Photo of Cynthia Brown

Cynthia Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. She is an honors graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. Cynthia's practice focuses almost exclusively on divorce and family law issues. She publishes a monthly family law column for the Minnesota Lawyer newspaper, and has contributed to Divorce Magazine and The Family Law Forum. Cynthia also serves as a panel attorney for the Anoka County Family Law Clinic.

The Thanksgiving table can be a downright awkward environment, especially after a brutal election cycle. Unfortunately, the drama is at an all-time high following President Trump’s 2016 victory. This ongoing vitriol is particularly evident in Minnesota; Democrats winning big during the 2018 midterms, our state can still be classified as purple— or at least, a decidedly violet shade of blue.

It’s certainly possible for people of different political persuasions to get along or even remain married — but it’s not easy. While most evidence of family splits prompted by political disputes are strictly anecdotal, it’s clear that political strife is causing its fair share of problems, as we describe below:

Political Tension

Money and chores are often thought of as the chief source of argument between modern couples, but politics can also prompt significant tension. This observation is backed up by research; a notable Wakefield studyindicates that 29 percent of married or romantically attached Americans have suffered tension in their relationships due to the current divisive political climate. Furthermore, one in ten respondents admitted to ending a relationship due to political issues.

Life Goals and Philosophies

In marriage, political disputes do not merely reflect mild differences in opinion; they can indicate opposing philosophies and even glaring incompatibilities. For example: research suggests that liberals are more likely to be adventurous and receptive to new experiences, while conservatives tend to prefer routine. Such differences can cause difficulties even for couples who otherwise share similar political views.

Whether your divorce was spurred by a political dispute or some other source of tension, you deserve support from a compassionate attorney who understands your situation. Look to the Brown Law Offices for guidance through every phase of the divorce process.

Divorces are rarely as amicable as spouses desire, but most spouses are at least able to limit their aggression to verbal outbursts in court. Sadly, for some spouses, divorce is more than a battle over property or child support; it is, quite literally, a life-or-death situation. It is far from unheard of for spouses to lash out upon learning of their impending separation. Sometimes, the consequences are deadly.

Why Divorce Triggers Violence

Domestic violence is far too prominent in modern marriages, but in some cases, the real threat begins after couples have separated. The presence of children doesn’t mitigate the problem, but rather, appears to be correlated with domestic violence. According to a 2012 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women living with children but without a spouse suffer intimate partner violence at ten times the rate of those living with both spouses and children.

What Can Be Done to Protect Spouses?

In most cases, spouses need not fear for their safety when filing for divorce. For others, however, warning signs may exist. How spouses respond to mere discussions of divorce can say a lot about how they’ll react if actually presented with papers. Additionally, a history of violence within the marriage could strongly indicate the potential for even worse conduct during the divorce.

If you suspect that you may be at risk upon filing for divorce, it may be worth your while to pursue an Order for Protection. Often referred to as a restraining order, this legal action can provide some semblance of protection as you proceed with your divorce. If you successfully secure a restraining order, your ex will be prohibited from contacting you for a specific period of time.

Whether you desire a restraining order or are looking to file for divorce, you can count on the Brown Law Offices for assistance. Reach out to learn more about our broad range of family law services.

Blended families are increasingly common, especially as many parents bypass marriage altogether. Whether parents split through divorce or legal separation, their family’s classification as blended can cause unique complications. Below, we examine some of the most common issues Minnesota parents face when divorcing for the second or third time:

Custody And Visitation

For blended families, arrangements regarding parenting time are rarely straightforward — especially when stepchildren are involved. If you or your spouse brought children from another relationship into your marriage, visitation and custody are by no means guaranteed following divorce. In resolving these issues, courts consider whether the stepparent has legally adopted his or her stepchildren — and whether visitation would be in the children’s best interests. Petitioners must demonstrate clear emotional ties that reflect parent-child relationships. Furthermore, petitioning stepparents must prove that visitation rights would not harm the child’s relationship with his or her biological parents.

Child Support

In addition to impacting visitation arrangements, second or third divorces can hold significant financial implications — namely, in regards to child support. Minnesota courts may take into account both children from the currently dissolving marriage and those from previous relationships. Parentage and step-parentage also play a critical role; stepparents may owe child support if they have legally adopted their stepchildren.

Given the complexity of divorce in blended families, it is absolutely imperative that you work with a skilled family lawyer. Whether your primary concerns involve child custody, visitation, or support, your attorney can help you arrive at the best possible outcome for both you and your family — no matter its size or scope.

Whether you’re on your first, second, or third divorce, the team at the Brown Law Offices can help. Get in touch today to learn more about our approach to blended family divorces.

