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.

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.

How Do Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys Set Alimony Payments?

Many states, including nearby Illinois, have substantially revamped their spousal support laws in recent years. To set the amount and duration of payments, judges in these jurisdictions follow mathematical formulas as opposed to subjective factors. So, alimony is more like child support.

But despite a wave of reform in 2017, Minnesota spousal support laws are still basically the same. Subjective factors determine the amount and duration of alimony payments. This reform only tweaked the rules regarding continued alimony and remarriage.

Minnesota law has an additional twist. Alimony is not always a part of a divorce decree. The requesting spouse must first establish the need for spousal support. Even then, an award is optional. The statute clearly says that the judge “may” grant alimony.

So, whether you want to maximize or minimize spousal support payments, aggressive representation from a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome.

The Spousal Support Presumption

Essentially, there s a presumption that alimony is inappropriate in Minnesota. To overcome this presumption, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney must present sufficient evidence on one of the two following points:

  • Lack of property sufficient to provide for the spouse’s reasonable needs, or
  • A disability that makes full-time employment impossible or impractical.

In both these situations, the standard of living during the marriage is relevant. Either a judge’s order or an agreed property settlement must divide debt and assets in such a way that the divorce is not an unfair financial burden for either party.

To overcome the no-alimony presumption, most Buffalo, MN family law attorneys focus on the second bullet point mentioned above. “Disability” does not just mean a physical condition. That disability could also be a lack of education or a lack of job skills. Furthermore, the disability need not be personal. For example, if Wife has custody of a minor disabled child, Wife may be unable to work outside the home. This example is mentioned in 518.552(1)(b).

To rebut this evidence and reimpose the no-alimony presumption, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney could dispute either the “disability” portion or the “reasonable needs” prong.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and the Types of Alimony

Disabilities are usually not permanent. That’s especially true for child custody disabilities and employability disabilities. So, there are basically three types of spousal support in Wright County:

  • Temporary Maintenance: Many spouses need help with divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees. If the obligor has the means to provide such assistance, temporary alimony is usually appropriate. In other cases, there is a significant post-divorce income discrepancy between the two spouses. That’s especially true if one spouse was the “caregiver” and the other one was the “breadwinner.”
  • Short-Term Maintenance: This type of alimony is basically a continuation of temporary maintenance. Some spouses need additional money to finish a degree or meet other short-term expenses. Other spouses must accept low-paying jobs to merge back into the workforce.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: If the marriage lasted more than ten years or the obligee spouse has a permanent disability, long-term maintenance may be in order.

Generally, a judge will entertain a motion to modify the amount and/or duration of payments if financial circumstances materially and substantially change for either party. The change must have been unanticipated at the time of divorce, so the obligor’s retirement does not necessarily mandate a modification. Additionally, as mentioned, the Legislature recently broadened the rules in terms of the obligee’s remarriage. Now, if the obligee is in a financially supportive and semi-permanent relationship, that relationship may be sufficient to terminate alimony payments.

Spousal Support Amount Factors

These factors basically come from two sources. First, the Legislative Coordinating Commission Office on the Economic Status of Women published some guidelines on this issue in 2014. However, these figures have not been updated in quite some time.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the spousal support statute lists a number of factors which are relevant in this area. Some notable ones include:

  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Obligor’s ability to pay,
  • Amount of time and effort the obligee needs to become economically self-sufficient,
  • Obligee’s overall economic need,
  • Relative age, health, and employability of each spouse, and
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the homemaker effect).

If any of these factors change, mostly the obligee’s need or the obligor’s ability, a judge may modify the amount or duration of payments.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer

Alimony is usually, but not always, a component of a Wright County divorce decree. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How and When Should a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Modify Parenting Plans?

Relocation is the most common basis for parenting plan modification in McLeod County. Most people move about twelve times during their lifetimes. And, since most of these moves occur before age 40, most of them also involve young children. Legal modification is almost always necessary in these cases. Even a very short distance move often throws off things like pickup and drop-off schedules.

