Minnesota is a "no-fault" divorce state, and has been since the mid 1970's. Typical issues involved in a divorce include custody, child support, property division and spousal maintenance. While some divorces come to conclusion following a trial, the vast majority of cases resolve outside of the courtroom.

Divorce inevitably creates heartbreak. That’s an irreducible part of the process. But the extent of the mental and emotional suffering depends sensitively not just on the divorce process but also on what happened in the relationship itself.

If your spouse abused you emotionally—by demeaning your career ambitions, yelling at you for small offenses, jealously spying on you, or engaging in other horrific behavior—your road to recovery will be greatly complicated. How do you pick up the pieces? How do reclaim your self-esteem, begin to forgive, take care of yourself, and identify the patterns in your own behavior that enabled the abuse?

These aren’t just theoretical questions. They also could have significant bearing on your divorce case. Depending on the nature and extent of the abuse, your spouse’s access to your children could be limited, or you may need the court to protect you in the future.

Special Considerations

Choosing to leave an abusive spouse is a brave, scary step. The legal system is designed to give you some protection and ensure justice. As a victim, you may be entitled to significant custody rights (and potentially even sole custody of children if the abuse was egregious); alimony and child support payments; and court orders that limit the abuser’s ability to contact, harass or intimidate you.

Nevertheless, be aware of the psychology potentially at work. For instance, it’s normal to want to make up excuses for an abuser’s bad actions and to feel guilty or sad (instead of relieved) when justice is done. In a compelling blog post, Dr. Joseph Carver writes: “In clinical practice, some of the most surprised and shocked individuals are those who have been involved in controlling and abusive relationships. When the relationship ends, they offer comments such as “I know what he’s done to me, but I still love him”, “I don’t know why, but I want him back”, or “I know it sounds crazy, but I miss her”. Recently I’ve heard “This doesn’t make sense. He’s got a new girlfriend and he’s abusing her too…but I’m jealous!” Friends and relatives are even more amazed and shocked when they hear these comments or witness their loved one returning to an abusive relationship. While the situation doesn’t make sense from a social standpoint, does it make sense from a psychological viewpoint? The answer is — Yes!”

Don’t expect this journey to be emotionally linear. There will be ups and downs as you adjust to being out of the relationship. A caring, intelligent counselor can help you work through these challenges, while your qualified family law attorney can assist you on the legal end of things.

Resources For Emotionally Abused Spouses

If you’re enduring emotional abuse or fear for your safety, there are places you can turn. Check out these resources here in Minnesota:

  • Minnesota Coalition of Battered Women. This organization has 80 chapters spread throughout the state.
  • The Domestic Abuse Project offers counseling from professional therapists. They may also help you file an order of protection (restraining order) and find shelter away from your abusive spouse.
  • Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline. By calling this hotline, victims can get the help they need from “day one”–not just when it’s too little, too late. Call 866-233-1111.

Filing for divorce after an abusive relationship may force you to leave your comfort zone, but we’re here to help. Please call our experienced, compassionate Minnesota family law attorneys to schedule a private call about your next steps at 763-323-6555.

Written by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury in 1981, the bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In has become a go-to resource for working through challenging negotiations. As it turns out, the “getting to yes” methodology can also be very helpful in mediating difficult divorce agreements. Below are some key insights that we can apply to divorce negotiations, based on the book’s five-point method.

1. Separate the people from the problem

When you view your ex as “the problem” or vice versa, negotiating a settlement becomes much more difficult. In truth, there are specific issues between you that are causing the split—not any one person. Focusing on the issues rather than placing blame takes you much further toward a solution that works for both.

2. Focus on interests, not positions

When you simply take opposing positions in a disagreement, one person “wins” while the other “loses.” Instead, try focusing on the interests of each person: what do you want in a settlement? What does your ex want? Is there any position you could take that could serve both interests?

3. Generate options for mutual gain

Once you’ve identified each person’s interests in the divorce, start imagining a number of alternatives in which both people stand to gain, turning a win-lose into a win-win scenario. This is key to turning combat into negotiation because both of your interests are now being served.

4. Insist on objective criteria

When contemplating the alternative solutions, you must base the consideration on an objective set of criteria. This is the more difficult part of the negotiation, because both parties will likely give up something they want. Here is where a neutral mediator can be most useful because he/she has no emotional investment in the solution.