 

The holidays can be a minefield for any family, but they’re particularly tricky for ex-spouses who must interact for the sake of their children. Try as you might, ignoring your ex just isn’t an option. You’ll find it far easier to keep your cool if you frame every interaction as an opportunity to set a positive example for your kids. The following etiquette best practices should also help you get through this tough time of year:

Compromise on Gifts

In some families, gift giving quickly becomes a competition to garner the child’s favor. Other parents prefer to provide gifts jointly — but this can also lead to conflict. Discuss gifts well in advance to get an idea for what your children want and what monetary value is acceptable to both parents. If you take issue with a particular gift, don’t gripe about it during holiday celebrations; wait until later to bring it up between the two of you.

Attend Holiday Programs

Sometimes, trading off on holidays is the only option, especially as you deal with large family gatherings in various locations. With school and extracurricular programs, however, missing is not an option. That holiday chorale or Nutcracker performance might not seem like a big deal, but your child will be crushed if you skip. You don’t need to sit next to your ex, but don’t be afraid to attend if he or she is also in the audience.

Don’t Shut Out the Former In-Laws

Your children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins should continue to play a key role in their lives, even after the pain of divorce. Scheduling won’t be easy as you strive to carve out time for multiple holiday functions, but it’s important to save time for both sides of the family.

Whether you’re in the midst of divorce or dealing with the aftermath, you can benefit from compassionate counsel and proactive representation. You’ll find both at the Brown Law Offices. Reach out today to learn more.

As the grandparent of children impacted by divorce, you’re understandably concerned about your future role in your grandchildren’s lives. Thankfully, it may still be possible to maintain a strong relationship with your grandchildren. Read on to learn the basics of grandparent rights in Minnesota:

When Are Visitation Rights Awarded to Grandparents?

In Minnesota, it is generally presumed that grandparents will enjoy contact with their grandchildren during their own child’s visitation time. This is not always possible, however. For example, grandparents may seek visitation rights in court if their grandchild’s parent passes away. Likewise, grandparents can obtain visitation rights if their grandchildren have resided with them for at least twelve months. Visitation may also be possible for grandparents significantly involved in aspects of the dissolution process such as custody or parentage proceedings.

In addition to abiding by the restrictions outlined above, Minnesota courts only award grandparents and other third-party individuals visitation rights if they are deemed in the best interest of the child. Courts typically do not award grandparent visitation if they believe it will negatively impact parent-child relationships.

What About Grandparent Custody?

Grandparent custody is often confused with visitation, but they are entirely different matters. While many grandparents simply want to spend time with their grandchildren, some may seek custody if they feel that parent custody could prove harmful.

In Minnesota, grandparent custody cases typically fall under the scope of third-party custody. To achieve custody, grandparents must demonstrate that children have been abandoned, neglected, or have otherwise suffered extraordinary circumstances that place grandparent custody above the court’s stated priority of maintaining strong parent-child relationships.

Divorce should not harm your relationship with your grandchildren. Look to the team at the Brown Law Offices for assistance with grandparent custody and visitation.

It’s no secret that adoption is expensive. Estimates vary, but according to a study of 1,100 published in Adoptive Families Magazine, the average family spends $39,966 adopting through an agency and $34,093 in open adoption. If you’re dealing with a limited income, these figures might make adoption seem out of the question. The good news? It’s possible to adopt without spending a fortune, as we demonstrate below:

Stick With Domestic Adoption

Although any adoption will strain your budget, international adoptions are notoriously expensive. Location matters; statistics from Adoptive Families Magazine indicate that adoptions from South Korea and Ethiopia are far more expensive than those from China. Still, domestic adoptions are nearly always more affordable than international proceedings.

If both international and conventional adoptions are out of the question, foster care adoption may be a viable alternative. Although challenging, this approach makes adoption feasible in families that otherwise cannot afford agency fees or birth mother expenses. Be aware that foster adoptions tend to involve older children or teenagers.

Take Advantage of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit

To ease the financial burden of adoption, the federal government provides a one-time tax credit. This credit is not refundable; you’ll only benefit if you owe taxes. What’s more, you’ll receive no more than your total liability. For example, if you owe $5,000 in taxes, you’ll receive a $5,000 tax credit rather than the maximum.

In 2018, the maximum available adoption tax credit reached $13,840. This figure increases annually alongside the cost of living. Additionally, income limits may apply based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI).

If you’re struggling with the financial or legal concerns of adoption, seek counsel from the Brown Law Offices. Get in touch today to learn more about the adoption process—and how the Brown Law Offices team can help.

Domestic violence plagues far too many households, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. In our last article, we highlighted several resources available to suffering Minnesotans — but we merely scratched the surface. Additional resources are explored in detail below:

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

Featuring ninety regional programs throughout the state, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) is one of the area’s strongest advocates for female victims of abuse. MCBW operates Minnesota’s edition of the Clothesline Project, which serves as a poignant memorial of those who lost their lives to domestic violence.

Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) provides valuable community connections in hopes of healing the trauma of past abuse and preventing future sexual violence. The organization plays a vital role in shaping public policy. Additionally, MNCASA operates a Sexual Violence Justice Institute, which offers valuable training for a variety of advocates. While MNCASA does not currently provide direct advocacy services for domestic violence victims, it remains an invaluable resource for learning about the scope of the problem in the state of Minnesota — and potential long-term solutions.