Onset or removal of parental disability is probably second. This disability could be behavioral (e.g. substance abuse), physical, emotional, or almost anything else. Generally, if the disability impairs or impaired daily functions in any way, a motion to modify the parenting plan may be appropriate.

In any situation, it’s important for a Hutchinson, MN lawyer to legally modify the parenting plan. Side agreements, even if they are in writing, are not enforceable in family court. So, when one parent unilaterally changes the terms, the other parent has no legal options, even if that parent made life changes in reliance on the side agreement. Additionally, there are issues in all parenting plan modifications that only an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer can properly address.

Parenting Plans and Child Support

Before we go further, we should make one point clear. A motion to modify often addresses both visitation and financial support. Especially in income share states like Minnesota, there is usually some interplay between these two things.

However, the issues are separate. A parent can never link child support and child visitation. That linkage basically holds the child for ransom. If a parent feels s/he should get more money or pay less, there must be a motion to modify.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Best Interests

Minnesota law states that judges may modify parenting plans only if the modification is in the child’s best interests. Many motions fail because either the parents or their lawyers do not understand this concept.

There is a big difference between the best interests of the child and the best interests of the parent. If the motion focuses on the latter instead of the former, the motion will probably fail. For example, assume Wilma wants to take Pebbles and move out of Bedrock. That move may be in her best interests, because it is a fresh start. But the move may not be in Pebbles’ best interests. She must leave everything and everyone familiar, including her BFF Bam Bam and her dad Fred.

To assist judges in making this determination, and to help Hutchinson, MN lawyers draft settlement agreements that the judge will approve, the law lays out a number of factors in this area, such as:

  • Child’s environment,
  • Any special needs which require special services,
  • Parental preference,
  • Child’s preference,
  • Any physical abuse, and
  • How the move would affect the child’s relationships with other family members.

So, if Wilma wants to win her motion, she must focus on these factors, as opposed to her preferences. Perhaps the new neighborhood has a better preschool for Pebbles. Or, perhaps Fred went off the deep end and committed family violence.

Resolving Disputes

Both relocation and disability-based modifications usually settle out of court. Typically, the parents agree on broad principles but disagree on specific issues. A mediator often helps in these situations.

During a half-day or a full-day session, the mediator hears from both sides and then tries to facilitate a settlement. Generally, this settlement involves some give and take. For example, Fred might consent to the move if Wilma agrees to increase Fred’s parenting time. Almost any such exchange is possible. However, as stated, child support or other financial issues cannot play a part in the parenting time modification process.

Quite often, Hutchinson, MN lawyers and their clients participate in pre-filing mediation. Especially in relocation matters, the parties usually have some time to negotiate before the move. That way, a lawyer can present an agreed motion to the judge. Most judges sign such motions as a matter of course.

Post-filing mediation is available as well, but it is more complex. These situations usually involve social services investigations and other legal matters.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Most parents frequently file parenting plan modification requests. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area office locations.

When Should Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys Change Child Support Orders?

The Minnesota Attorney General oversees child support obligations in this state. That oversight typically includes an administrative review. Periodically, usually once every three years, the Attorney General allows either parent to request a child support adjustment.

Many parents believe the administrative review process is better than a legal modification. But that’s not usually the case. Administrative reviews often take many months. Furthermore, neither parent has a legal advocate in this process. The Attorney General represents the state, and not the obligee (person receiving child support).

So, it is typically best to partner with a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney and legally modify the divorce paperwork. Both parents can have their own legal advocates. Furthermore, if you request more support, you get it sooner. Additionally, if you request a reduction, these orders are usually not retroactive. So, you receive no credit for the money you overpaid.

Income Adjustment

Minnesota is an income-share state, so the income of the obligor (person paying support) is not the only factor used to determine the amount. Nevertheless, income changes are by far the most common grounds for child support increase or decrease.

A McLeod County family law judge will change the amount if the obligor’s net income is substantially different. Minnesota law presumes that a $75 monthly difference is a substantial change. The judge may adjust the amount in other circumstances as well, but a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney must produce additional evidence of substantial change.

