Photo of Kaitlyn Andren

Kaitlyn Andren is an associate attorney with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. She is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of St. Thomas Law School. Upon graduating from law school, Kaitlyn served as law clerk to the Honorable Edward T. Wahl, a respected family court judge in Hennepin County. She is a former special assistant county attorney with the support and collections division of the Anoka County Attorney’s Office. 

Throughout his election campaign, President Trump repeatedly promised to crack down on illegal immigration—a promise recently reinforced by statements to the press in the aftermath of terrorist acts abroad. This naturally raises the question of how a stricter immigration policy would impact international divorces. If you recently obtained a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen, does filing for divorce present a greater threat to your current legal immigration standing, or to your current immigration process?

The short answer is no—your divorce will not likely jeopardize your immigration status any more or less than it would under current laws. However, under tightened immigration rules, your international divorce might come under greater scrutiny to ensure the rules are being followed. Let’s offer some perspective to understand this issue more clearly.

International marriage and divorce rules are already strict.

Since fraudulent marriages are one of the most common tactics for illegal immigration, any international divorce automatically raises some red flags with immigration authorities, especially if the marriage is less than two years old. If you have been given conditional residence due to marriage and you divorce before being granted permanent residency, you will most likely be asked to leave the country—and likewise if there is sufficient evidence that the marriage was a cover for immigration. This reality is unlikely to change under a Trump administration because immigration officials already closely monitor international marriages and divorces.

Proposed immigration crackdowns are focused at the point of entry.

According to the incoming Trump administration, a stricter immigration policy would focus primarily on Muslim immigrants from nations with higher rates of terrorism. As controversial as this proposal is, it focuses mainly on the point of entry—that is, whether a person will be allowed into the country to begin with. If you are already married to a U.S. citizen and then divorce, you’ve already been granted entry, so you wouldn’t necessarily be affected by these tightened rules. There’s no guarantee that you wouldn’t come under greater scrutiny if one or the other spouse is Muslim, but neither is there any indication that divorce would put you at greater risk of deportation than you are under current laws.

Regardless of how a stricter immigration policy would impact international divorces, navigating the waters of immigration and divorce can still be very tricky, and you shouldn’t attempt it without a skilled attorney’s advice. Contact our offices for an initial consultation.

Thanksgiving is about more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie; it’s a time to reflect on all the things that are wonderful in your life. Unfortunately, if you are currently in the midst of divorce or legal separation, your life might not seem all that wonderful. After all, a relationship that was once filled with promise and excitement has now deteriorated past the point of reconciliation. At a time like this, it’s best to take an introspective look at yourself and your life, and realize that tough times don’t last. The Thanksgiving holiday affords you the opportunity to count your blessings and discover that, while things may not be so great now, they could always be a lot worse.

How Meditation Can Help

Meditation may be the furthest thing from your mind during divorce proceedings, but research from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that people who participate in mindful meditation are able to effectively reduce their stress and anxiety levels. Thanksgiving and other holidays can stir up memories of happier times with your spouse, but meditation can put those memories into perspective.

Turn to Friends and Family Members

Thanksgiving is about spending time with the people you love most. At first glance, that makes Turkey Day and any other winter holiday seem like an unwelcome ordeal for divorcees. Just remember: while your marriage may not have worked out, you still have an entire support system of friends and family members standing by your side. During difficult periods in your life, sometimes you just need someone to be there for you — what better time than Thanksgiving to have those people show their support? Make the most of the time you have with family and friends over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and you will find yourself enjoying the little things in life a lot more than you otherwise would.

You often hear that you “marry the family.” A divorce means you may have to maintain a relationship with your ex-in-laws for the sake of the children. You also might like your ex-in-laws and want to keep in touch with them. It is possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-in-laws if you use the right approach.

Prepare Yourself

You were close to your in-laws prior to divorce. Or maybe you didn’t like your in-laws prior to divorce. Regardless, your relationship will change despite your past or present feelings. Your ex-spouse may say negative things about you to your ex-in-laws or even your children. You can reach for some level of closeness, but never expect things to be the same.

Put in the Extra Effort

You may already be feeling stretched thin, but a good relationship with your ex-in-laws requires extra legwork. Be direct with them: “We’ve been family. I want to keep it that way. What can I do to make this work?” Your ex-in-laws may or may not respond to your overture. Be prepared for either response, and don’t take it personally.

Think of Your Children

Maybe your relationship with the in-laws was always fractious. It may be tempting to let things fall apart. Think of your children, and work towards a good relationship for their sake.