5. Know your “BATNA”

Should negotiations fail or you find yourself losing too much ground, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is your baseline or safety net—the “worst case scenario” or default course of action you must take if you can’t come to agreement. Knowing your BATNA gives you a fair point of leverage in negotiations as the low point that both parties wish to avoid, helping you both stay motivated to come up with a better solution in the divorce agreement.

In this episode of The Family Law Show, Jason Brown outlines the four ways in which the Court may conclude a divorce in Minnesota.

Whether your case is contested, uncontested, settled, or requires a trial, certain procedural requirements must be met in order for the Court to execute a divorce decree.

Topics addressed in this pocast include include pure default hearings, default hearings by agreement, in-chambers review and matters addressed by the Court following a trial.

 

Download this episode (right click and save)

Once divorce proceedings have begun, procrastinating is one of the worst things you can do. No one particularly wants the headaches of paperwork, lawyer consultation and other details, but it’s a safe bet that your ex is not procrastinating on his or her end, and you don’t want to find yourself at a disadvantage. Here are 6 signs of distraction you need to watch for when working on your Minnesota divorce.

1. Too busy with work

One of the most common ways to put off divorce details is suddenly to find yourself with too much to do at the office. While there’s always work to be done, you probably don’t have to take on as much responsibility as you are. Discipline yourself to keep your normal office hours and don’t use work as an excuse.

2. Too busy with “other” paperwork

There’s nothing better to distract yourself from something unpleasant than something else that’s only slightly less unpleasant. Now is not the time to start figuring out your taxes, for example, or to start an argument with an insurance company over your recent fender-bender.

3. Over-socializing

From spending hours a day on social media to signing up for three different bowling leagues, it’s easy to find so many after-hours activities that you barely have time for anything else. If you’re overdoing the social life, try limiting your outings to one per week until the divorce is final. Also, limit your social media time to an hour or less per day.

4. Home projects

You’ve spent years avoiding cleaning out that garage. Why all of a sudden are you so motivated to do it now? Major projects at home that suddenly must be done now are a clear sign you’re looking for distractions.

5. Rebound relationship

This is potentially a huge distraction, and also a dangerous one because it might be used as leverage against you. If necessary, press pause on your dating life for the moment. Your new romance will do much better without a pending divorce hanging over it, anyway.

6. Over-scrutinizing the process itself

If you find yourself suddenly unhappy with how your divorce attorney is handling things, or you decide to undo a part of the negotiations that have been settled for weeks, these may be subtle signs of a deeper issue. Divorce can be scary, and it’s easy to create delays subconsciously to avoid facing the day when it becomes official. Changes are fine, but if you’re suddenly finding fault with things you’ve already approved, it’s time to ask yourself why.

 

In parts one and two, we covered an overview of military divorce and discussed special considerations regarding children and military divorce. In our final post in this series, we’ll examine implications for pensions and alimony as well as how to advocate for your rights and a fair result.

How Military Pension Works

When a service member retires after a minimum of 20 years of service, he or she receives a pension as compensation. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act of 1982, these pensions are considered marital property. As such, they are split during the divorce, and that division can be negotiated. In many cases, the deciding factor is the length of the marriage and whether it overlapped with the person’s time in the service and, if so, for how long. Again, that division does not need to be equal.

Under the USFSPA, state courts can withdraw a maximum of 50 percent of the retired person’s pension. Although the courts might award a higher amount, the retired person will then need to pay the difference directly to his or her ex. In addition, the marriage needed to last a minimum of 10 years in order to go through the finance center. If the court does grant pension to a person whose marriage lasted less than 10 years, then he or she again needs to directly pay the ex.
In some cases, the spouse might trade off a smaller portion of the pension for another consideration, such as a house. The spouse should consult with a family law attorney to see which option makes the most strategic sense depending on the situation.

Survivor’s Benefit Plan

The spouse should ensure that he or she is included in the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP), which continues to pay the pension if the spouse precedes him or her in death. The SBP is separate from the pension, and it should be assessed accordingly.

Service Members Group Life Insurance

During a divorce, the couple can also negotiate naming the ex as the beneficiary in the Service Members Group Life Insurance policy. This money can be designed to replace child support payments should the person die while serving his or her country. For example, the ex can receive $80,000, while the remainder can be placed into a trust for the children.

Additional Military Benefits

An ex-spouse might also be entitled to full medical, theater, exchange and commissary privileges under the following circumstances:

•    The couple was married for at least 20 years
•    The service member accumulated a minimum of 20 years of service and
•    The military service and the marriage had at least a 20-year overlap.

