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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.

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.

October is one of the most beautiful months of the year in Minnesota. The temperatures are perfect, and fall color lights the sky. Make the most of your visitation time by engaging in one of these fun activities this month:

  1. Visit a Pumpkin Patch or Apple Orchard

Kids of all ages enjoy fall festivities outside. Visit a local pumpkin patch, and have each child pick out a pumpkin for carving, or visit a U-Pick orchard for seasonal produce. These farms also have other activities like corn mazes, petting farms, and fresh cider.

  1. Take in a Football Game

Whether you’re a Golden Gopher, a Viking, or a Maverick, football can be a fun way to spend the day with your children, particularly if they’re older. October brings some of the most entertaining Big Ten matchups to TCF Bank Stadium, while NFC North battles heat up the professional gridiron.

  1. Go to Minneapolis Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Minneapolis offers something for young and old alike–take in authentic German music and fare, watch people in lederhosen, and even learn to dance the polka.

  1. Find Halloween Fun

While trick or treating might be for October 31st, many places offer an opportunity to wear your costumes all month. Find a haunted house, visit a trunk or treat, or go to a costume contest. Anoka is the self-proclaimed Halloween capital of the world and offers events all October long.

  1. Celebrate the Harvest

Finally, do something to celebrate the harvest season. Minnesota pays homage to the harvest with scarecrow contests, pumpkin weigh-offs, “booyahs,” and craft fairs. The Stillwater Harvest Fest features a giant pumpkin boat race, while the Applefest and Catapult Contest in Alexandria is sure to garner some laughs.

Minnesota offers plenty of outdoor entertainment during the month of October. On rainy days, consider staying in and making pizza together or watching a family-friendly movie. Filling your schedule with fall fun will help you make the most of your visitation time, but remember: the thing your kids want to do most is spend time with you. The rest is just details!

Divorce inevitably creates heartbreak. That’s an irreducible part of the process. But the extent of the mental and emotional suffering depends sensitively not just on the divorce process but also on what happened in the relationship itself.

If your spouse abused you emotionally—by demeaning your career ambitions, yelling at you for small offenses, jealously spying on you, or engaging in other horrific behavior—your road to recovery will be greatly complicated. How do you pick up the pieces? How do reclaim your self-esteem, begin to forgive, take care of yourself, and identify the patterns in your own behavior that enabled the abuse?

These aren’t just theoretical questions. They also could have significant bearing on your divorce case. Depending on the nature and extent of the abuse, your spouse’s access to your children could be limited, or you may need the court to protect you in the future.

Special Considerations

Choosing to leave an abusive spouse is a brave, scary step. The legal system is designed to give you some protection and ensure justice. As a victim, you may be entitled to significant custody rights (and potentially even sole custody of children if the abuse was egregious); alimony and child support payments; and court orders that limit the abuser’s ability to contact, harass or intimidate you.

Nevertheless, be aware of the psychology potentially at work. For instance, it’s normal to want to make up excuses for an abuser’s bad actions and to feel guilty or sad (instead of relieved) when justice is done. In a compelling blog post, Dr. Joseph Carver writes: “In clinical practice, some of the most surprised and shocked individuals are those who have been involved in controlling and abusive relationships. When the relationship ends, they offer comments such as “I know what he’s done to me, but I still love him”, “I don’t know why, but I want him back”, or “I know it sounds crazy, but I miss her”. Recently I’ve heard “This doesn’t make sense. He’s got a new girlfriend and he’s abusing her too…but I’m jealous!” Friends and relatives are even more amazed and shocked when they hear these comments or witness their loved one returning to an abusive relationship. While the situation doesn’t make sense from a social standpoint, does it make sense from a psychological viewpoint? The answer is — Yes!”

Don’t expect this journey to be emotionally linear. There will be ups and downs as you adjust to being out of the relationship. A caring, intelligent counselor can help you work through these challenges, while your qualified family law attorney can assist you on the legal end of things.

