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.

What Exactly Is a Mediator in Hutchinson, MN?

As mentioned, not all divorces must go to court. Sometimes, when two spouses can work together and compromise, they can go through mediation instead.

In fact, Minnesota typically requires divorcing couples to go through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before taking a divorce to court. Mediation is one of the types of ADR.

Mediators can be attorneys. Or they can be other types of mediation professionals. Whatever type of mediator you hire, he or she will have one goal: to get you and your spouse to compromise on the terms of the divorce.

One of the key benefits of mediation is that the spouses get full control of the divorce agreement. This is often favorable because most divorcing couples don’t want to give up control over their assets, debts, and children to a judge.

What Do Mediators Do?

As we mentioned, mediators help spouses draft the terms of their divorce. For example, a mediator might help you and your spouse determine one or more of the following divorce terms:

    • Alimony: also known as spousal maintenance in Minnesota), the lesser-earning spouse can earn alimony from the greater-earning spouse in some circumstances.
    • Child Support: one spouse may have to agree to pay child support depending on the number of children produced from the marriage and the income of each divorcing spouse.
  • Child Custody: during divorce, parents must decide who will have primary custody of any children produced from the marriage or whether both parents will share custody.
  • Asset Division: Minnesota is an equitable division state, meaning you and your spouse must divide all marital assets equitably.
  • Debt Division: With the exception of non-marital debts, Minnesota divorce laws also mandate that divorcing spouses equitably divide their liabilities after separation.

 

Divorcing spouses typically set up mediation sessions once every two weeks. Each session lasts an average of 2–3 hours. The majority of spouses come to an agreement and reach a settlement after 2–3 sessions of mediation.

Mediators vs. Regular Divorce Attorneys

Many mediators are lawyers. However, it’s important to understand that some mediators are not educated in legal processes. The state of Minnesota doesn’t regulate the mediator profession, meaning anyone can technically market their services as mediation.

At the same time, not all divorce attorneys also specialize in mediation. Divorce attorneys are experts in the law. Legal expertise can help in mediation, but the more significant factor is how well the divorce attorney can help you and your spouse come to mutually agreeable terms.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of mediation.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

The cost for mediation varies by region. In general, though, you can expect to pay your mediator by the hour. Some mediators will charge more than a divorce attorney; other mediators will charge a similar per-hour rate as a divorce attorney.

The average family attorney charges $232 per hour in Minnesota. So, you can expect to pay more, but probably not less, for mediation services in Hutchinson, MN.

When Should a Minnesota 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 mediation 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.

When Is Divorce Mediation Not an Option in Hutchison, MN?

Almost all divorcing spouses can work with a mediator. However, here are some cases where mediation may not be ideal in Hutchinson, MN:

  • You and your partner have a history of domestic violence
  • You and your partner aren’t willing to compromise on the terms of the divorce

In all other cases, mediation should always be your first option. Even if you have significant assets on the line, children, or are seeking alimony, mediation can work for you.

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

Still not convinced that mediation is right for your divorce? Then check out the following benefits of choosing mediation.

Mediation Will Save You Money on Legal Fees

A dissolution of marriage isn’t cheap in Minnesota. Each divorcing spouse must pay $400 just to file the petition for dissolution of marriage. That’s not even to mention filing fees for additional motions and, most expensive of all, court attorney fees.

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.

Mediators Can Help Salvage the Relationship

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.

Mediated Divorces Allow More Spousal Control

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.

Mediation Takes Less Time

The average mediated divorce takes about 6–8 hours. You and your spouse can choose to divide up these hours across multiple mediation sessions. Compare this timeline to a divorce that goes to trial, which can take anywhere from six months to more than two years.

The more complicated your divorce gets, the more time you’ll spend in court. This is why it’s always a good idea to try mediation first. Even if it doesn’t work for you and your spouse, you will have saved yourself countless hours on the issues you can compromise on.