There are some other requirements as well. In addition to a substantial change, the party requesting modification must prove that the income change was:

  • Involuntary: People cannot quit their jobs to reduce or eliminate their domestic financial obligations. To prove lack of involuntariness, Hutchinson, MN family law attorneys can use evidence like social media posts complaining about high child support amounts.
  • Permanent: This element sometimes comes up if the obligor is self-employed. Business income often fluctuates wildly, especially if the obligor’s business is seasonal. The person requesting modification must convince the judge that the change is permanent, or at least long-lasting, and not just part of the business cycle. If a farmer buys new land to raise more crops, the income change is permanent. But if the obligee times the filing to occur during harvest, the change is not permanent.
  • Unexpected: Job changes, salary reviews, and promotions or demotions are all unexpected changes. Retirement, however, is usually not an unexpected change. This factor is especially important with regard to expense adjustments, as outlined below.

Typically, the party requesting modification must establish all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys and Expense Changes

People who have children can probably testify that young children are very expensive to raise, chiefly because of daycare costs. When children enter school, the associated expenses usually decrease. Then, the older they get, the more expenses increase.

These are all anticipated change which, for the most part, will not support a motion to modify child support in McLeod County. Daycare expenses are the major exception, as these costs are part of the aforementioned income-share calculation, at least in many cases.

Instead, the direct expense change must be related to the child’s needs and something which was not anticipated at the time the previous orders were entered. For example, some children develop chronic illnesses that require costly medical care, or they fall behind in school and require educational support. Things like these are clearly unanticipated.

As discussed above, the change must be permanent. If a child is struggling in a particular subject or breaks a leg, there may be increased expenses, but the increase is temporary. On a related note, there is often a difference between the child’s needs and the child’s wants, or the parent’s wants.

Indirect Expense Alteration

Not all expenses are directly related to child-rearing. For example, the government tracks the cost of living, an index which accounts for food, housing, and other necessary expenses. According to the Social Security Administration, this figure hit a seven-year high in 2019, and it will probably increase even further for 2020. Cost of living adjustments are not just statistical. Housing and other expenses often go up or down for individual families.

Indirect expense alterations are difficult to prove in this context. They must affect the children in some way. And, they must have been unanticipated at the time of divorce. Unfortunately for people seeking cost of living increases, everyone knows that prices almost always go up.

Talk to a Tenacious Lawyer

In general, child support obligations should be modified at least once every two years. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN Prove Key Child Custody Factors in Court

Minnesota law requires parenting time divisions in both original determinations and modification actions to uphold the best interests of the children. Since this concept is a bit nebulous, Minnesota law sets out a number of factors to follow, and the law recently changed on this point.

Most child custody determinations and modifications settle out of court, so lawyers in Hutchinson, MN must be mindful of these factors during settlement negotiations. Otherwise, the McLeod County judge may not approve the settlement agreement.

However, awareness alone is not enough. There must be sufficient evidence to support each point, especially if the matter goes to mediation or trial.

Each Child’s Regular Needs

Children need boundaries and rules. Even if they do not admit it, children also like boundaries and rules. Some parents are better than others at establishing rules like do your homework, brush your teeth, and go to bed on time. Additionally, children need consistency. As a result, the parenting time division in the temporary orders often finds its way into the final orders, even if the arrangement is not perfect.

Each Child’s Special Needs

Mental health, educational, medical, or other special needs usually require a doctor’s or specialist’s diagnosis. Additionally, a professional must recommend a course of treatment. If the special needs child has shown some progress while undergoing this physical therapy, special tutoring, or other treatment, that’s even better. Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN can point out that consistent treatment is ideal in uncertain circumstances, such as divorce.

Child’s Preference

Ideally, the child should sign a written document expressing a preference. If that’s not possible, testimonial evidence is probably sufficient. Indirect testimonial evidence (e.g. Timmy had fun when I took him to the zoo) is not terribly compelling, but it is probably relevant.

Domestic Abuse

Most of these factors have roughly equal weight. But domestic abuse could be a deal-breaker. Significantly, the abuse could have occurred many years ago and in a different family setting. However, old evidence may not rise to the deal-breaking level of current abuse. In any case, lawyers in Hutchinson, MN should always act to preserve your rights in domestic abuse situations. These allegations could have incredibly serious repercussions.