Avoid Negativity

Avoid saying anything negative about your ex-spouse or anyone else. Request your ex-in-laws to remain positive and avoid name-calling. Make sure this rule applies around your children. Is there some hostility? Consider having a therapist or other third-party involved to negotiate the relationship. Gently remind your ex-in-laws that everyone has a duty to the children.

Include Them

Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex-in-laws means involving them in your children’s lives. Invite them to help plan birthday parties, host holidays, and participate in family outings.

Be Patient

Mending a relationship takes time. You need time to process your divorce. Your ex-in-laws also need time to process. Give them time to heal, and don’t expect too much at first. Remain diligent and positive. You can have a relationship with those you used to call family.

An uncontested divorce in Minnesota can take as little as four weeks, although 60 days more likely. More difficult divorce cases – where the parties disagree on many issues – can end up taking years. The surest way to get a quick divorce in Minnesota is to not contest it. An uncontested divorce is a divorce where one party files for the divorce, and the other party doesn’t try to convince anyone that the divorce should not take place, nor does the defending spouse attempt to argue about division of assets. If you agree on everything, the divorce will happen quickly.

Most divorces, however, do not end that quickly. Even with the best of intentions at the beginning, it can be surprisingly hard to get both spouses to agree on subtle features of the separation. Simple seeming cases, even when skillfully and mindfully guided by a competent attorney, can surprisingly evolve into more complicated disputes that cost money and time.

Factors That Determine How Long a Minnesota Divorce Takes

How long it takes to complete a divorce from the time it is filed depends on a number of factors. In Minnesota, those factors include:

•    How cooperative you are with your spouse. Do you argue with their point of view every step of the way or give into their wishes?
•    How cooperative is your spouse with you? Do they argue with you over details; fight to keep you from getting what you want; or battle tooth and nail to get what they want?
•    How well your attorney protects your rights while facilitating the settlement.
•    The philosophy, actions and reactions of your spouse’s attorney .
•    The number and complexity of disagreements between you and your spouse. Do you fight over custody of the children, division of assets, spousal maintenance, visitation rights, etc.?

If you want your Minnesota divorce to go smoothly, work with your attorney to develop creative negotiating strategies, and figure out how and under what circumstances you will be willing to compromise on your vision for what you want. Some luck is also required. If your spouse is unwilling or unable to compromise or negotiate in good faith, or if his or her lawyer adopts an uncompromising stance, you will likely struggle to reach an equitable agreement, and litigation may be inevitable.

Divorcing your spouse because s/he broke a law in Minnesota may have some sticky implications, depending on which laws were broken and how the guilty was punished. Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, so the facts of your spouse’s criminal case may or may not be relevant to your divorce. Consider the following before pursuing divorce based on criminal conduct:

1. If your spouse has been accused of a crime but has not yet been convicted, you can’t call them a criminal in divorce court. Even if you believe they are guilty, in the eyes of the law, they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

2. Being a criminal doesn’t make a person a bad parent. If a court found your spouse guilty of a crime, they may still have parenting time rights – and may even be rewarded joint custody of your child(red). The court will consider all evidence concerning your and your spouse’s character.

3. A conviction may or may not lead to jail time. Don’t assume that your spouse will not be able to contact you, or visit your children. If you fear retribution or domestic violence, take precautionary measures, and protect yourself and your child(red) from a spouse who is a violent offender.

4. If you believe your spouse committed a crime for which s/he has not been charged, report the alleged crime before filing for divorce. If you are the victim of the crime, file a police report.

5. Divorce court is not criminal court. Don’t file for divorce hoping to get the conviction your spouse didn’t get in criminal court. If you believe the crime your spouse committed is cause for divorce, make your case before the judge, but do it knowing the judge may not punish your spouse criminally.

Divorce proceedings are often contentious. When one party to the litigation refuses to act in accordance with a court order, that person can be found to be in “contempt.” Under Minnesota law, this process is tightly structured, and it follows exacting documentation requirements.

What are Contempt Motions?

During the course of a divorce proceeding, the judge will issue orders to address matters such as temporary custody of the children or intermediate support payments. The divorce decree itself is a court order that can establish:

•    Parenting time provisions;
•    Child support or spousal maintenance (alimony) payments;
•    Out-of-state relocation permission; or
•    Distribution of real or personal property.

When one party violates these orders, he/she can be held in contempt of court. To initiate this process, the attorney representing the spouse harmed by the refusal to follow the divorce degree will file a Motion of Contempt.

How Contempt Motions Work

A valid contempt motion must be filed with a court that presided over the divorce proceedings. This motion must state how the other party violated a directive of the judge. Once this motion is filed, an “Order to Show Cause” is delivered to the other party.