Contact a Dedicated Family Mediation Attorney in Minnesota

Mediation is the best option for anyone going through a divorce. It’s significantly less expensive, less time-consuming, and more civil than a court divorce. Plus, you and your spouse will have far more control over the terms of your dissolution of marriage.

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.

 

Original article published on November 12, 2019 and updated on November 11, 2021 .

Talking Cost of Divorce in Wright County with a Divorce Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

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.” Anyone who gives you a different answer is most likely inexperienced or simply telling you what you want to hear. Marriage dissolution proceedings vary so much that blanket cost 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. Furthermore, we are one of the only Minnseota family law firms that offers comprehensive flat fee billing. Based on an initial evaluation, we can calculate the complete cost of a divorce. This complete divorce includes things like marriage dissolution, property division, and financial support. Flat fee billing is also available in modifications and other family law matters.

Types of Divorce

As mentioned, the type of house usually determines its cost. A few other factors, such as location, also apply. Similarly, the type of divorce often determines the cost. A few other factors, such as the lawyer’s experience level, also apply.

Absentee Spouse

Some marriage dissolutions are marital trauma divorces. Things are going rather well until something like abuse or adultery suddenly and unexpectedly poisons the relationship. However, most marriage dissolutions are slow fade divorces. Perhaps the spouses grow apart over time. Or perhaps the marriage is a near-constant cycle of sin and forgiveness, and one spouse simply cannot forgive any longer. These marriages usually break up emotionally long before they break up legally.

So, in most cases, the spouses have been separated for several weeks, months, or even years before someone finally files a divorce petition. There is a good chance that one spouse has moved on, especially if no young children were involved.

When one spouse files, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer usually calls the proceeding an absentee spouse marriage dissolution. Since these matters often involve little more than filing papers, the cost of divorce could be rather minimal. Most courts allow citation by publication in a newspaper or even posting on the courthouse door. There’s practically no way a respondent will see these notices. So, once a brief waiting period ends, the judge often signs a divorce decree.

Don’t be fooled. Absentee divorces are surprisingly complex. For example, the aforementioned citation must include certain magic words, must appear in the right place, and must run for the prescribed amount of time. A mistake in any area could enable the respondent to completely undo the divorce, even many years after the fact.

Agreed Divorce

These marriage dissolutions are sometimes called waiver divorces. There are no substantive questions about parenting time, child support, property division, spousal support, or anything else. The petitioner files for divorce, the respondent signs all the papers, and the judge approves everything.

If the spouses were married less than six months and they are both ready to move on, the divorce might well be agreed. In general, these matters are a bit more time-consuming than absentee spouse divorces, but they are not substantially more expensive.

Those are two pretty big “ifs.” The average marriage which ends in divorce lasts about eight years. Most people have children and/or acquire property during this period. Parenting time, property division, and other issues usually cannot be resolved with just the stroke of a pen.

Additionally, if the spouses were only married a short while, the respondent often isn’t willing to let go so quickly. There is no legal defense to uncontested divorce in Minnesota. Only one spouse must testify that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, respondents can and do drag things out and make the divorce more expensive, usually in the hope that the petitioner will give up.

Uncontested Divorce

Most marriage dissolutions fall into this category. Neither spouse wants a protracted legal battle. But at the same time, neither spouse wants to go gentle into that good night.

We touched on some common divorce issues above. In an uncontested divorce, one or more of these issues might require dvorce mediation, which is outlined below. For now, let’s look at some common uncontested divorce issues more closely.

  • Parenting Time: There is a presumption that children benefit from consistent and meaningful contact with both parents. Parents frequently disagree as to what words like “consistent and meaningful” mean in a given context. Other parents disagree about the residential/non-residential designation.
  • Child Support: Frequently, the guidelines provide the support obligation. But judges can ignore the guidelines in some situations. Furthermore, some parents try to hide income or assets from their spouses in order to reduce their financial obligations.
  • Spousal Support: The same issues regarding asset or income-concealment apply here. Moreover, Minnesota laws are rather subjective in this area. The amount and duration of payments depends on a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage and the relative earning ability of the spouses.
  • Property Division: Roughly these same subjective factors apply to the division of debt and assets. About the only guidance is that Minnesota is an equitable distribution state. The divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden on either party. 