Parent’s Disability

This disability could be physical, mental, or emotional. Chemical dependence on an illegal substance also qualifies as a disability. The condition must have a material effect on the child’s emotional development or physical safety. Moderate tobacco use probably is not a concern, but moderate or excessive alcohol use could definitely be a concern.

Parent’s Past Participation in Child-Rearing Activities

Attending athletic contests, watching school plays, showing up at parent-teacher nights, and having lunch with a child at school are examples of parental participation. If parents cannot point to incidents like these, lawyers in Hutchinson, MN often have a hard time winning custody fights.

Family and Non-Family Relationships

Is the child particularly close to another child in the neighborhood or to a certain relative, like a maternal grandmother or paternal aunt? If that’s the case, many McLeod County family law judges will think twice about relocation a child, especially if the relocation is a long-distance move.

Contact with Both Parents

There is a presumption in Minnesota law that frequent, meaningful, and consistent contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child. If a parenting time division does not include such contact, unless domestic abuse or some other extreme circumstances are present, the proposed division may not be in the child’s best interests. This factor, like domestic abuse, is often make or break.

Parental Preference

The preference of each parent may be almost as important as a child’s preference. Sometimes, parents express their preferences directly, often in an agreed settlement document. Other times, the expression is indirect. As mentioned, parents who showed little interest in field trips and getting homework done often are not the best residential parents.

Ability to Co-Parent

Co-parenting starts with tolerating the other parent and being civil when the child is present, but that’s only a start. Additionally, a residential parent must actively encourage interaction between the child and non-residential parent. This encouragement could involve cajoling, bribing, or threatening the child if the child does not want to visit the other parent. Moreover, co-parenting means refraining from posting negative things about the other parent on social media. In fact, positive posts may be required, if a parent wants to make a strong case for primary custody.

Connect with an Experienced Attorney

Evidence in child custody disputes is essential. For a free consultation with an experienced lawyer in Hutchinson, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

A Family Law Attorney in Buffalo, MN Discusses Adoption Options

A generation ago, adoption was very rare and often conducted in secret, almost as if the families had something to be ashamed of. Today, adoption is still rare. About one in fifty children in America were adopted. But the days of secret adoptions are over. Now, these occasions are happy milestones for both birth families and adoptive families, at least in most cases.

The rise of the blended family probably did much to lift the veil of secrecy. Stepparent adoptions were almost unheard of in the 1980s, but they may be the most common form of adoption today. If you are looking to expand your family, you have some other options as well. No matter which approach you choose, a family law attorney in Buffalo, MN can handle many of the details for you.

Domestic Agency Adoption

Back in the day, agencies handled almost all the adoptions in Wright County. Today, they are relatively rare. But, they are still a good option in many cases.

The procedure varies, but most families submit applications, and after thorough investigations, the agency places a newborn or older child with the family. Typically, the newborn adoption process is a bit more intricate than the process for adopting an older child.

The good news is that the agency takes care of pretty much everything. That’s also the bad news when it comes to agency adoptions. Many families feel like they have little or no control over the process.

So, a family law attorney in Buffalo, MN may be an important part of the agency adoption process. An attorney represents you and your interests, as opposed to the agency and its interests. An attorney gives you solid advice throughout the process and also serves as a resource person and communication conduit between adopting family and adoption agency.

A Family Law Attorney in Buffalo, MN and Private (or Independent) Adoption

Typically, agency adoptions are always closed adoptions. The adoptive family and birth family have little or no contact. Independent adoptions can be either closed or open. Open adoptions allow and even encourage contact between the two families. Either scenario may be best, depending on the facts and circumstances.

During an independent adoption, a family law attorney in Buffalo, MN takes a much more active role. A lawyer usually connects the two families and facilitates the adoption.

There are still a number of state regulations. There must be a home study, in most cases. Additionally, Minnesota law closely regulates pre-adoption payments. Generally, adoptive families may pay for the birth mother’s medical bills as well as a few weeks of living expenses. But again, the limits are very strict. A few extra dollars, even if the payment was accidental or even fraudulent, could invalidate the adoption.