A hearing is then held, and the person who allegedly violated the judicial order has the opportunity to demonstrate that he or she did comply or had a good reason not to do so. Both sides can testify and submit evidence at this hearing.

If the person is found to be in contempt of court, sanctions can include: fines, fees, transfer of property, jail time, or any penalty that the court deems appropriate.

If the judge orders the person to serve time in jail, that person may request a chance to “cure the problem.” If he or she fails to do so, the other party can request a Revocation Hearing to have the offender jailed. This person will remain in jail until he or she cures the contempt by paying child support or addressing whatever court order was violated.

In the aftermath of a divorce, you must adjust to your new social status and lifestyle. The emotional and physical stress of the separation process can damage your health unless you take specific precautions.

Specific Health Risks

Most people experience high levels of stress during a divorce. This factor triggers many potential health issues, such as:

  1. Drastic Weight Change. Stress spikes cortisol levels and leads to other hormonal and enzymatic changes that in turn can affect metabolism and fat tissue regulation. Significant weight gain after a divorce is common and likely related to these hormonal effects, and it can lead to other ailments, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks in the worst case. Some people respond to stress by attempting to control every aspect of their life, including calorie intake. This can lead to unhealthy dieting and eating disorders. Instead of controlling calories, work with your doctor to identify underlying hormonal or diet-related issues (e.g. high insulin levels), and work to address their root causes.
  2. Cardiovascular Disease. Stress leads to inflammation throughout the body, which some researches now believe contributes to cardiovascular disease. While divorced men and women both have a higher risk of cardiac events than married couples do, divorced women are even more at risk than divorced men.
  3. Insomnia. Depression and stress often result in sleeping disorders. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalances, weight gain, attention difficulties and mood swings.
  4. Substance abuse. Divorced men are particularly at risk of becoming dependent on cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. While this behavior is physically and psychologically damaging by itself, the abuse or addiction adds more stress to an already problematic situation, and it can increase the risk of developing other physical conditions.
  5. Chronic health problems. Divorced people have 20% more chronic health ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, than married people.

Protect Your Health

How do you manage your stress and reduce the risk of developing these scary health problems after your divorce? Obviously, you need to speak with your physician – we cannot offer medical advice – but consider discussing these ideas with him or her:

  1. Stay social. Connect with people for support and encouragement. Humans are social animals, and we need to connect with others for our physical and emotional wellbeing.
  2. Exercise. The standard advice goes something like this: “Go to the gym, ride a bike, play dodgeball, or take Aikido lessons – just get moving. Physical activity reduces stress and inflammation in your body while improving respiratory and cardiac functions.” This advice probably isn’t bad, but the quality of the exercise you do may actually be quite important. For instance, when it comes to increasing insulin sensitivity, research suggests that safe weight training may actually be better than other types of exercise, such as cycling or fast walking.
  3. Get therapy from a qualified provider. Men are more likely to ignore their feelings and fail to address the psychological toll of divorce. However, both men and women can benefit from discussing their challenges with a trained professional.

 

Your divorce is final, and you breathe a sigh of relief, ready to move forward. But your teens live with you most of the time, and the turmoil of the separation has contributed to their ongoing angst. Read on for seven tips to keep your sanity in the midst of their drama.

Tip #1 – Recognize that Your Children Are Grieving

Your children have lost the dream of a stable and happy home with two parents living together who love each other and who love them. They will understandably go through challenges as they grieve, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Talk with them through this process, and be empathetic as they cope.

Tip #2 – Spend Time with Each Child Alone

As stretched as you are, strive to give your children some of your undivided attention. Find out how you can best communicate your love to them – through gifts, time spent together, acts of service, affectionate touch or encouraging words. Each child will process the divorce differently, so support your kids in the ways that resonate with them most.

Tip #3 – Be the Grownup

Even when your son or daughter lashes out, you need to act like an adult and respond calmly to his or her tirade. By helping your child work through his or her emotions, you can model appropriate ways to handle feelings.

Recognize that your teens are still developing, emotionally. The Wall Street Journal reports: “”Cognitive empathy,” or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict. Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings.”

Tip #4 – Don’t Bad Mouth Your Ex in Front of the Kids

While he or she might have done something horribly wrong – had an affair, abandoned the family or lied about significant matters – your ex is still a parent to your child. Your children have your ex’s DNA, and they will carry that throughout the rest of their lives. Do not make a bad situation worse by broadcasting negativity and gloom and doom.

Tip #5 – Develop a Schedule and Stick with It

A schedule will help you keep your sanity and allow your teen to develop a new routine to create structure during this time of transition.