Uncontested divorces usually begin and end in much the same way as agreed divorces. The intermediate process could take several months or even several years. The length of that process, and the complexity of the issues, usually determines the cost of an uncontested divorce.

Contested Divorce

Only a handful of matters are contested divorces. Many Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers only handle two or three every eight or ten years.

Some people want or need the emotional closure that a divorce trial often uniquely offers. Other people want or need a judicial declaration that the breakup of the marriage was the other spouse’s fault. Still other times, the parties are so far apart on one or more of the aforementioned issues that they cannot possibly work out a settlement, even with a mediator’s help.

The judge’s rulings are pretty much final in these situations. Appeals are possible, but usually only successful if the judge abused his/her discretion or made an extremely serious error.

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 or throws up roadblocks, the cost could skyrocket.

We touched on asset concealment above. This problem is one of the most common cost-increasing factors in a Wright County divorce.

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.

This work usually happens during divorce discovery. The law requires both parties to put all their cards, including financial records, on the table. To get the right answers, a lawyer must simply know the right questions to ask, or rather the right requests to make. If disputes arise over what must be produced and when, a judge usually resolves these matters.

Other times, however, attorneys have considerable control over divorce costs. 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

As outlined above, mediation could significantly lower the financial cost of marriage dissolution. Mediation usually 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. When 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.

Collaborative Law

So far, we’ve looked at litigation divorces. Litigation divorces often do not involve trials. In fact, over 90 percent of these matters settle out of court. But there is usually at least one court hearing. 

For example, at the temporary hearing, the judge sets ground rules for the divorce proceeding, including protective orders as needed. The judge also orders temporary financial support and a temporary parenting time division.

Technically, these orders expire when the judge finalizes the divorce. However, there’s an inertia factor. If the temporary orders work, even if they are not perfect, most judges hesitate to change them.

Collaborative law is a non-litigation divorce. As such, it often has very different emotional and financial costs. Litigation divorces usually begin when one spouse files a marriage dissolution petition. Collaborative law divorces begin when both parties submit a joint collaborative law declaration. That’s usually the only court filing in the case.

There are no court hearings, mediation sessions, or discovery motions in a collaborative law divorce. Instead, the parties meet privately about once a month to discuss the aforementioned divorce issues. If outside help is required, like a child psychologist or real estate agent, the parties usually split the costs. Many collaborative divorces are resolved after about six or eight meetings.

If things go wrong and the parties cannot reach an agreement, they must start over with new Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers. This rule helps ensure that the parties are fully committed to the process.

This alternative is an excellent choice in some situations. Obviously, however, it’s not for everybody.

Rely on a Dedicated Divorce Attorney in Buffalo, MN

There are a number of ways to reduce the emotional and/or financial costs of divorce. 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.

 

This article was originally published on July 2. 2019 and updated on June 29, 2021.

Alimony Modifications and Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys

Income changes cause most spousal support modifications Such adjustments are frequent, since most people change jobs twelve times during their careers. The obligor’s income obviously affects his/her ability to pay. And, the obligee’s income increase might change his/her economic need. Not all income changes qualify as modification events. Under Minnesota law, the change must be unanticipated, permanent, and substantial. These three adjectives rule out a number of events, perhaps even including retirement.

Sometimes, the obligee’s economic need changes in other ways as well. That change could be a close relationship with a paramour or a failure to follow a written rehabilitation plan.

Hutchinson, MN family law attorneys must not only establish a foundation of adjustment. The court normally calculates the amount and duration of the payments as well. These determinations, whether a McLeod County judge performs them or the parties agree to them, must jive with the factors listed below.

Changed Circumstances

Before we get to changed circumstances, we should first take a step back and examine some basic points of initial alimony determinations.

In Minnesota, judges can award temporary, short-term, or long-term alimony. Temporary alimony helps obligees pay divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property rental deposits. Short-term alimony helps obligees with economic needs become economically self-sufficient. Long-term alimony is usually only available if the obligee is disabled, cares for a disabled child, or is otherwise incapable of self-support.