Sojourner Project

Named in honor of Sojourner Truth, the Sojourner Project is committed to supporting and providing hope for victims of domestic violence. The program maintains a 24-hour crisis phone line, an emergency shelter, and support groups. The Sojourner Project’s outreach program helps community members understand how domestic violence impacts not only victims, but also their loved ones and entire communities.

As a victim of domestic violence, you are not as alone as you might feel. Your attorney can serve as your loyal advocate while providing the legal protection you deserve. Contact the Brown Law Offices today to learn more about your options.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have been subject to some form of domestic violence. Unfortunately, this threat is alive and well in Minnesota; a report from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women suggests that 24 Minnesotans died at the hands of abusers in 2017. Many others suffer quietly for years.

If you’ve suffered domestic violence, we’re here to let you know you’re not alone. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the following resources:

Domestic Abuse Service Center

Located on the Hennepin County Government Center’s lower level, the Domestic Abuse Service Center offers a variety of services in a safe and private setting. The center’s diverse staff members help visitors obtain access to safety plans, housing, family-focused agencies, and more.

Domestic Abuse Project

The Twin Cities-focused Domestic Abuse Projectuses an innovative approach to address the cycle of abuse. From crisis intervention to trauma-informed therapy, the non-profit organization welcomes community members with open arms. DAP’s latest program provides a unique approach with which active military personnel and veterans can relate.

St. Paul & Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project

Serving over 5,600 domestic violence victims every year, the St. Paul & Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project provides support via a 24/7 hotline and crisis intervention services. The program also operates a victim service center known as Bridges to Safety. Other services address family transitional needs, community outreach, and health care advocacy.

It’s time to bring the cycle of domestic violence to an end. The Brown Law Offices can help. Contact us today to learn how we can support you through this ordeal and help you begin a better, brighter life — free of abuse.

Spouses complain endlessly about in-laws, but not even divorce will end these gripes. Once your marriage ends, you may encounter a whole host of unexpected in-law issues, as outlined below:

Losing Your Second Family

If you were lucky, you enjoyed a strong relationship with your in-laws while married. You felt like accepted, or, perhaps, secretly preferred your in-laws to your own family. Now, members of that second family feel conflicted. You may see previously friendly in-laws displaying unexpected vitriol. In this way, your romantic split could spell the loss of several valued relationships. Unfortunately, there is little you can do beyond remaining cordial.

Pitting Your Children Against You

If your former in-laws spend extensive time with their grandchildren, watch out: their resentment could alter how your kids think about or act around you. Don’t return the favor by talking smack about your ex-in-laws while your kids are around; this is your opportunity to teach a lesson about taking the high road. If your former in-laws’ efforts infringe on your parental rights or visitation time, seek support from an attorney.

Encouraging a Contentious Divorce

Perhaps you and your ex prefer to resolve your differences through mediation—too bad your former in-laws don’t feel the same way. Vengeful relatives may encourage your ex to seek a more adversarial approach than originally intended. They may convince your ex that agreed-upon alimony or child support levels are unfair—or that your ex deserves a greater share of divided property. No matter which divorce approach you end up pursuing, your attorney can help you prepare for and navigate the process to achieve a desirable outcome.

Your approach to divorce could determine how much your former in-laws interfere with your new life. The Brown Law Offices can help you every step of the way, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Regardless of custody and parenting time, divorce is bound to mess with your child care schedule. You may be forced to work extra hours to make ends meet…and when you’re not on the job, you can probably be found in mediation or court. If you don’t already have a nanny with plenty of time available to watch your children, you’ll want to find one sooner than later. Keep these strategies in mind as you begin this important search:

Ask Loved Ones For Recommendations

In an internet age, word of mouth remains one of your best tools for finding quality child care. Ask friends, coworkers, siblings, or even past nannies for recommendations.

Do Your Homework

If you seek a nanny online, take a close look at LinkedIn and other social media accounts. This will grant you a better feel for your future nanny’s credentials and conduct.

Aim For Consistency

As you seek a nanny, maintain scheduling and consistency as chief priorities. Your child’s routine will see enough shakeups as is; constant changes in nannies (or their timeline) will make this period more stressful than it needs to be.

Let prospective nannies know of your family’s situation. Be upfront about scheduling demands.

Including Child Care in Your Parenting Plan

If you work with your ex to develop a parenting plan, highlight nanny and babysitting arrangements as a key consideration. Your parenting plan can stipulate notification or even approval of new child care providers. Unless specifically specified in your plan, you’ll hold little sway in how your ex handles child care during his or her parenting time.

As you move forward with your parenting plan and other custody considerations, don’t hesitate to contact the Brown Law Offices at 763-323-6555. Our team will carefully guide you through every step of the custody process.