Tip #6 – Stay Flexible

Life happens. Changes will force you to recalibrate your relationships and even the fundamental ways you approach parenting. Don’t panic. All parents with teens experience “phase changes” in their relationships as the kids grow up. Strive to handle them with grace and good humor.

Tip #7 – Model Acceptable Behavior

Agree that you will maintain polite behavior, respectful conversation, trust and consistency. These basic ground rules will help your son or daughter manage the changes. Emphasize a positive (but not polyanna-ish) attitude and hopeful outlook for the future.

To pursue strategic legal action in your Minnesota family law case, you need to retain the services of a competent, qualified lawyer. Given the high stakes of your decision, how can you find and vet prospective attorneys? Consider asking your candidates the following nine questions:

1.    Why do you and your team do what you do? Find a law firm whose purpose resonates with you.

2.    What values motivate you and your people? Bear in mind that you will likely be working closely with your attorney for months, if not longer. Make sure the team shares values that you cherish, such as integrity and determination.

3.    Does your firm handle cases similar to mine? You want to determine the attorney’s relevant experience. His or her website and marketing materials should offer a general overview of services. However, strive to obtain a more granular understanding of what the firm does and whom it serves. For instance, some family law attorneys work exclusively with high net worth individuals. Others prefer complicated cases that require deep thinking and that wind up being litigated. Still others enjoy handling issues using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) approaches, such as mediation.

4.    How do you like to work with your clients? Some lawyers approach each case systematically and prefer that their clients follow relatively clear and rigid guidelines. Others take a more flexible tack. There’s no one “right way” to manage clients, but you want to assess whether the attorney’s processes feel comfortable to you.

5.    How do you communicate with clients? Find out whether he or she prefers to discuss cases in person or via phone, texts emails or even social media. Determine when and how you will coordinate, so you understand the expectations being set.

6.    What are your rates? Get a sense of all costs you could incur for the services, including retainer fees, fees for incidentals, the attorney’s hourly rate and any other expenses.

7.    Will an associate or a paralegal work be handling certain aspects of my case? Just because an attorney hands off work to others on the team shouldn’t give you cause for concern. However, you want to be clear about how business gets done at the firm.

8.    What’s your first impression of my case, and how would you get started on it? Obviously, without much more detail, your attorney will be unable to determine a clear path forward. However, the lawyer can offer opinions about possible pitfalls and likely outcomes based on his or her experience with similar matters.

9.    Is there anything else that I should know? For example, the attorney might be planning an upcoming three-month trip or might be uncomfortable with (or excited by) some element of your case.

After going through divorce once, you may be hesitant to tie the knot again or at least concerned enough to want to know what the science has to say about the stability of second marriages.

Second Marriages and Divorce Statistics

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from last decade, six in 10 second marriages and nearly three out of four third marriages do not last.

Per Smart Stepfamlies: “Remarriages have become even less stable than first marriages over the past 20 years. Among women under age 45, just one in five first marriages ends in divorce within five years (20%). But among women in the same age group, almost one in three remarriages (31%) ends in divorce within five years (Manning, 2015). More than a quarter of the people who remarry are over 50 years of age. Serial transitions in and out of marriage/divorce/cohabitation is now typical of family life in the U.S. (Cherlin, 2009).”

Reasons for the Increased Numbers

Noted psychiatrist and researcher, Gail Saltz, argues that individuals’ needs for companionship often force them to rush into second marriages on the rebound. She advises that they take the time to find out what caused the end of their marriage in the first place. She notes the following additional contributing factors:

•    Failure to learn from their mistakes, resulting in repeating them and struggling with the same conflicts in a subsequent marriage.
•    No children in common. Although children might not save a marriage in the long haul, the common focus on kids can help a couple navigate through a rough patch.

Children and Subsequent Marriages

Conversely, these same children that helped hold a first marriage together can create tension in a second or third marriage. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly two-thirds of those stepfamilies with children, whether living together or remarried, break up. Both parties might struggle with navigating the logistics of raising stepchildren, resulting in conflict.

Additional Possible Explanations

Mark Banschick M.D. writes a divorce column for Psychology Today. He lists some explanations for why second marriages often come untethered:

•    The individual knows that he or she survived (and rebounded from) a previous divorce. This knowledge may make marriage seem less permanent and binding.
•    He or she recognizes the signs of a disintegrating marriage faster and thus gives up faster, determined not to “drag out the inevitable.”
•    Cultural shifts have made women more independent than ever. When both partners view themselves as self-sufficient, the marriage may not seem as essential.
•    “Once burned” individuals proactively want to protect themselves from the pain of a break up, both financially and emotionally.
•    As people age, they may become increasingly independent, especially if they no longer can (or do not want to) have children.