To see how the aforementioned job and life change factors work in McLeod County, let’s look at a couple of examples.

Assume Mike and Karen divorce in their late 50s after many years of marriage. Since Karen was the homemaker and Mike was the breadwinner, Karen has no current job skills and is therefore largely unemployable. So, Mike pays substantial alimony until he turns 65, when he retires.

Mike confidently works with a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney. He assumes the judge will cut off alimony or at least reduce his payments. But not so fast. Retirement is not an unanticipated event. People get older and retire. The judge might still reduce Mike’s alimony payments, but Karen might have something to say about that.

Now assume Karen finds a new boyfriend a few years after she divorces Mike. But she does not marry her boyfriend, so Mike is still technically required to pay spousal support.

But once again, not so fast. If Karen had a long-term relationship with her boyfriend which involved some shared financial matters, such as a joint checking account or joint home purchase, a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney might still be able to reduce Mike’s spousal support payments.

Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys and Amount/Duration Adjustments

So, either former spouse may seek to change the alimony obligation based on changed circumstances. Next, the amount and duration of payments must be re-calculated, as follows:

  • Obligee’s Financial Resources: In emotional modifications, like a new boyfriend or girlfriend, this factor is usually paramount. A new partner’s income is usually not relevant in child support inquiries, but it is incredibly relevant in spousal support matters.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: This factor’s significance diminishes in modification proceedings, especially if the parties have been divorced for more than a few years.
  • Relative Earning Capacity: Typically, young, healthy, and well-educated people have significant earning potential. So, if there is a considerable age, health, or other discrepancy between the two former spouses, this gap might justify an increase or decrease in spousal support payments.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: Much like the standard of living factor, this consideration is important in initial determinations, but not as important in subsequent modifications.

Most modification claims settle out of court. That includes both the need for modification and the new amount and duration of payments. As long as each spouse had an independent Hutchinson, MN family law attorney through the whole process, most McLeod County judges approve most of these settlements. Frequently, they do not even require hearings.

So, your Hutchinson, MN family law attorney must be more than a diligent researcher and forceful litigator. Your attorney must also be a good negotiator.

Connect with an Assertive Lawyer

Initial spousal support determinations are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

When Can Minnesota Family Lawyers Modify Child Support Obligations?

For many families, child support payments are a significant chunk of their monthly income. But only about a third of obligees (people receiving support) receive the full amount every month. Many obligors (people paying support) pay what they feel is fair as opposed to what is ordered. In these situations, the child support amount should probably be modified, so obligor, obligees, and children have similar expectations.

Child support obligations are somewhat easier to modify in Minnesota than they are in some other jurisdictions. The Gopher State is an income share state. Since the child support obligation accounts for a number of economic and noneconomic factors, judges can usually modify support amounts.

Intentionally underpaying support is a bad idea. It’s only a matter of time before the state takes action. So, whether you need to increase or decrease the child support obligation, it’s best to partner with a Minnesota family lawyer.

Income Decreases

Monthly income is one of the leading factors in child support determinations. So, if the obligor’s income has decreased, a child support modification is usually in order. It’s normally best to act quickly in these cases since child support decreases are normally not retroactive.

Proof of income is normally enough evidence, particularly for obligors who only have W-2 income. Self-employed obligors might need to submit additional proof, such as several years of tax returns or several months of bank statements, to show the income decrease was authentic and consistent.

Minnesota family lawyers usually cannot decrease the amount if there is evidence that the obligor intentionally left a higher-paying job to reduce his or her child support obligation. Evidence of intentional underemployment includes things such as social media posts or likes about the high cost of child support or the supposed unfairness of these payments. Such chatter is especially common on some dubious fathers’ rights websites.