International Adoptions

The most complex kind of adoption is also the most common kind of adoption in Minnesota. Essentially, international adoption combines agency and private adoptions.

First, the family adopts a child from an overseas adoption agency. The family must comply with all the agency rules. A family law attorney in Buffalo, MN may be even a more important partner in international agency adoptions than in domestic agency adoptions. International adoptions may not involve a language barrier, but there is almost always a cultural barrier.

Next, when the complete family comes home, a Wright County judge must formalize the adoption. Generally, time is extremely limited. Unless a family law attorney in Buffalo, MN has laid all the groundwork and has everything ready to go, including details such as scheduling the court date, there could be major problems.

Stepparent Adoptions

Blended family adoptions are also very common. The process is streamlined, since a stepparent essentially substitutes for one birth parent, and the other birth parent is still in the picture. Generally, Wright County judges waive the social study and other preliminary formalities.

Since children can have only two legal parents, one parent must voluntarily terminate his/her parental rights. Technically, involuntary termination is possible. But judges only involuntarily terminate parental rights in very extreme circumstances.

All the adults need to fully understand the impact of a stepparent adoption. The terminating birth parent no longer has any legal rights in terms of visitation or attending school activities. Furthermore, in the event that the adopting stepparent and birth parent divorce, the adoptive stepparent must pay child support.

If termination and adoption is too big of a step for either the birth or stepparent, a legal name change may be a good alternative. Everyone in the house has the same last name, but a name change does not affect underlying legal rights and responsibilities.

Contact a Diligent Lawyer

If done properly, adoptions usually work out very well for everyone concerned. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Seven Reasons Hutchinson, MN Lawyers Draft Premarital Agreements

Over the past twenty years, the number of premarital agreements has increased 500 percent. Streamlined laws and procedures have something to do with this increase. But perhaps more importantly, many Millenials now consider a premarital agreement a must-have.

As outlined below, these agreements cover a number of important issues. So, prenups do more than help eliminate messy divorce proceedings. In many cases, they put marriages on stronger foundations.

Typically, no contracts are ironclad, and that includes premarital agreements. In some cases, Hutchinson, MN lawyers can overturn unfavorable premarital agreements. Generally, McLeod County judges will not honor these pacts if they are blatantly one-sided (e.g. you get all the marital debts and I get all the marital assets) and/or each spouse did not have an independent Hutchinson, MN lawyer during the entire process.

Improved Communication

Money squabbles and poor communication break up more marriages than adultery or almost anything else. Often, these two things overlap. That’s why a premarital agreement is so important. These pacts transfer informal agreements into a black and white legal document that is very hard to break. Additionally, when things change, the spouses can keep the conversation going and modify their premarital agreements.


Many spouses work for startup companies that compensate their employees with stock and stock options instead of cash. Stock is very difficult to value during a divorce. These certificates and options may be essentially worthless when issued and extremely valuable a few years later. Premarital agreements establish a baseline value that time or one spouse cannot unilaterally change.

Social Media and Confidentiality

On a related note, premarital agreements can set boundaries for shared company information on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. These limits help entrepreneurial spouses protect their reputations, property, and business interests. The definition of “confidential information” is a bit unclear, which is why a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must be very experienced in this area.

Debt Division

Former college students owe roughly $1.5 trillion in student loans. These individuals have other kinds of debt as well, such as car loans, credit cards, and mortgage debt. When people get married, they often use money from their paychecks, which is marital property, to retire these nonmarital debts. Unless a prenuptial agreement lays down some repayment ground rules, the resulting commingled funds create quite a mess.

Asset Division

If people get divorced, they must do more than fairly divide debts. They must also divide the houses, cars, and other property associated with these debts. Since people are getting married later in life, asset division is much more of an issue now than it was twenty years ago. Assets may become commingled in much the same way as debts. For example, Husband might use a wedding gift from his parents to fix up a rental house Wife owned before the marriage. Depending on the facts, and the wording in a premarital agreement, the house and associated rental income could be marital property, Wife’s nonmarital property, or Husband’s nonmarital property.

