Prenuptial Agreements and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers

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

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

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

Making a Prenuptial Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Breaking Prenuptial Agreements

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

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

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

Reach Out to Diligent Attorneys

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

A Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer Talks About Grey Divorce

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

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

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

Child Custody Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Retirement Account Division

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

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

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

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

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

Home Equity Division in a Grey Divorce

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

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

Connect with a Compassionate Attorney

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

Divorce Lawyers in Buffalo, MN and Grey Divorce

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

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

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

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

Home Equity Division

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

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

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

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

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

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Visitation Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retirement Account Division

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

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

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

Connect with an Assertive Attorney

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

Selecting the Right Property Division Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer

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

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

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

Experience in Property Division Matters

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

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

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

Accessibility

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

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

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

A Dedicated Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer

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

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

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

Location

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

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

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

Price

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

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

Contact a Diligent Attorney

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

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.

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.

Discovery

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.

Did No-Fault Divorce End Saturday Morning Cartoons?

2019 is a big year for comic book movies. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) is one of the few female superheroes in the Marvel universe, and Avengers: Endgame is actor Chris Evans’ swan song as Captain America. The continued popularity of these films makes some people wonder why your favorite heroes are no longer on the small screen every Saturday morning.

The proliferaion of no-fault divorce laws may have something to do with the demise of Saturday morning cartoons. The divorce rate skyrocketed in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, many part-time parents were no longer willing to let their children spend hours in front of the television.

Other factors, such as the rise of cartoon-only cable networks and changes to TV content requirements, also pushed Spider-Man and other comic book favorites into TV oblivion.

The Pros and Cons of No-Fault Divorce

Today, Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. Buffalo divorce lawyers may only claim irreconcilable differences as a basis for marriage dissolution. Only one spouse must testify that the relationship has hopelessly broken down and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Some people claim that no-fault laws ruin families because they make divorce too easy, but the declining divorce rate belies that contention. The pure no-fault law does keep Buffalo divorce lawyers from obtaining a judicial declaration of fault (e.g. adultery or cruelty), and in some cases, that’s a big deal.

Overall, however, no-fualt divorce is probably a good thing. The law shifts focus away from the parents and onto the children. Additionally, parents no longer need to air their “dirty laundry” in front of Buffalo divorce lawyers and everyone else. That’s especially important if children are involved, because the ex-spouses must still be effective co-parents.

Perhaps most importantly, no-fault divorce forces the parties to focus on the substantive issues in the case. Some of these issues are outlined below.

Common Issues in Wright County Marriage Dissolution Cases

Child custody and visitation matters often revolve around the distinction between caregiver and breadwinner spouses. Once upon a time, the differnce was almost always crystal clear. One parent stayed home with the kids and the other one worked full time. Some marriages are still like that.

But for the most part, these parental roles almost always overlap, at least to some extent. The relative division of labor often dictates the division of parenting time. Child and spousal support help alleviate these differences, but they still matter.

The listed best interest factors also matter here, and the Legislature recently changed them. Some prominent factors include family stability, the children’s physical and emotional safety, the needs of each child, and the abilities of each parent.

Especially in long marriages, commingled property may be a significant issue. Assume Jane uses a wedding gift from her parents to fix up a rental house that belongs to Alicia. Depending on several factors, such as the gift’s amount and the rent house’s condition, that house could be Jane’s non-marital property, Alicia’s non-marital property, or marital property that Jane and Alicia must divide equitably.

There’s more. The increase from non-marital property is also non-marital property. So, if a Wright County judge awarded the house to Jane, Alicia would have to pay Jane all the back rents she collected since the date of the transfer. Jane would also be entitled to all future income.

Buffalo divorce lawyers must also deal with spousal support. Minnesota’s laws on this subject are quite subjective. Determining the obligee spouse’s economic need and the obligor spouse’s ability to pay is often a time-consuming process, especially since the tax law changed radically on January 1, 2019.

How a Buffalo Divorce Lawyer Guides Your Case Through the System

Almost all marriage dissolution cases settle out of court, and that settlement could occur at any time. But most cases follow the same general outline.

Roughly two weeks after the divorce petition is filed, the judge usually enters temporary orders. This temporary hearing may be the most important phase in the divorce case. These orders often form the blueprint for the final orders. Unless your Buffalo divorce lawyer is well-prepared and very assertive at this stage, you will be playing catch-up for the rest of the legal proceeding.

Discovery is important as well. Unless both parties lay all their cards on the table, it’s impossible to forge a fair settlement agreement. So, the discovery process is often quite time-consuming, especially if the other spouse tries to conceal assets. To keep that from happening to you, look for telltale signs like the cessation of e-mail account updates, business correspondence with unfamiliar company names, and sudden changes in tax withholding levels.

If you think all these things sound financially and emotionally exhausting, you are not alone. So, many Buffalo divorce lawyers focus on non-litigation solutions, such as mediation and collaborative law.

Partner with Assertive Attorneys

A no-fault divorce is almost never a quickie divorce. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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