Minnesota Family Lawyers and Income Increases

Income increases are a bit more difficult to prove unless a Minnesota family lawyer conducts extensive discovery. This process is often expensive and time-consuming. So, it’s better to look for circumstantial evidence of income increase, like lifestyle upgrades or a sudden improved ability to pay monthly bills. If the obligor contests the increase despite this evidence, many judges order obligors to pay the other side’s attorneys’ fees.

Establishing changed income is not enough. That change must also be substantial and permanent. As a rule of thumb, any change greater than about 10 percent is substantial. Judges mike modify child support obligations for lesser amounts, but such changes are not easy. Additionally, the increased income must be permanent. Self-employment income spikes and occasional bonuses are almost always insufficient.

Income change modifications are typically agreed motions. Generally, a Minnesota family lawyer simply submits these orders. Most judges sign them without hearings.

Frequently, both parents are not 100 percent convinced that a modification is needed. Pre-filing mediation is often useful in these situations. A third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Minnesota family lawyer, works with both sides to facilitate a settlement.

Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is about 90 percent successful. This form of alternative dispute resolution saves everyone time and money.

Emotional Changes

The timesharing arrangement is also a factor in Minnesota child support orders. So, the timesharing division is also a potential factor in child support modification actions. However, emotional-based modifications are not easy to prove.

The same basic principles apply. The emotional changes must be substantial. Usually, only a significant change in the number of overnight visits convinces judges to make such modifications. Alternatively, conversions from partial visitation to full visitation might suffice as well. For example, Father might have had limited contact with his son until he overcame an alcohol addiction.

Parental Alienation Syndrome, which comes in many forms, often clouds these issues. Alienating parents try to drive an emotional wedge between the targeted parent and the child. If the judge sees any evidence of PAS, such as a sudden change of parental preference, they will usually not modify custody or support unless a social worker makes a favorable recommendation.

Talk to a Compassionate Attorney

Various factors could support a successful child support modification motion. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota family lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and after-hours visits are available.

Why is Paternity Such an Important Part of Buffalo Family Law?

A generation ago, out-of-wedlock births were quite rare. But things have changed a lot since the 1960s. Now, such births are the norm, at least among some population groups. These families must overcome some unique emotional, financial, and other obstacles. Paternity orders are a great help. Some of the key benefits are outlined below.

As far as Buffalo family lawyers are concerned, these matters are usually rather straightforward. A man’s signature on a birth certificate is not conclusive proof of paternity, but it does create a nearly-irrebuttable presumption. In other cases, most men agree to paternity. In other cases, the judge usually orders a DNA test. These tests are incredibly accurate and completely non-invasive. And, if the alleged father refuses to provide a sample, the judge normally assumes the results would have been positive.

Financial Support

Regular child support payments might be the biggest financial advantage of a paternity order. Additionally, a court order gives mothers access to a number of enforcement tools, such as wage garnishment and payment intercept, if they become necessary.

Minnesota is an income share state. So, child support payments help children have the same lifestyle they would have had if their parents were married.

Other financial support might be available as well. For example, a Buffalo family lawyer can insert language ordering the father to provide partial reimbursement of hospital and other birth expenses. And, child support orders usually require obligors (people paying support) to include the children on group health insurance plans.

Personal Protection

Some mothers are reluctant to file paternity actions because they do not want the fathers to know where they live. That’s quite unfortunate, because in many cases, a paternity order is the best way to protect mothers and their children.

Many paternity orders include either temporary or permanent protective orders. These orders routinely prohibit fathers from coming to certain places, like the mother’s place of business, or doing certain things, like interfering with utility services. Other provisions might order fathers to surrender firearms or attend anger management classes.

These protective orders are more than pieces of paper. Law enforcement might not quickly respond to things like stalking reports. But if the stalking involves the violation of a court order, the outcome is usually different. Additionally, court orders allow mothers to give third parties, like daycares and schools, formal notice about the situation.

Enforceable Visitation Limits and Buffalo Family Lawyers

Many parents have informal visitation arrangements which work very well. In other cases, however, establishing a consistent schedule is quite difficult. These arrangements are especially hard on young children who need stability and predictability.

