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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 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.

The best spouses know how to listen. As you discovered in our last post, it’s not as easy as it seems. In this portion of our two-part series, we offer several additional resources to draw upon in your quest to improve your listening skills.

Psychology Today: Deep Listening in Personal Relationships

This article from Diane Raab explores the research on deep listening and how it can transform relationships. Raab reminds readers that listening is contagious —and that, while some people are natural listeners, this is typically an acquired skill.

Forbes: 10 Steps to Effective Listening

Let Forbes break down listening for you in the clearest and most concise manner possible. After this quick read, you’ll know exactly what it takes to be a good listener.

Dr. Phil’s Six Rules for Talking and Listening

When in doubt, look to Dr. Phil for help. In this Oprah.com feature, he offers tactics for becoming a two-way communicator. He insists on establishing your motive, telling it like it is, and checking in with your spouse on a regular basis. He offers clear examples of active listening, which can transform your relationship.

The Lost Art of Listening: How Listening Can Improve Relationships

Therapist Mike Nichols knows a thing or two about the damage caused by a spouse’s failure to listen. In his award-winning book, Nichols offers easy-to-learn techniques for amping up your listening game. You’ll learn the art of deep listening and apply it to every aspect of your life.

The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction

Grounded in the spirit of mindfulness, this transformative book will convince you to embrace the all-encompassing practice of listening. Implement its tenets into daily life, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly your relationships improve.

Listening is like a muscle; it takes time and effort to strengthen this essential ability. Commit yourself to being a better listener, and you just might avoid the pitfalls that ended your last relationship.

Don’t settle for an attorney who doesn’t listen to your concerns. The Brown Law Offices, P.A. is the perfect resource for your difficult situation. Get in touch today to learn more.

Effective communication is the foundation of any working relationship. It’s particularly important in marriage, and yet, many couples struggle to truly listen to one another. Thankfully, it’s possible to build this skill over time. If poor listening contributed to your marriage’s demise, take action now to save future relationships. These resources will help:

Julian Treasure: 5 Ways to Listen Better

In this useful TED talk, sound expert Julian Treasure shares several quick fixes to improve conscious listening. Implement this actionable advice into your life ASAP to recalibrate your senses and improve your relationships.

The Power of Listening

Another TED presentation worth checking out: William Ury’s talk from TEDx San Diego. The co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, Ury understands the transformative impact listening can have in personal relationships and on a broader scale. This presentation will inspire you to join the listening revolution.

TED Radio Hour: The Act of Listening

When in doubt, turn to TED. This podcast and radio show compiles the best moments from talks on listening that…make you sit up and listen. After this podcast, you’ll understand how listening can transform your life.

Tony Robbins: Skills For Every Relationship

Inspirational guru Tony Robbins believes that you cannot succeed in a relationship until you master these key skills: selection and connection. He claims that the happiest spouses are each others’ ‘raving fans.’ You’ll learn how to pay attention and cheer on your spouse in this nine-minute clip from one of Robbins’ presentations.

Listen: The Movie

No, this movie is not about listening in marriage. Yes, it can still empower you in your next relationship. This film will convince you to make a difference in whatever small way you can — beginning with your spouse and your family.

Listening is key to a successful attorney-client relationship. With the team from the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in your corner, you can feel confident that your every concern is heard. Reach out at your earliest convenience to schedule a case consultation.

Your spouse cheated, and you’re furious. Like virtually everybody in this horrific situation, you’re tempted to end your relationship right now. You certainly wouldn’t be alone in this decision; in a notable National Institute of Health study, infidelity was one of the most frequently cited reasons for divorce. Keep the following in mind as you make a seemingly impossible decision:

Reasons to Divorce

Trust is integral to any relationship. Infidelity implies a complete breakdown of all trust. This, alone, could be reason for divorce. Cheating also destroys bonds of exclusivity. The non-cheating partner no longer feels special; this revelation can be particularly devastating.

Often, cheating is just one of several factors that lead to divorce. If your relationship is already struggling, infidelity may be the final straw. With so many signs pointing to divorce, it may be more difficult to justify attempts at rebuilding.

Reasons to Remain Married

Repairing your relationship will be difficult, but it’s definitely possible. Many couples actually report feeling closer after infidelity — not because of the cheating itself, but because it prompted them to put more work into their relationship. Top motivating factors for sticking it out include:

  • Having children together
  • Owning property together
  • Running a business together

These factors are all extrinsic, but they can be powerful. Of course, they’re more compelling if the relationship has a strong foundation — and if the cheating spouse shows remorse.

Unfortunately, there is no prescription that all spouses dealing with infidelity can follow. Now that you’ve learned of your spouse’s betrayal, you’ll have to make perhaps the most difficult decision of your life thus far. Dig deep, because only you can know the solution to this ordeal.

Infidelity does not constitute grounds for divorce in Minnesota, but it can still impact your dissolution. No matter its role in your marriage’s breakdown, you deserve compassionate legal counsel. The Brown Law Offices, P.A. could be a critical resource as you embark on the divorce process, so get in touch today.

 

 

Despite your best efforts, you and your partner have decided that divorce is the best option. However, you also intend to remain on good terms as you move on with your lives. Alternative dispute resolution may provide the framework you need to resolve potentially contentious issues without destroying your working relationship.

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution? What’s the Goal?