Reproductive Rights

Generally, premarital pacts cannot cover child support or any child custody/visitation issues. The best interests of the children, and not the best interests of the parents, guide these matters. However, reproductive rights, such as frozen embryos, are an exception. Nearly a half-million frozen embryos are in storage throughout the country. Premarital agreements clearly state who they belong to if the couple divorces, thus avoiding a possibly bitter emotional fight.

Blended Families

Many people have been married at least once before. Divorce usually severs all inheritance and succession rights, but in many cases, that’s not the intended result. If a spouse had children in that prior relationship, the spouse might want to extend inheritance rights. Additionally, premarital agreements can include (or exclude) step-children and future biological children in these rights. Hutchinson, MN lawyers often draw up wills and other executory documents to go with premarital agreements in these situations.

Reach out to Diligent Attorneys

A premarital agreement is usually a good idea for modern couples. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Can a Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorney Obtain Alimony in Wright County?

In some situations, spousal support is either strictly limited or completely unavailable. Many prenuptial agreements include alimony caps. It is difficult, but not impossible, to unilaterally overturn these agreements in court. Moreover, there is a presumption against alimony in Minnesota. Under Section 518.552, Wright County judges may only make such orders in limited circumstances. More on that below.

Yet in most divorce cases, alimony is an essential component of an equitable property division. And, the judge has a great deal of discretion when setting the amount and duration of payments. So, an assertive Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually obtain spousal support payments, based on the obligee’s need and the obligor’s ability.

Setting the Duration of Payments

Section 518.552 contains exemptions for both short and long-term support payments. Subdivision 1(a) states that alimony is available to “provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage,” particularly if the divorce includes “a period of training or education.” This provision gives rise to two types of alimony:

  • Temporary Alimony: Some spouses need additional funds to meet divorce-related expenses, such as daycare costs and attorneys’ fees. A Buffalo, MN family law attorney can often obtain such support, especially if the obligee spouse is the non-filing spouse. Temporary alimony automatically terminates when a Wright County judge signs the final marriage dissolution order.
  • Short-Term Alimony: The aforementioned education or training period often extends beyond the period of separation. For example, many people are several years short of a degree, or they must accept a low-paying job to merge back into the workforce. Most judges will award alimony payments for two or three years in these situations.

In other cases, the Subdivision 1(b) exemption applies. This provision makes alimony available on a long-term basis if the obligee spouse cannot “provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances,” due to:

  • An employment hardship, such as a mental, physical, or emotional disability, or
  • The custody of a special-needs child.

Since health conditions change over time and children grow up, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney may be able to modify this obligation at a later date.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and the Amount of Alimony Payments

Many states, including nearby Illinois, tie the duration of payments to objective items, such as the length of the marriage. But Minnesota law is very subjective in this area. The same thing applies to the duration of payments. If the judge feels that, based on the evidence, spousal support is appropriate, the amount must be based on factors including:

  • Obligee’s financial need,
  • Obligor’s available financial resources,
  • Custody of minor children,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Economic contributions to the marriage,
  • Agreements between the parties,
  • Relative age, health, and education of each spouse, and
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage.

The “agreements” bullet may be the most important point. As discussed above, most judges uphold agreements between the spouses, as long as both spouses had an independent Buffalo, MN family law attorney throughout the process.

Modifying Spousal Support Payments

Financial needs change over time. That’s especially true in 1(a) cases. The amount of financial resources changes over time as well. Such alterations often affect 1(b) alimony awards.

Generally, if any of these circumstances permanently change in a way that was not anticipated at the time of divorce, a judge may modify the amount and/or duration of payments. Additionally, the changed circumstances must normally be involuntary, at least to an extent. Obligors cannot voluntarily quit lucrative jobs to reduce their spousal support obligations. Similarly, obligees cannot neglect opportunities to become self-sufficient.

Retirement and remarriage are often issues in modification matters. While retirement certainly constitutes changed financial circumstances, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney could argue that it was an anticipated change. People grow older and often retire. If the obligor accepted a voluntary early retirement package, this argument is even stronger.

