Family Court: A Few Simple Rules To Follow

Thanks to Mark Pfenning, a divorce lawyer and author who has published many articles geared toward helping parties through the divorce process. His recent article, Divorce Courtroom Tips, provides some helpful strategies and a useful summary of the basic rules of decorumin family court. Here’s what Mark has to say:

  1. Settle Some Things. This means the judge won’t be in control of everything.
  2. Expect Unfavorable Decisions. There are three directions the judge can go when making a decision: Your way, your spouse’s way, or the Judge’s way. As you can see, two out three are not in your favor.
  3. Let Your Divorce Attorney Do the Talking. Do not speak unless asked to do so by the Judge.
  4. Respect is an Absolute. When addressing the Judge with respect by addressing him/her as “Your Honor.”
  5. Don’t Address Your Spouse. Never speak to or make comments to your spouse when you are before the Judge.
  6. Check Your Emotions at the Door. Do not make faces or gestures when the judge or your spouse’s attorney is speaking. Judges see this and do not appreciate it.
  7. Dress for the Occasion. Your attorney will have a certain strategy on how he/she wants you to be portrayed. Therefore, consult your attorney on how he/she wants you to dress.
  8. Write. Don’t leave anything to chance. Your attorney will be very busy during the process and cannot remember or write everything down.
  9. Come Prepared. Bring as much information, documentation and any pertinent documents that you possibly can with you. It is better to have too much ammunition than not enough.
  10. Be Ready to Wait. You will sometimes wait for hours before your case is called.

Good suggestions. We would also suggest leaving all digital devices in the car. We recall a lawyer whose cell phone rang in the middle of his intense cross examination of our client in a recent trial. The more memorable impression was the expression on the judge’s face.

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Podcast: Two Years of Litigation In Ten Minutes: Overview Of The Contested Divorce Process in Minnesota

The latest installment of The Family Law Show is ready for your inspection: “Two Years of Litigation in Ten Minutes.” We provide a brief overview of how divorce cases are litigated.

The vast majority of the cases we handle settle short of trial. But, even in those situations, the litigants should understand how the process unfolds.

Topics addressed in this podcast include the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce, the initial case workup, service of the summons and petition, temporary motions, mediation, pre-trial conferences, discovery, experts, trials and appeals.

Run Time: 10:52

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Podcast: Four Ways To The End: Pathways To Concluding A Divorce

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.

Run Time: 14:01

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The Four Phases Of A Contested Divorce In Minnesota

About half the cases we handle are more contested divorces. These are marital dissolution cases in which the litigants don’t expect to reach agreement early and, instead, need the intervention of the court system in order to reach a resolution.

These divorces typically involve four distinct segments.

The first segment of work in a contested case involves the case workup. This is where we put together the initial pleadings in the case and serve and file them. You will complete an initial questionnaire and provide documentation to us so that we can adequately move forward and understand exactly what relief is sought.

Following the service of the summons and petition, we will participate in what’s called an initial case management conference. This is a first meeting with the judge, on an informal basis, to talk about the issues that are in controversy. The court, at that point, might refer the matter for an early neutral evaluation. This is a process where the parties can meet with a court-appointed expert and try to settle the case before becoming too entrenched.

If matters don’t resolve at the early neutral stage, then we move into the next phase – called discovery. This is a process where we’re going to gather information from your spouse. We may do so formally, or informally.

In addition, we may elect to schedule a motion for temporary relief. This is a hearing in which the court will make a determination, on a temporary basis, of who is going to reside in the homestead, who is going to have temporary custody of the children, and what sort of temporary alimony, or child support awards, are appropriate. Quite often cases will settle following the entry of a temporary order, because the parties have a preview into how the judge views the facts of the case.

However, if the case has to continue, we will position your case for the settlement stage. We’re going to attempt to work out matters either through mediation, or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.

If we’re not able to work it out, the court will call us back in, and we will participate in a pre-trial conference, where we’re going to try one last time to get the case settled, with the assistance of the judge.

The fourth phase involves preparation for and actually trying the case. The judge has 90 days to issue a written decision following the end of the trial, and if either party is dissatisfied with the outcome, they have an additional 60 days in which to file an appeal.

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