Resources For Emotionally Abused Spouses

If you’re enduring emotional abuse or fear for your safety, there are places you can turn. Check out these resources here in Minnesota:

  • Minnesota Coalition of Battered Women. This organization has 80 chapters spread throughout the state.
  • The Domestic Abuse Project offers counseling from professional therapists. They may also help you file an order of protection (restraining order) and find shelter away from your abusive spouse.
  • Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline. By calling this hotline, victims can get the help they need from “day one”–not just when it’s too little, too late. Call 866-233-1111.

Filing for divorce after an abusive relationship may force you to leave your comfort zone, but we’re here to help. Please call our experienced, compassionate Minnesota family law attorneys to schedule a private call about your next steps at 763-323-6555.

Creating a family through adoption is a joyous event. Providing a “forever home” to a child who has none is a heartfelt choice that benefits the parents and child. Choosing to adopt special needs children adds additional layers of challenges and fulfillment to the family. There are several things you can do to make this process rewarding for everyone.

1.    Determine the type of special needs your family can best support. Special needs is a broad category that includes children who:

  • Have physical or health problems
  • Are older
  • Are members of ethnic or racial minorities
  • Have a history of abuse or neglect
  • Have emotional problems
  • Have siblings and need to be adopted as a group
  • Test positive for HIV
  • Have documented conditions that may lead to future problems
  • Were prenatally exposed to drugs or alcohol

2.    Educate yourself about the short and long-term needs of the child. Some conditions may resolve over time, and others can worsen. Learn what the child will need, and plan to address those needs.
3.    Establish reasonable expectations. Some children adjust to adoption easier than others. For others, the care they need places a great physical, emotional and financial burden on the family. Be reasonable in your expectations to support your family.
4.    Build a support network. The best networks tap multiple sources, such as families, schools, churches, and community organizations. Give people specific ways they can help, and then let them do so.
5.    Access community resources. Easter Seals, Early Intervention Services, and other Special Education Programs can provide financial, attachment and educational support to special-needs children and their families.
6.    Identify and utilize community medical resources. Establish a team of physicians, nurses, therapists, and other healthcare providers to support the development of your child.
7.    Take advantage of tax deductions. For instance, you might be able to deduct special school instruction, home modifications, and attendant care.

If you are considering adoption in Minnesota, we can answer your questions and facilitate the process. Call us for a free consultation at 763-323-6555.

Child in Need of Protective Services (CHIPS) deals with the health, safety, and welfare of children in Minnesota. There are a variety of reasons why a parent may be involved in a CHIPS case. Here’s what you need to know.

1.    Who can file a CHIPS petition? Anyone. In Minnesota, if you find yourself accused of child abuse or neglect, you’ll have to defend yourself. Your best bet is to hire an attorney.

2.    Will the state remove my child from my home? If a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator deems your child is in danger, your child could be removed for up to 72 hours. That time does not include weekends and holidays.

3.    Where will my child go if removed? The court’s first choice is with a relative. If CPS removes your child, give them the name and contact information for your nearest relative.

4.    What happens if my child is placed in foster care? You have the right to be notified of this fact.

5.    What happens after my child is removed? You’ll be notified of an Emergency Placement Hearing within 72 hours of your child’s removal from your home. You should be at that hearing with your attorney.

6.    Will my child be permanently removed? The court will consider less restrictive measures, but they do err on the side of caution and heavily consider the nature of the petition.

7.    Is there a presumption of innocence? You will be asked to admit or deny allegations against you. Consult with an attorney before your hearing. If you admit to any type of neglect or abuse of your child, there could be serious consequences.

The state of Minnesota takes CHIPS allegations seriously. Your best defense is to hire an attorney; don’t answer allegations until you have proper representation.

Get your CHIPS case law questions answered today. Call 763-323-6555 to talk to a qualified Minnesota family law attorney.