Generally, remarriage terminates alimony obligations. But many Buffalo, MN family law attorneys argue that a long-term, mutually-supportive financial relationship is tantamount to a marriage. Most judges are willing to look at the totality of the circumstances to determine if modification is appropriate in these cases.

Connect with an Experienced Lawyer

Most Minnesota marriage dissolutions include alimony obligations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Why Should a Hutchinson, MN Child Custody Lawyer File a Paternity Action?

If you fathered a child with a woman who is not your wife, join the crowd. Largely due to the declining marriage rate, out-of-wedlock births now account for about 40 percent of U.S. births. The proportion is almost twice as high among certain ethnic groups.

Most mothers in these situations are not irresponsible people. Many want to have children, but they do not want to get married. Likewise, most fathers in this situation are not irresponsible people either. They visit their children and pay financial support.

So, many dads want to leave well enough alone. They understandably do not want ex-girlfriends scrutinizing their financial affairs and digging into their personal relationships. They also do not want a McLeod County judge to dictate orders.

In most cases, these fears are unfounded. In terms of child support, Minnesota is an income share state, so support payments are in line with both parents’ incomes. Furthermore, most paternity claims settle out of court. Since Hutchinson, MN child custody lawyers do all the work, most personal information in the case remains private. In fact, the only court intervention may occur at the end of the case, when a judge signs the agreed order.

So, when fathers file paternity actions, they have basically nothing to lose and some significant things to gain, as outlined below.

Familial Benefits

In most cases, only a final paternity order establishes a legal father-child relationship. Signing the birth certificate, in and of itself, is usually insufficient.

Such a declaration is the first step toward a lifelong emotional relationship. As a father, you have the legal right to spend time with your child. If the mother does anything to hinder that relationship, no matter how subtle it is, she could lose custody of the child.

Furthermore, only legal fathers usually have the right o be on school mailing lists and other such items. So, dads know about school plays, field trips, awards ceremonies, and other events. Moreover, if your child is in an athletic or other contest, you have the right to attend.

When children get older, thoughts often turn to inheritance and succession. If you want to include your children in these things, you must be their legal father. When children are very young, it is usually easier to work with a Hutchinson, MN child custody lawyer to establish paternity. The longer you wait, the more difficult this process becomes.

There is also an intangible familial benefit. Mothers may make lifestyle choices, but children need to be involved in families. A family is still a family, even if everyone does not live under the same roof.

Hutchinson, MN Child Custody Lawyers, Fathers, and Financial Benefits of Paternity

Yes, a paternity action has financial benefits for fathers. As mentioned, most fathers already support their children financially. So, a paternity order simply puts these informal arrangements into writing.

Once this paperwork is in place, fathers get credit for everything they pay. The mother cannot later claim she did not receive support. Additionally, most family support arrangements include wage withholding and other such orders. So, fathers do not have to make manual payments. The money automatically goes to the state, which is responsible for sending the money to the mother.

There is sometimes some overlap between the financial and familial benefits. For various reasons, some intentional and some unintentional, mothers sometimes make it difficult for fathers to see their children. Legally, support payments and visitation are two separate things. No one can deny visitation because the father is temporarily behind on a financial support obligation.

On a final note, many fathers receive Social Security and other government benefits. Legal children may be able to obtain these benefits as well.

Medical Benefits

Family history is a very important diagnostic tool. If the doctor only has the mother’s medical family history, the doctor only knows half the story.

Additionally, most group health insurance plans allow policyholders to include legal dependents on their insurance policies. This coverage is often the least expensive option that provides high-quality care. Moreover, this arrangement lets fathers stay in control of their children’s’ health insurance needs.

Finally, if a child goes to the hospital, the hospital will only inform the legal father, in most cases. Similarly, the hospital can prohibit most people from visiting the child, but these prohibitions normally do not apply to legal fathers.

Work with a Dedicated Attorney

Paternity actions have benefits for mothers, children, and fathers. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN child custody lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can start fighting for you.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

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Brainerd, MN 56401

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Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Minnetonka, MN 55305

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