The term ‘alternative dispute resolution’ refers to a variety of methods employed to avoid courtroom-based legal proceedings. In family law, ADR typically involves mediation or collaborative divorce. By employing mediation or collaboration, couples hope to keep their divorces as quick, affordable, and amicable as possible.

Although not a viable solution for all couples, ADR often allows divorcing spouses to avoid much of the stress and expense associated with a stereotypical courtroom divorce. Often, divorcing couples pursue ADR in hopes of maintaining amicable relationships as they move from romance to co-parenting. They hope to shield their children from the worst aspects of litigation, which can be incredibly stressful for the children of divorce.

Some spouses, although unable to resolve all issues through ADR, utilize this approach early in the divorce process to settle issues in which they share common ground. The remainder of the divorce can then be completed via litigation.

ADR Options

As mentioned above, two popular approaches to ADR in Minnesota are mediation and collaboration. In mediation, spouses work together (with guidance from a neutral third party) to secure mutually-beneficial outcomes to common divorce issues such as custody and property division. Mediation is, by definition, a non-adversarial approach.

Collaboration offers a valuable middle ground between litigation and mediation. In collaborative divorce, each spouse works closely with an attorney, but remains open to cooperation on many matters. Couples may be advised by a panel of experts, with extensive knowledge regarding financial matters and childcare concerns.

Although typically not employed for family issues, arbitration is also an ADR option in Minnesota. With arbitration, disputes are settled via third party professionals. A hybrid process known as mediation-arbitration allows for temporary mediation, with an arbitrator arriving at the final decision if an impasse between spouses occurs.

Interested in pursuing ADR in Minnesota? The right lawyer can successfully guide you through this challenging process. Seek counsel from the Brown Law Offices, P.A.

 

You’ve moved into a new apartment, signed divorce papers and begun referring to yourself as single. Why, then, does your divorce still feel incomplete? Turns out, your work may not be finished until you grant your ex genuine forgiveness. This may be easier said than done, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Read on to learn why:

Why Forgiveness Helps Us Heal

Forgiveness prompts tremendous health benefits, both immediately and far into the future. A noteworthy study from Hope College indicates that even brief rumination on a past transgression can immediately increase blood pressure, heart rate and sweating. Angry rumination—equated to unforgiveness—also prompts anxiety. When asked to empathize with the transgressor, however, most people experience reduced physical arousal.

In another study, those who rated their relationships as terrible suffered higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also scored lower in regards to their willingness to forgive. Those happy to forgive rated their relationships higher and experienced reduced cortisol levels.

How to Practice Forgiveness After Divorce

The exercise highlighted above could be key to achieving full forgiveness, no matter your spouse’s transgressions. Take a few moments to direct your thoughts to your ex’s behavior. Instead of playing the blame game, express empathy for his or her situation. You can acknowledge that your ex made poor decisions while still demonstrating compassion.

Additionally, it may help to pinpoint the lessons in your difficult experience. What did your ex-spouse’s behavior teach you about choosing a partner and maintaining a positive relationship? Could your previous turmoil have made you more resilient or empathetic? Think of yourself as one step closer to living a truly rewarding life, whether as a satisfied single or with a new romantic partner.

Don’t grant forgiveness merely for the sake of your ex or your kids (although doing so can make life easier for all family members). Do it for yourself. If you acknowledge the physical and mental health benefits of forgiveness, you’ll find it easier to grant it to a former spouse.

As you make progress on your path to forgiveness, let us assist you with the other complications of divorce. Contact the Brown Law Offices, P.A. at your earliest convenience to schedule a case consultation.

 

 

For many couples, the idea of having a child is integral to their vision of the future. So when infertility interferes with these plans, what can you do about it? What are your options?

First, consider some sobering science. A study of 47,515 Danish women found that those who did not conceive following fertility treatments were three times more likely to divorce than those who successfully had children. Per the researchers, “After up to 12 years of follow up, nearly 27% of the women were no longer living with the person with whom they had lived at the time of the fertility evaluation. Women who did not have a child after the evaluation had significantly higher odds ratios for ending a relationship up to 12 years after the evaluation… than women who had a child.”

How Can Couples Remain Strong?

Fertility treatments can be notoriously expensive, and research shows that fights over finances commonly harm marriages. In addition, fertility issues can threaten the vision that guides the relationship. If one partner wants children even more than she wants to preserve her marriage, what happens next, for instance? Couples are not powerless, though. These tips can help protect what’s sacred and find solutions:

  • Recognize the situation for what it is. A fertility problem is a family crisis, and it’s okay to identify the gravity of the situation. Acknowledging that this is a serious challenge will help you approach it together in a healthy way.
  • Share your feelings. Bottling your emotions can be toxic to a relationship. In fact, putting up a strong front can be more isolating, which will make you more apt to lash out.
  • Don’t play the blame game. It may be tempting to blame your infertility problems on yourself or a partner. Don’t think about the what-ifs or the should-have-beens. Focus on the present, and do it together.
  • Be on the same team. You made a pledge to help one another through better or worse. You don’t have to feel the same things at the same time, but you do need to pay attention to what your spouse must be going through.
  • Explore your options. These might include adoption, surrogacy or growing old together just the two of you. Reformulate your vision, and get excited about the future.

Infertility can take a toll on a marriage, but it doesn’t have to mark the end of the relationship. Contact a compassionate Minnesota family law attorney to get insight into your next steps.