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Jason Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. He is an honors graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, and the William Mitchell College of Law. Jason has been recognized as a "Super Lawyer" by Thomson Reuters. Media appearances include WCCO Radio, KARE 11 Television, the Star Tribune, USA Today, Time Magazine, Minnesota Monthly and NBC News. 

Each new year presents fresh opportunities, but not everybody’s list of resolutions includes weight loss or household organization. For some, the end of the holiday season means a chance for new beginnings—including the pursuit of the single life. Hence, the rise in divorce during the month of January, as we explore below:

Divorce’s Uptick: The Signs

DivorcedWomenOnline.com founder Cathy Meyer observes an uptick in searches for divorce information immediately after the holidays. This leaves prospective divorcees just enough time to gather information before filing in early January. Reports from other divorce experts back up Meyer’s findings. Furthermore, statistics from eDivorcePapers.com indicate that January sees more legal breakups than any other month.

The Role of the Holiday Season

A clear link exists between January’s uptick in divorces and the timing of the holiday season. For many couples, it’s simply easier to endure a difficult, but divorce-free December than break the bad news during obligatory family gatherings. Some are less worried about upsetting loved ones and more concerned about their social standing—a lot of people frown upon December breakups.

In other cases, the stress of the holidays exacerbates already difficult circumstances, thereby making divorce more likely. Still other spouses believe that natural holiday stress could lead to a messier, less amicable divorce.

The Resolution Effect

Some people feel more confident when January 1st strikes their calendar. These newly assertive individuals may strive to fulfill relationship-related resolutions by finally calling their marriage quits.

Preparing For Tax Season

Divorce timing doesn’t always revolve around resolutions or holiday blues. Some couples are strictly practical. Their marital status on Dec. 31st determines their tax situation the following year. Some may rush to break off their marriage in hopes of making tax deadlines. In select cases, this decision can drastically impact taxation on end-of-year bonuses, which may come attached to January paychecks.

No matter your preferred timing for your divorce, it behooves you to seek representation from a skilled attorney. Brown Law Offices, P.A. can help you every step of the way. Please call for a free consultation: 763-323-6555.

Your divorce proceeding or decree may involve many court orders. These are legally binding agreements that can lead to harsh penalties if either party chooses not to adhere to them. After spending time, money, and energy on a court proceeding, it can be frustrating when your partner refuses to cooperate. Is there anything you can do to help enforce court orders? The simple answer: yes.

  1. Document Everything.

The first thing you should do after a spouse or other family member refuses to comply with a court order is to remind him or her of the context of your agreement. Make these reminders in writing, in case you decide to pursue legal action. It also helps to keep a diary of court order violations–for example, dates and times, supported by comments about what happened.

  1. Keep Your Cool.

It doesn’t help to berate, belittle, or use anger when talking to a family member about a court violation. You should also take care to keep the matter private–in other words, don’t take to Facebook or Twitter and complain about your ex. Online rants are typically considered admissible evidence in court, and you don’t want to sabotage your own efforts by seeming petty. Take a deep breath and use logic, not emotion, to deal with court violations.

  1. Get a Qualified Attorney Involved

When written warnings don’t help, you may need to take further legal action to resolve the matter. Unfortunately, not everyone will comply with a court order, despite its legally binding status. You may need to hire a Minnesota family law attorney to formulate a demand letter, which stipulates what you’re seeking (e.g. missed child support payments) and possible legal action (e.g. filing a motion for wage garnishment).

If filing a motion becomes necessary, you can also petition the court to have your ex-spouse or family member pay your legal fees. Don’t let cost detract you from contacting a qualified family law attorney.

If you’re getting the runaround from an ex regarding visitation, spousal maintenance, or child support, don’t let the situation continue. Contact the experienced family law attorneys at Brown Law Office for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

Divorce often requires a series of meetings to determine custody, support, and the division of property and assets. There are several meetings that take place before you get a final divorce decree, even if you opt for an alternative dispute resolution process like mediation. The impression that you make at these meetings can have a strong impact on your results. Superficial decisions, like the clothes you wear or your posture, can influence your ability to negotiate from a place of power.

Review this list of dos and don’ts for dressing for mediation:

DON’T Take Your Appearance Lightly

Per Psychological Science, “a series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions (although they might boost your confidence in your judgments).”

In a mediation meeting, you want to communicate that you’re organized, responsible and capable. This means clean hair, light makeup for women, and (generally) a clean-shaven appearance for men. Your clothing should be neat and unwrinkled.

DO Go Business Casual

Mediation is a business meeting. You and your spouse are negotiating important matters about your children, your finances and your life. Dress business casual to set the tone that you are peaceful and effective. Show up looking like your opinion matters.

DON’T Skip Common Sense

Avoid arriving late, coming to the meeting after drinking or working out, or dressing provocatively (e.g. to make your ex jealous). Don’t let your clothes or your overall appearance or demeanor distract from the work at hand.

DO Come Prepared

Consult with an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney before the mediation. The clearer you understand the process—and what you want from it—the easier it will be to behave naturally. Our qualified team can help you work through the process to get the results you need. Please get in touch today for a confidential consultation.

During divorce, couples split everything they own. No matter how financially stable most people were before divorce, they often walk away with less than half of their assets. Frequently, divorce negatively affects credit. It takes time, but you can make sound financial decisions to repair your situation following a divorce.

Cancel Joint Accounts

If you still have bank or credit card accounts with your ex-spouse, you don’t have control of your credit. Restructure mortgages and account balances so each debt is only in one person’s name. If you decide to leave any accounts open with both of your names, make a plan for monitoring transactions and payments. Missed payments will affect your credit score even if your ex-spouse agreed to pay them.

