

In many ways, February is a month of romantic extremes. For example, February means Valentines Day, and it also means Divorce Month.

Typically, feuding couples bury the hatchet between Haloween and Thanksgiving in anticipation of the coming winter holidays. The truce usually lasts until mid or late January. At that point, the barrage of “Don’t forget to buy roses for your sweetheart” Valentines Day ads reaches a fevered pitch. Then, some of these unsatisfied spouses reflect on how bad their marriages have become. They want out, and they call a Buffalo family law attorney.

Fling Divorce in Wright County

Like many other jurisdictions, Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. Irreconcileable differences is the only grounds for marriage dissolution in the Gopher State. Marital fault, like adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, is usually irrelevant.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, there is no divorce waiting period in Minnesota. The law only requires that at least one spouse resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to the petition’s filing date.

The filing party must also notify the other party about the filing. If at all possible, personal service is best. A waiver of citation is the next best thing, but these waivers have some intricate technical requirements. In 2015, a New York judge allowed a divorce petitioner to serve her husband via Facebook, but another court later rescinded that order. As far as Buffalo family law attorneys are concerned, online service is not yet a reality.

Buffalo Family Law Attorneys and the Divorce Temporary Hearing

The temporary hearing usually occurs about two or three weeks after the petition is filed. The brief delay gives both sides ample time to retain a Buffalo family law attorney. Both sides need representation at this point, because the temporary hearing is a very critical point in the case.

At this hearing, the judge makes a lot of decisions based on very little evidence. So, arguments of counsel are critical. Some of these decisions include:

  • Interim spousal support,
  • Child custody and visitation arrangements,
  • Temporary child support, and
  • Temporary property division.

Technically, these orders automatically expire when the divorce becomes final. But as a practical matter, the judge often rolls the temporary orders into the final orders. To change this outcome, there must be dramatic new evidence. For example, a social services investigation might reveal a history of child abuse.

The Pretrial Process

Next comes the most time-consuming part of any marriage dissolution case. A lot of things happen between the temporary hearing and the case’s resolution.


Fundamentally, a marriage dissolution case is not about choosing a “winner” and a “loser.” Rather, the case must divide marital property in an equitable way and contain a parenting time plan which reflects the best interests of the children.

So, divorce cases always involve discovery. Sometimes, discovery involves a document exchange, and that’s about it. But in most cases, discovery is much more intense. In addition to document exchanges, there are things like:

  • Oral depositions,
  • A social services investigation,
  • Long lists of questions that must be answered under oath, and
  • Property inspections.

Discovery is especially protracted if a Buffalo family law attorney suspects that a spouse is concealing financial or other information from the other spouse.

Social Services Investigation

If parenting time is contested, most Wright County family law judges order social services investigations.

Typically, a government social worker talks to the parents, interviews the children, conducts at least one home inspection, speaks with witnesses, such as teachers or doctors, and reviews documents, such as school report cards and medical records. Based on all this evidence, the social worker prepares a report and files it with the court.

The social worker’s recommendation is not binding. But in many cases, the judge gives it considerable weight.

Settlement Negotiations

The vast majority of divorce cases settle out of court. Some settlements occur very early, perhaps even at the temporary hearing. Others take place very late, sometimes literally just before trial is about to begin. Mostly, however, settlement occurs once discovery is at least substantially complete.

If Buffalo family law attorneys cannot settle the case on their own, a trained mediator sometimes helps. This person is usually either a retired judge or a family law attorney who is unaffiliated with the case. If both parties participate with open minds and in good faith, mediation is successful about 75 percent of the time.

Agreed settlement is usually preferable to an emotional trial. Additionally, a negotiated settlement gives the parties more control over the outcome. As a result, voluntary compliance is a little higher. Finally, when problems crop up later, and they always do, the parties feel empowered to talk things out instead of running to court. That situation is better for everybody.

Speak with a Dedicated Lawyer

The divorce process is usually costly, both emotionally and financially. But an experienced Buffalo family law attorney from Carlson & Jones, P.A. can greatly minimize these costs. Call us today for a free consultation.

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