Archives: Divorce

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.

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.

What happens when a married couple in Minnesota files for divorce, and one of them receives disability benefits? How will spousal maintenance, child support and the disability benefits themselves be affected? The outcome depends on the definition of marital property, how that marital property will be divided and the nature of the benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is considered household income under Minnesota law, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not. This distinction comes into play in certain circumstances regarding spousal maintenance and child support.

SSDI, SSI and Marital Property in Minnesota

Since Minnesota is not a community property state, how disability benefits are split when a marriage dissolves depends on a number of factors. These include:

•    Both spouse’s financial standing;
•    Each spouse’s sources of income;
•    How long the couple was married; and
•    Who ends up with custody of the children

Other factors may also come into play – for instance, if these are any special needs children in the family who also receive benefits.

Disability Benefits and Spousal Maintenance

A spouse receiving SSI benefits may see a reduction in benefits if they receive spousal maintenance. SSDI is generally not affected by alimony. For that reason, you might consider other equitable distribution options, such as adjustments to other property awards.

On August 1, 2016, a Minnesota law went into effect that reduces or terminates spousal maintenance if the receiving spouse cohabitates with another partner after the divorce.

SSI, SSDI and Child Support

Child support offers its own challenges. For instance, let’s say a child receives SSI, and the spouse with custody is awarded child support. That arrangement will affect the child’s SSI benefits. As an alternative, you could ask that child support be placed in a special needs trust (SNT). If a child receives SSDI based on a parent’s disability, the court will likely take that factor into account when establishing child support.

Divorce can get ugly without the complications of travel. However, if you travel a lot for business, and you find yourself involved in a divorce, you could find yourself under heavy stress. Here are five ways you can deal with your divorce and extensive business travel.

1.    Plunge ahead – If there are no children or pets involved, you could easily get away with traveling for your job. Whether you are an entrepreneur or business owner, a high-level executive, or you simply work in an occupation that requires travel (airline pilot, for instance), there is no need to change your lifestyle if your divorce won’t affect anyone but you and your spouse.

2.    Cut back on the travel – On the other hand, if you could lose custody of your children, or you are afraid your spouse may end up with custody more often, then you could strategically curb your trips. This is the course of action many entrepreneurs have taken. Being the owner of a business can be an advantage. If you’re an employee, check with your boss to see if this is an option.

3.    Change careers – If cutting back on the hours is not an option, and you want to ensure that you have joint custody of the children with your spouse, consider making an abrupt move, like changing careers or radically rethinking your position. Look for something that doesn’t require travel.

4.    Change your travel destinations – If possible, try to alter your travel destinations so that you aren’t away from home as often or for shorter periods of time. If you’re a truck driver, for instance, you might ask to make shorter runs or handle more local routes.

5.    Negotiate with your spouse – Many spouses will work with their former partners for the benefit of future relations and the sake of the children. Talk it out.

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.

 

As you contemplate divorce, we understand you probably feel uncertain about things. We’re here to help.

Do I need a lawyer? What if my case is uncontested? Are you an aggressive an attorney? How much will my divorce cost? How long will it take?

In this podcast, Jason Brown provides answers to the most common questions our attorneys get asked during an initial consultation.

 

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.

For years, as a parent, your life revolved around your kids’ schedules, leaving little to no time to spend with your spouse. When the children finally leave home, you may find yourself living with a complete stranger. Without common obligations and experiences holding the marriage together, you may feel strong pressure to separate or at least to reevaluate the relationship on a fundamental level.
This “empty nest” challenge is a surprisingly common one in modern America. Today, people aged 50 and older have a 1 in 4 chance of getting a divorce. More than half of those marriages lasted over 20 years before the couple decided to split.

Research highlights simple, if poignant truths about these break ups. For most empty nest divorces, the marriage does not end due to any discord in the relationship. Instead, the couple simply grows apart. They no longer share the same interests or enjoy doing things together. They stayed together for the sake of the children but lacked enduring reasons to continue forward.

Cultural expectations of marriage have likely shifted as well. Per some (but not all) analyses of health trends in America, Baby Boomers are living longer, healthier lives than previous generations. “60” may be the new “50,” and many Boomers (and late Gen-Exers with grown children) recoil at the notion that they must “make due” with the status quo in any arena of life. Caught in a late-mid-life crisis, these people struggle to redefine who they are and what they desire for their remaining years. Imagining the next 20 years, a newly liberated parent might want to pursue new hobbies, careers, or interests out of step with what the other spouse has in mind.

There’s also the biological factor. As the body ages, hormone levels change, and these fundamental physiological shifts in turn affect how people feel and relate to one another. For instance, women’s levels of oxcytocin – a hormone that encourages nurturing – generally decrease during menopause, causing their interests and desires to shift accordingly. They may feel less drive to “nest” and more of an inclination to travel, check things off “bucket lists,” reconnect with friends and community, and otherwise shake up the routine. Men also experience hormonal shifts as they age, most notably with respect to changes in levels of androgens like testosterone.

