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.

 

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.

Blame it on television, movies, or messy celebrity splits — divorce has a reputation for being a contentious, litigation-based affair, with little room for compromise. Those who have not navigated the divorce process may envision couples screaming and yelling at each other in the courtroom as the judge tries in vain to keep the peace.  Thankfully, this level of divorce drama is no longer a reality for most couples, as mediation allows spouses to complete divorce proceedings in a calm, mature manner.

How Does Mediation Work?

The ultimate goal of mediation is to keep divorce out of the courtroom. Instead of a judge looming over the case, a third-party mediator is hired to act as a peace broker. The mediator listens carefully to both spouses as they voice their concerns, and, from there, offers detailed feedback and possible solutions. A skilled mediator can thereby make the divorce process feel more like an amicable bartering session than a messy courtroom battle.

Mediation and the Science of Cooperation

Millions of years of evolution have convinced people that competition is always better, whether in the classroom, at work, or in divorce court. This impulse can be difficult to overcome, but as Harvard University Professor of Biology Martin Nowak points out, there is great value in ignoring the competitive instinct and opting for cooperation. In his book “SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed,” Nowak explains that successful cooperation often involves a “tit for tat” approach, along with an emphasis on generosity, forgiveness, and optimism. Mediation incorporates all three qualities — and that’s exactly why so many couples exit the mediation process feeling satisfied with the results, despite having made certain concessions.

Mediation works well because it calls upon spouses to be their best selves, even in the face of significant disagreement. When spouses work together, they can achieve favorable outcomes, all while keeping the stress and anxiety associated with divorce to a minimum.

If you choose to settle your differences with your ex through mediation, you can still retain legal counsel from a trusted Minnesota family attorney. Look to the Brown Law Offices, P.A. for compassionate counsel.

We’ve all heard of the “seven-year itch.” It’s the time when couples get bored in a relationship and crave something new. Is there any credence to this idea, or is it just another old wives’ tale? Leading experts in human psychology say there’s no simple answer.

Austrian philosopher and Rudolf Steiner created the “seven-year itch” theory. He theorized that we experience life in seven-year cycles. We experience seismic changes in physical and intellectual experience. We’re more likely to have instability in our relationships and divorce. The theory was so popular that it led to the production of a Marilyn Monroe movie of the same name in 1955.

Some think the seven-year itch is the result of raising children through the infant years. It’s a time that takes a toll on the relationship. Others think it’s simply the average time those annoying habits become intolerable.

The Which Year Itch?

Wright State University psychology professor Larry Kurdek conducted a study in 1999 that found both the four- and seven-year itch may be true. It concluded that couples tended to experience two periods of decreased marital quality: once at the four-year mark and another at the seven-year mark. Parents of young children were more likely to experience a rapid decrease in marital quality.

Another study in 2010 found that couples were most likely to divorce at the 12-year mark. The study analyzed information from 90 law firms. It found that most couples spent a decade together before going their separate ways.

Then the parenting website Netmums conducted a survey in 2012 that examined the relationship between parents. Nearly half of the 1,500 respondents said that having a child drove them apart. Parents were most likely to split at the three-year mark as opposed to the seven-year mark. The website’s founder hypothesized that ticking biological clocks rushed couples into marriage. The couples later realized that they weren’t right for one another.

So Who’s Right?

The mixed results of each study indicate that divorce can happen at any age. Couples who don’t prioritize their marriages are more likely to divorce than those who do. Your relationship may fall apart if you don’t spend time working on it.

Ending a marriage at any stage touches off an emotional storm and raises lots of legal questions. Call a compassionate, seasoned Minnesota divorce lawyer today at 763-323-6555 for a private consultation.

You’ve filed for divorce. It’s a process that can take plenty of time even when uncontested. Your lawyer will likely advise you to avoid contact with your ex at this time, but checking in on them on social media can be tempting. Resist the urge to check his or her Facebook page: it’s unproductive emotionally, and it may even affect your case.

Social media is a useful tool for many things, but it’s made divorces more difficult. It means we have to see our ex’s posts every day. Lawyers may even scour your Facebook page for incriminating information. For example, say you’re in the negotiating stage of spousal support, and you’re posting information about your latest shopping acquisitions. Lawyers could use such posts as evidence of disposable income.

Use these the following good social media habits during a divorce:.

Watch What You Post

If you’re feeling frustrated about the latest blip in your divorce proceeding, it can be quite tempting to vent on Facebook. Such an act may negatively affect your case. Join a private support divorce group, or talk to friends privately. It’s healthy to talk through your emotions but not in a public medium.

Keep your soon-to-be ex-spouse and children out of all your status updates. Refrain from commenting on your days in court or any communications from the other side. Post about other things. Save your arguments for your lawyer and the courtroom.

Check Your Privacy Settings

Block your soon-to-be ex-spouse on Facebook and other social media outlets to avoid temptation. Such an act will prevent you from seeing his or her status updates. It also prevents him or her from finding you. Check your privacy settings on all social media outlets to see who can find your page and what information is available to the publicpublic— – and  lawyers..

Step Away From the Computer

Divorces are emotionally trying proceedings. Checking Facebook constantly won’t help you feel better. It may actually make you feel worse. Get away from your virtual friends, and start spending time with your real world ones. Get out of your house for a night: see a movie, get dinner, or organize a game night. Socializing with others will take your mind away from your current situation. Sitting at home and posting on social media will make you yearn for what you’re missing.

Learn what you need to do to obtain the outcome you need and to avoid complications as you separate from your spouse. Our qualified Minnesota divorce lawyers offer free consultations: call us now at 763-323-6555.

Just as finances can be a major source of contention in a marriage, they can be even more so during a divorce. Disentangling your ex-spouse’s finances from your own may be no simple task, especially with shared assets like home and vehicles, or with shared debts. This process can be even more complicated with an uncooperative ex, or one who happens to be fiscally irresponsible.

You might be tempted to avoid or procrastinate the task of financial disentanglement, but resist this temptation to protect both your assets and your credit. Some of the details of dividing larger assets will obviously be worked out during the divorce settlement negotiations, but for now, here are some steps you can take now to begin disentangling your ex-spouse’s finances from your own.

Set up your own bank accounts

If you haven’t done so already, open up a basic checking and savings account in your own name, and start paying bills and depositing paychecks into that account. If you still hold joint bank accounts with your ex, close these accounts as soon as possible, but do not attempt to withdraw funds without talking to your divorce attorney first, as these funds may be restricted until a divorce settlement is reached. When it comes to your own income, however, you should gain sole control of these funds as quickly as possible.

Separating credit card accounts

For any revolving credit card accounts you share with your ex, take these steps now to begin the disentanglement process:

•    Close any joint credit cards you have with your ex-spouse as soon as possible. This protects you from being held responsible if your ex decides to go on a shopping spree.

•    De-authorize your ex on any credit cards for which you are the primary cardholder.

•    Disentangle from joint cards with existing balances by opening up new cards separately and performing balance transfers. You and your ex will need to agree to how much of the debt each of you should pay, but once that’s decided, transferring those balances to your own individual credit cards will start the process of separating your shared credit history—plus, you won’t have the added worry of making sure the joint cards are being paid on time.

For larger assets like homes, cars and shared business interests, disentangling your finances will be a more complex matter reserved for the divorce settlement negotiations. But taking steps now to separate finances on a smaller scale can help you get a head start on financial stability as a single person.