Pension Payments and Your Military Divorce

Pension negotiations can be quite complex, especially if a couple has been married for 20 years or more. Our family law firm understands these challenges. Contact us at 763-323-6555 to find out how we can help.

In a military divorce, the nonmilitary spouse likely has not worked outside the home or possibly only held down part-time employment in order to accommodate the lifestyle with moves and lengthy deployments.

On the one hand, nonmilitary spouses often struggle to find employment because of those factors. On the other hand, they can frequently build strong cases for child custody. After all, the military professional’s frequent deployments may make child care complicated if not impossible.

Considering the Best Interests of the Child

The judge will consider what’s in the best interests of your children. If he or she determines that military-related moves could hurt the children emotionally and socially or disrupt schooling, sports, medical treatment or other activities, the judge might award custody to the parent who is less likely to move.

Special Considerations

Since both parties understand the need for cooperation in the event of sudden deployments, they should work with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can provide them with good advice on how to proceed.

Similar to a civilian divorce, a military custody plan should consider diverse factors, such as:

•    The age of the children
•    The possibility of deployment and a plan of action
•    A plan of action for a return from deployment and
•    Visitation in the event of a stateside or international deployment.

In addition, assess the custody plan according to the age of each child and future considerations. You might need to make adjustments based on a different job, remarriage or other relevant criteria.

Collecting Child Support

In some cases, the parties will need a temporary order to address the payment of daily expenses during the separation until the divorce is finalized. Both parents must support their children, and the court will consider the following factors when ordering payments:

•    The number of children
•    Any special needs
•    Shared custody arrangements
•    The number and frequency of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent and
•    Other relevant factors.

The military enforces the collection of child support via the following methods:

•    Wage garnishments
•    Voluntary or involuntary allotments and
•    Court orders.

Addressing Custody Matters in Your Military Divorce

Due to the relocation of military parents, custody issues can lead to especially sensitive conversations and debates. Our experienced and skilled family law team can suggest solutions; call us for help at 763-323-6555.

From 2001 until 2011, the divorce rate rose from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent for military couples, according to the Defense Department. The military enforces special regulations for divorces in order to protect both enlisted individuals and their spouses. These cover a gamut of issues, including processing the divorce, residency matters, compliance, custody and the division of pensions. In part one of this extended series, we’ll overview the military divorce process. Part two will address how children are affected by military divorces, and part three will cover pensions and spousal support.

Divorce Jurisdiction

Active duty personnel are immune from divorce proceedings, so that they can focus on their service to the U.S. When a military couple divorces, either party can usually file wherever they are stationed, even if neither individual is a resident of that state. In addition, they have other options as well, including filing in the state where either spouse claims legal residency.

Once the spouse files, then he or she will need to follow the laws of that state regarding the divorce, division of property and child custody and support. For clarification, contact the legal aid office at your local military base. Be advised that the JAG office can only provide general advice and cannot prepare divorce paperwork, represent clients or file the legal documents in court. Indeed, a military attorney does not need to be licensed in the state, so he or she might not know local laws. Thus, the person who files for divorce should also contact a qualified local family law attorney.

Military Identification Cards

The military member does not have the right to confiscate his or her spouse’s ID card, since those cards are granted by Congress and not by the military person. If the spouse does confiscate the card, he or she can face larceny charges. Even when the spouse refuses to sign a card, the Personnel Office can still issue one. However, the nonmilitary spouse will likely lose the card upon divorce, except if the spouse served for at least 20 years and if the couple was also married for at least 20 years. The ID card qualifies the spouse for medical, theater, commissary and other benefits. If the former spouse remarries, he or she will lose those benefits.

Understanding the Nuances of a Military Divorce

In addition to state laws, military personnel need to adhere to specific federal regulations when it comes to divorce. Our experienced legal team knows how to navigate the complex issues related to military separations. Call us for a no-obligation consultation at 763-323-6555.

Are marriage and divorce different for the very rich and very poor? One oft-cited statistic is that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but that doesn’t account for income disparity, nor does it account for the fact that many divorces are from second and third marriages. Still, a look at marriage rates in recent years reveals  that fewer people are getting married overall.

There are many reasons why fewer people seek marriage today, which also means fewer people are getting divorced. Interestingly, when the recession hit in 1998, that economic change sparked an upsurge in divorce. That fact should come as no surprise, since arguing over money is one of the main causes of divorce, among both the rich and the poor.