Taken together, these cultural, logistical and biological changes that occur in empty nesters can force realignments in priorities and compel even relatively contented couples to reimagine their roles as they relate to the world and to one another.

In Minnesota, judges require couples to go through mediation before granting divorce. In some cases, couples find that an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process like mediation or collaborative divorce helps resolve conflicts, separate martial assets peacefully, and prevent costly, dispiriting litigation.

If you plan to divorce, you will face numerous concerns. One of the greatest will likely involve how to manage your money. Whether you initiated the divorce or not, chances are your finances will take a huge hit: data show that income drops by more than 40 percent for women and by about 25 percent for men during divorce. Couples who divorce in their 40s or 50s also face the problem of fewer years to prepare for retirement, and with life expectancy lasting into the 80s for women, people need to stretch their dollars further than ever. The following budgeting dos and don’ts for newly separated couples can help you prepare.

Tip #1 — Do Plan Ahead – Don’t Overspend

Sit down with a financial planner, and take a hard look at your finances, including your retirement plans. Consider the timing of your retirement and what it will take to set up a comfortable future. Don’t assume that your ex will plan for your future or keep your best interests at heart.

Tip #2 — Review All Debts and Assets – Don’t Take Your Partner’s Word

Minnesota is not a community property state; instead, the courts divide property based on a legal idea called equitable distribution. In other words, the judge will determine what’s fair when splitting up assets and debts. Nevertheless, you could still be responsible for some of your ex’s debt, even if the debt was incurred under his or her name. Keep track of all records, and make copies of all relevant documents, including taxes, banking information, credit card statements, deeds, car registrations and anything else that your attorney suggests. If you have separate property, track the paperwork to verify that it is solely your property.

Tip #3 — Do Assess the Value of the Home – Don’t Refuse to Sell the House

A house can be a money pit, and it might make better sense to sell it, instead placing the money into something like a retirement account.

Tip #4 — Do Consider Social Benefits – Don’t Forget Your Spouse’s Earnings

Even if you worked for much of your life, you might be entitled to your spouse’s Social Security benefits under the following conditions:

•    You are at least 62;
•    You were married at least 10 years;
•    You did not remarry; and
•    Your spouse’s earnings qualify you for a higher benefit than your own earnings.

Even if your spouse remarries, you are still eligible for these benefits.

Tip #5 — Do Review Tax Consequences – Don’t Necessarily Take a Lump Payoff for Alimony or Retirement

With the help of a tax consultant, consider which option makes more sense for you. Tax considerations can affect the sale of the home, the division of assets and the establishment of alimony and child support payments.

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.

Going through a divorce awakens a plethora of conflicting emotions that can leave you drained and confused. Friends and family members might ask how they can help, but you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to start. Read through the following list for inspiration.

Take the Children

Ask a trusted friend to watch your children for the afternoon or even overnight, so that you can have time to process all of the changes that you are experiencing. Maybe your friend can take them to a movie or work on a creative project with them.

Help with Moving

Let’s face it: moving is exhausting under the best of circumstances. When you are going through a divorce, and you absolutely have to move, the pressure and frustration seem multiplied. Get all hands on deck. Even if someone can only help out for an hour or two, his or her encouraging presence and physical efforts will likely make the job easier.

Share a Meal or Even Just Coffee Together

Relax over brunch or even just a cup of coffee as you chat about inconsequential matters or have a deep, heart-to-heart conversation.

Help with Household Chores

Solicit assistance with diverse tasks, such as handyman jobs, mowing the lawn, changing the smoke detector batteries, climbing a ladder to switch out lightbulbs, washing dishes and vacuuming. Don’t be afraid to ask for practical help from your friends.

Help with Rides and Transportation

From school to playdates to sporting or music events, sometimes parents need to be in two places at once. Ask a friend to chauffeur the kids to reduce your stress.

Give a Hug

Sometimes physical touch is just the thing you need. Per the New York Times, “neuroscientists have learned that when humans get emotionally upset, our bodies react to manage the increased energy. These physical reactions bring discomfort at best and at worst are unbearable. What can we do to obtain immediate help when we are distressed so that we don’t have to resort to superficial balms like drugs or psychological mechanisms like repression? What kind of relief is affordable, efficient, effective and nontoxic? The answer is touch. Hugs and other forms of nonsexual physical soothing, like hand-holding and head stroking, intervene at the physical level to help the brain and the body calm down from overwhelming states of anxiety, panic and shame.”

Lend a Listening Ear

You might need someone to just listen. Don’t worry if you cry, even if you’re a man. Divorce is emotionally draining, and you need a soft place to fall.