Paternity orders include parenting time schedules. Everyone falls into a visitation routine. And, if circumstances change, a Buffalo family lawyer can modify these provisions later.

Access to Medical Records

Family history is a significant part of many medical diagnoses, especially serious chronic conditions like diabetes or heart problems. If the child has no legal father, the doctor only has access to half the family history. A paternity order gives doctors the legal authority to obtain the information they need.

On a related note, paternity orders give mothers the right to control access to things like educational and counseling records.

Additional Paternal Responsibility

A Buffalo family lawyer almost always obtains the relief outlined in the above sections. This final benefit does not happen in all cases, but it does happen in most of them.

Frequently, court orders encourage fathers to step up to the plate, both financially and emotionally. Before a paternity order, child support payments might occasionally trickle in. But once court supervision begins, these payments are normally much more consistent. Emotionally, the same thing often happens. Fathers who dropped by once or twice a month are usually at the appointed exchange place at the appropriate time. Children benefit, especially in terms of these emotional changes.

Connect with a Compassionate Attorney

Paternity orders make family life easier. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo family lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

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

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

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

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

Making Premarital Agreements

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

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

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

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

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

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Breaking Premarital Agreements

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

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

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

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

Contact a Diligent Lawyer

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

When can a Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorney Adjust a Child Support Obligation?

Typically, child support obligations should be adjusted, either up or down, at least once every three years. That’s the only way to keep up with things like employment changes, lifestyle changes, and emotional changes. Child support adjustments usually require parenting plan modifications as well, because these changes frequently overlap. For example, a new job usually means a different commute time or even a relocation.

In both these situations, it’s very important that the judge approve the changes. Informal side agreements regarding parenting time changes, even if these pacts are in writing, are unenforceable in Wright County family court. Additionally, as far as the state is concerned, the child support obligation listed in the decree, and not the one the parties agreed on, is the only one that matters.

So, even if the child support change is agreed, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney should be part of the process. Typically, judges approve agreed changes without holding hearings. Moreover, if the parties do not agree 100 percent on everything, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually bring them together. That way, they can present an agreed order to the judge and streamline the modification process.

Income Changes

Most people change jobs at least twelve times during their careers. Most of these changes involve compensation changes as well. Additionally, even if people stay put, annual salary adjustments are commonplace.

As for proof, sometimes a recent paystub is sufficient, for obligors requesting increases or decreases. But that’s not true in most cases. A significant number of people freelance on the side, or they might be completely self-employed. Additionally, some compensation, such as a company car or provided housing, does not appear on paystubs.

Obligees seeking to increase the child support obligation often face different issues. So, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney requests financial documents during discovery. Obligees can also look for red flags, such as lifestyle changes, which indicate the obligor is making more money.

Income changes, along with any other ground for modification, must be mostly involuntary. Obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs in order to reduce their child support obligations. The same thing holds true for alimony reductions. Circumstantial evidence of intentional underemployment includes social media posts about high support payments.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Expense Changes

In a few states, parental income, and specifically the obligor’s income, is basically the only factor to consider. But Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments in these states are designed to give the children the same standard of living they would have had if their parents were still married.

So, in Wright County, expense changes could prompt payment changes. Some expenses, such as insurance costs, are factored into the child support guidelines. Others, such as private school tuition costs, are not factored in.

Expense changes will not support a motion to modify child support unless they were unanticipated at the time the decree was entered. Daycare expenses are a good example. These changes are inevitable. Children get older, leave daycare, and attend school. The added money obligees receive through elementary and middle school years helps them cope with the increased expenses which come during the high school years.

Moreover, expense changes must be in the best interests of the children. That’s different from the best interests of the parents. Private afterschool care might be much more convenient than the YMCA, but it may not necessarily be in the best interests of the child.

Emotional Changes

Speaking of children growing older, child support terminates at age 18, in most cases. Most decrees include language to that effect, but sometimes, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney needs to file a motion to modify based on age, marriage, emancipation, or whatever.