While arguments over money obviously can lead to marital strife and the break down of communication, the story is not so simple. People don’t just get divorced because they lack resources. Certainly, empty pockets add to the stress of raising a family, and that can lead to poor families splitting as well as to behaviors (such as criminal acts or addiction) that further fray relationships. However, there’s a wrinkle: many poor people simply can’t afford to divorce… or at least they believe they cannot afford to separate.

Another cultural phenomenon may be relevant to our question. Over the last 50 years, women have been joining the workforce in droves. As a result, women have seen their incomes go up. Interestingly, in homes where the woman earns more than her husband, the couple seems to be at higher risk of divorce. Could new gender economics somehow contribute to some divorces?

Celebrity divorces get a lot of media attention, but are celebrities even a good proxy for the “wealthy”? Perhaps the complexities of fame dictate how and why celebrity couples split more so than fortune.

Marriage and divorce are complicated matters. It’s difficult to say which socioeconomic class divorces more often, but we can say married couples are more financially stable and that divorce (in general) leads to wealth reduction. It appears from the data we have that the most financially secure are people who get married and stay married.

Our Minnesota divorce lawyers can help you understand your options and develop a clear strategic approach to meeting your needs and protecting your children. Please call us at 763-323-6555 to discuss your situation.

In Minnesota, you can file a document with the state to recognize a man as father of your child even if you aren’t married to that man. It’s a voluntary action, and both adult parties must sign the document. If you know who the father of your child is, and he is willing to be recognized as the child’s father, the ROP offers a less expensive option than paternity testing. You can bypass many of the typical legal hoops you have to jump through to prove paternity.

It’s important that you and the father understand that signing the Recognition of Parentage form does not give the father any visitation or custody rights. It simply establishes the legal relationship between the man and the child.

The Benefits of ROP to the Father and Mother

Once the ROP is in place, the father can then petition the court to request visitation and custody rights. It also gives you the right to petition the court to force the father to provide financial support for the child, and you can obtain medical information about the father. The father also has the right to include the child on his medical and dental insurance policies. Here are the potential downsides; both parties lose the right to:

1. Genetic testing to prove fatherhood
2. Have an attorney represent them in court
3. Request a trial to prove paternity

After filing for an ROP, you can file another form to have it revoked within 60 days. If circumstances permit, you can petition a court to revoke your ROP after 60 days but within the first year, but this strategy is substantially more difficult to accomplish. If the man who signed your ROP is not the biological father of your child, and you have genetic testing to prove it, you have six months after obtaining that proof to revoke the Recognition of Parentage.

If you want to know more about ROP and paternity testing, contact a Minnesota family law attorney at 763-323-6555 right now.

Divorces are stressful affairs. The process brings a flurry of emotions: sadness, frustration, regret, and even anger. Dealing with these emotions in a productive manner promotes good mental health and may even help your case in the long run. Learn how to process your emotions the right way.

1. Take a Beat

Tempers can flare. Take a moment to process the situation before opening your mouth. Count to 10 if you’re mad. Count to 100 if you’re furious.

2. Forgive

It will be easier to let go of your anger—and move on—if you forgive. Forgiving your soon-to-be ex-spouse will make divorce proceedings more amicable.

3. Find a Distraction

Do something that makes you happy. Even amicable divorces have their moments. Make time for yourself: watch a movie, take a cooking class, start running, or try a new hobby. Having something to look forward to will take the edge off your anger and help you avoid depression.

4. Keep a Journal

Distractions may take the edge off your anger. Your negative feelings may not abate completely. Write about what’s bothering you on a regular basis. You might find the flow of the pen on paper cathartic.

5. Don’t Deny Your Feelings

Denying or repressing your anger is a recipe for disaster. It will only return more forcefully later. Acknowledge your anger, and take steps to address it. Seek counseling if needed.

6. Do Some Breathing Exercises

Take a deep breath… or two, or three. Deep breathing exercises can quell the storm inside you. Add some relaxing imagery. Recall or visit a place where you were at peace and happy.

7. Talk It Out if You Can

Talking is sometimes the only thing that can make the anger go away. You may want to talk to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Do so carefully. An attorney may advise you to avoid speaking to the other party until after the divorce proceeding. Listen to your legal counsel and only have the conversation when the time is right. Keep a level head if you do decide to talk things out. Use the above tips during your conversation.

Need insight from an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer? Call our team for a free consultation at 763-323-6555.