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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.

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.

There’s no escaping it: your divorce will be tough on your children. While they may ultimately benefit from happier parents and reduced household fighting, any change this significant is bound to be challenging. Unfortunately, the trouble doesn’t end with emotional duress; your split could have a real impact on your kids’ academic pursuits both now and years in the future.

Struggles in Math

A 2011 study published in the American Sociological Review found that children of divorce struggled to keep up with their non-divorced peers in math. Unfortunately, these issues did not disappear after the divorce; children who fell behind their peers remained behind. Interestingly, researchers didn’t see kids suffer academically until their parents’ divorce was underway.

The silver lining? Children of divorce maintained similar reading scores, perhaps because reading does not rely on cumulative knowledge to the same extent as math.

Long-Term Effects

Divorce-related academic problems in grade school may lead to further issues in high school and beyond. In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study, Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee reveal that adult children of divorce are less likely to graduate from college than their parents.

Researchers theorized that children of divorce were more likely to complete college in states that mandate child support until age 21, or for couples that planned for higher education in their divorce settlement. However, many students received support their freshman and sophomore years, but not their final two years of college. Unable to handle the financial burden, these students typically dropped out.

Careful planning can mitigate the potential academic issues associated with divorce. Call 763-323-6555 to learn how the Brown Law Offices can assist you in achieving favorable child custody and support outcomes.

It’s no secret that the divorce rate is higher for spouses with significant age gaps. But what happens when spouses of different ages decide to call it quits? The same problems that plagued them in marriage may prove evident during the divorce process.

The Realities of Retirement

Spouses at different stages in life may never see eye to eye on work and leisure, but retirement brings these differences to the forefront. Retirement may also spur financial challenges, both in marriage and divorce. The younger spouse may be dismayed by the other person’s sudden lack of income. Later, these changes play a huge role in alimony, property division, and other financial considerations.

Age Gaps and Custody

Occasionally, large age gaps between spouses may impact custody proceedings. In Minnesota, age is just one of several factors that might come into play when determining the best interests of affected children. Specifically, Minnesota courts examine “the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child’s ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time.”

While a spouse’s age may say little about his or her childrearing abilities, accompanying health issues or environmental factors could play a role. For example, courts may deem spouses with age-related chronic health conditions incapable of providing the quality of care their children require.

Age gaps can influence decision-making in marriage and divorce, but these differences don’t doom couples to courtroom drama. With strong legal guidance and the desire for a mutually beneficial outcome, couples can pull off a reasonably low-stress split, no matter their age.

As you face the realities of divorcing with an age gap, look to the Brown Law Offices for personalized legal service.

 

You’re determined to divorce your spouse. Unfortunately, this difficult decision only marks the first step in an even more challenging journey. Your relationship with your Minnesota divorce attorney may prompt a smoother path, but only if both sides communicate effectively. Keep the following in mind as you prepare for your first consultation:

Be Prepared

To communicate effectively, you need to understand your priorities and the basics of your situation. Do your homework before you meet with your attorney. Depending on your situation, this may mean outlining your goals or gathering financial documents. Your attorney will appreciate that you prepared in advance.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

There’s no room for embarrassment in an attorney-client relationship. Trust us — your lawyer has seen it all. Attempts to obfuscate the details of your divorce may feel more comfortable in the moment, but could ultimately cause huge problems. For example, in failing to disclose your ex’s abuse, you may compromise your ability to gain full custody of your children.

Know When to Ditch Minnesota Nice

As Minnesotans, we too often fall into the trap of being too ‘nice.’ In reality, our version of nice really means passive. While polite behavior is always admirable, meekness can be a problem. Don’t expect your attorney to read your mind; clearly state what you want, and why.

Don’t Overdo It

Your questions and concerns may seem pressing in the moment, but immediate contact with your attorney isn’t always the answer. Instead, take note of concerns that arise, and fill your attorney in at your next consultation. Save phone calls and emails for scheduling or settling the most urgent matters.

You don’t need Minnesota Nice in the courtroom; you need an attorney who will assertively represent your best interests. Look to the Brown Law Offices for loyal advocacy when you need it most.

 

 

ADHD’s not just for kids; experts estimate that four percent of the adult population in the United States lives with the disorder. Some mask symptoms well; others find themselves in a state of constant disarray. For many, this spills over into romantic relationships.

Your marriage is far from doomed if you or your spouse has ADHD, but it may require a little additional nurturing. Read on to learn more about the role ADHD plays in marriage (and divorce), and how you can protect your relationship.

ADHD and Divorce: The Statistics

At first glance, the numbers look grim for adults with ADHD: researchers point to a relationship maladjustment rate of nearly 60 percent. Likelihood of divorce varies based on the spouse’s age; in one study, older respondents with ADHD were twice as likely to divorce, while younger respondents saw little change in divorce likelihood.

Why Does ADHD Harm Marriages? What Can You Do About It?

As a spouse with ADHD (or married to somebody with ADHD) you’re by no means destined to divorce. However, you’ll face unique challenges that other couples easily avoid. Chief among these? Spats over cleanliness, missed deadlines, and general inattention. Non-ADHD spouses may assume that their significant other just doesn’t care. Those with ADHD are also more prone to impulsive behaviors such as drug use, gambling, or infidelity —all of which clearly cause marital conflict.

Research indicates that your marriage is far more likely to survive if you seek diagnosis and treatment. This doesn’t necessarily mean medication, although drugs prove helpful for some adults with ADHD. Others find greater success in therapy and behavioral changes (such as dietary restrictions or increased exercise). Both you and your spouse should research the disorder thoroughly to determine how it manifests itself in your marriage, and which steps can be taken to combat problematic symptoms.

As a spouse with ADHD, you need compassionate counsel from somebody who understands. Call the Brown Law Offices today to schedule your consultation; you’ll be relieved to have an understanding lawyer on your side.

Divorce brings out the worst in all of us. Unfortunately, in a digital age, the worst of us remains online indefinitely.

If you freaked out at your ex online, you’re in big trouble — records of your explosion could be used against you in court. It’s time to exercise damage control. These tactics will help you make the most of a bad situation:

Don’t Delete Your Account Just Yet

You’re mortified by your social media excess and eager to make it all go away. It would be so simple to press the ‘delete’ button. Proceed with caution. The damage has already been done. Tamper with your post (or worse, delete your account altogether) and you could be accused of ‘spoliating’ the evidence. Once you doctor published content, you’ll give the impression that you have something to hide. Your efforts could even lead to sanctions. Don’t edit or delete anything until you’ve consulted with your attorney.

Even accidental changes can cause problems. For example: in Katiroll Company, Inc. v. Kati Roll and Platters, Inc., the court claimed technical spoliation when a defendant merely changed his profile picture. Given the ease with which you can commit spoliation, it’s best to ask your attorney for guidance when in doubt.

Don’t Follow Up on Social Media

Want to make a bad situation worse? Keep the flood of information going on Facebook. Your efforts to smooth things over may actually harm your case. Don’t apologize online or try to explain your previous post.

Plan For Your Social Media Future

Learn from your mistakes. Don’t post anything else about your divorce. Other posts to avoid:

  • Any mentions of dating adventures or new relationships
  • Anything that suggests you have a lot of disposable income (such as images of new cars or pricey vacations)
  • Content that indicates your irresponsibility as a parent
  • Don’t lash out at former in-laws

The Brown Law Offices, P.A. team offers valuable insight into social media strategy during your divorce. Don’t let Facebook destroy your legal outcome — seek legal feedback at your earliest convenience.