Not all emotional changes are this dramatic. As mentioned, Minnesota is an income share state. So, the parenting time division is relevant to the child support obligation. As children get older, visitation time often changes as well. Eight or ten overnights a month might become a dozen or more.

If the emotional change is significant, the judge will probably adjust the child support obligation appropriately. Usually, this adjustment is just a matter of recalculating the guideline amount using the correct number of overnights. Smaller changes, such as children staying with Mom after school, probably do not qualify as significant.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Lawyer

Child support obligation amounts are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dodgers Bankruptcy

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

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

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

Breaking Down the McCourt Property Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

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

Why Should a Law Firm in Buffalo, MN File a Paternity Action?

In the United States, almost half of all children are born out of wedlock. The proportion is much higher in certain ethnic groups. For many families, such births are the best possible lifestyle choice for everyone concerned.

Like all the decisions we make, these choices have some costs. In this case, these costs are both financial and emotional. As mentioned, these costs are usually worth paying.

However, a law firm in Buffalo, MN can easily minimize these costs. Generally, the legal process is rather straightforward. And, the benefits of a paternity order are difficult to ignore.

Protection for You and Your Child

Some mothers have very poor relationships with biological fathers. Many mothers are afraid to disclose their addresses in court documents. Generally, a law firm in Buffalo, MN can redact this information, so it’s unavailable to anyone other than the judge and court personnel.

Additionally, most paternity actions include protective orders. These orders generally last at least until the case is over, and many times, they become permanent injunctions in the final paternity decree. These orders prohibit biological fathers from going certain places and doing certain things. The orders might also limit firearm ownership and contain other such provisions.

Protective orders are more than pieces of paper. Violating a protective order, even in a nonviolent manner, is a serious offense. Additionally, these orders allow mothers to give daycares and other groups notice about the situation.

Financial Support

In terms of child support, Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments are designed to give children the lifestyle they would have if their parents were married. So, in many cases, the child support obligation is substantial.

Buffalo, MN law firms can include other financial support provisions as well. Typically, biological fathers must include their children on their group health insurance plans. Moreover, a Wright County judge might order the biological father to pay for part of the hospital bill, reimburse the mother for certain costs, and pay other expenses.

A Buffalo, MN Law Firm and a Written Visitation Plan

Some mothers have relatively good relationships with biological fathers. They have an informal and unwritten parenting timeshare plan which works pretty well. But even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. It’s much better to have things in writing. If these writings are enforceable in court, that’s better still. The parties can still generally agree on any parenting time division. But the written orders give everyone something to fall back on.

Many parenting plans also include limitations where appropriate. For example, a father might lack the parenting skills to take care of a baby for more than a few hours. Or, the father might have a substance abuse problem or a bad temper. A Buffalo, MN law firm can insert requirements like parenting classes and alcohol treatment into a paternity order. Generally, contact with the child is tied to the successful completion of these conditions.

These provisions often help biological fathers grow up and become responsible parents. This change has some other benefits as well, as outlined below.

Access to Medical Records

When children get sick, doctors often rely on family medical history to make accurate diagnoses. If the doctor only has access to the mother’s family medical history, the doctor only has half the pieces to a puzzle, at best.

A legal paternity order gives physicians full access to all family medical history. That additional access could make a big difference in your child’s health.

Emotional Aspects

In many ways, paternity orders are like adoption decrees or name change orders. These legal documents have emotional power. Children have identifiable fathers, and fathers are more like dads. As mentioned, that same father-to-dad transformation positively affects many fathers.

Moreover, at some point in the future, many children become curious about their parents’ ancestry and family history. A paternity order now makes these future conversations much easier to have.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Paternity orders have financial and emotional benefits for mothers and children. For a free consultation at a Buffalo, MN law firm, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Alimony Determinations

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

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

Is Spousal Support Appropriate?

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

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

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

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Duration of Payments

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

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

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

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

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

Amount of Payments in Wright County

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

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

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

Reach Out to Compassionate Attorneys

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

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

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

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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Phone: (218) 736-9429
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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Phone: (320) 289-4761
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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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