Find Out the Details

Make a plan to repair your credit by requesting a recent copy of your report from all three credit bureaus. AnnualCreditReport.com supplies a free report every year. If you’ve already used your free copy, obtain an updated copy from each bureau, or request it from FICO.com.

Your credit score contains three digits that predict how likely you are to repay debt on time. Reports will tell you if you have negative information so you can focus on what to do next.

Assess Your Debt

Evaluate your adjusted income and expenses to develop a realistic view of your situation. If you have the resources, start to pay down debt and eliminate past delinquencies. Sometimes following divorce, both individuals struggle financially, and paying off old debts isn’t possible. Work with a qualified consumer credit counseling agency and/or a trusted financial planner to analyze your situation and develop a plan for addressing bills. In some situations, it may be necessary to file bankruptcy.

Start Building a Positive Credit History

If you’re going to change your last name, do so before you apply for new credit accounts. Talk to existing lenders, and have them update your information so everything you do going forward helps build a more positive picture of your financial situation.

Obtain credit under your new name, applying for a secured card if necessary. Borrow a small amount every month, and pay it off in full before the payment deadline to start building a positive credit history. If you have trouble getting credit from the institutions you used to use, an online search can help you find cards for people with credit problems. Be sure to vet these cards carefully, pay your balances on time and monitor progress.

Talk to an Experienced Minnesota Family Law Attorney

Divorce comes with months, sometimes years of difficult decisions. Seek advice from qualified tax, legal and financial professionals. The Minnesota family law and divorce lawyers at Brown Law Offices have been representing clients since 1998. Contact us for a confidential, thorough case evaluation.

 

Some couples wait years before getting the green light to adopt. This is (or at least, by all rights, should be) an exhilarating time. But the adoption process can also be exhausting, consuming emotional and financial resources. And life’s other stresses can add up as well.

What happens when a couple getting an adoption decides to part ways? Does the process necessarily terminate? If not, who gets custody of the child, and how does child support and visitation work?

The answers to these (and similar) questions depend sensitively on the details of your relationship, your financial situation and where you are in the adoption process. Getting a divorce will not necessarily ruin your chances, but it can greatly complicate matters.

Factors affecting your next steps can include:

  • The best interests of the child. If a court thinks that letting the adoption continue would present a hardship to the child in question, it will likely choose to halt the process.
  • The wishes of the birth parents. The birth parents may stipulate that they want the child to go to a stable, married family. Or the agency may put a stop to the adoption because of the anticipated divorce-related chaos. The birth parents may also decide to let the adoption continue with one or both custodial parents.
  • Special constraints on international adoptions. Some international adoption agencies impose specific rules about what kind of home can welcome a child.

Whatever you do, don’t stay married just because you want a child. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to the child. Suspicious circumstances surrounding your divorce could result in the courts halting your adoption as well. Adoption during divorce can be tricky, but it is possible. For more information about protecting your Minnesota adoption process, contact us for a confidential initial consultation.

 

Divorce law varies by state, and each state has its own idiosyncrasies. If you’re preparing to file for a Minnesota divorce, you may be surprised to learn about the follow peculiarities of our laws:

  1. It Doesn’t Matter Who Is “At Fault” for Your Divorce.

Minnesota follows a no-fault system when it comes to divorce. That means addiction, affairs, and abuse are not grounds for divorce; a spouse need only show an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. The courts aren’t interested in your spouse’s misconduct when it comes to property division or awarding spousal maintenance, but bad behavior may affect custody and visitation arrangements. This also means that the person initiating the divorce does not automatically have an upper hand.

  1. Are You a New Minnesota Resident? You May Not Be Able to Get Divorced Here.

Have you moved in Minnesota within the past six months? If so, the courts will reject your divorce petition. If this applies to you, you have two options: wait the six months and file again, or file in your previous home state.

  1. Calculating Spousal Maintenance Can Get Complex.

In some states, only the unemployed may receive spousal maintenance from their partners. In Minnesota, however, the courts determine alimony differently. A holistic approach looks at the length of the marriage, the current standard of living, and each partner’s ability to pay.

  1. Just Because an Asset is Titled in Your Named Doesn’t Mean You’ll Automatically Get It.

For example, Dave purchased a truck four years after he and Janet tied the knot. Although the truck is technically titled in his name, since he purchased it during the marriage, Minnesota law considers it marital property. This rule also generally applies to pensions, debt, and retirement accounts.

Divorce can be a trying time, and it’s best to approach the system proactively. An experienced Minnesota divorce attorney can help you navigate the process while protecting your best interests. Contact the skillful attorneys at Brown Law Offices for a strategic review of your legal options: 763-323-6555.

Your adult daughter is getting a divorce. Guess who’s likely to be spending more time with the grandchildren? The assumption may be intrusive, but it’s also natural; after all, in a time of crisis like this, to whom else can your daughter turn, especially when childcare becomes an instant need? More importantly, how can you provide needed support for your daughter during her Minnesota divorce, as well as support for your grandchildren, without upending your own life? The following grandparent’s guide provides some helpful, common-sense tips.

Exercise active support and patience in the short-term

The days immediately following your daughter’s split from her spouse are likely to be filled with turmoil—not just the emotional fallout with her and with the grandkids, but also with the stresses of becoming a newly single parent and all that entails. Now is the time to provide as much support as you can until the family can regain its footing. You may be called upon to babysit more frequently while your daughter juggles a job and the many details surrounding a divorce. There may be no need to offer words of advice at this time; the best support you can offer is to be present and available.

Maintain a consistent front with your daughter for the grandchildren

As you spend more time with your grandchildren, you can expect them to ask some questions as they continue to process the reality of divorce. Confer with your daughter to learn how she has broken the news to the children so your answers can be neutrally supportive, consistent with what their mother has told them. If you are unsure how to answer, defer to their mother. You may have strong feelings about the ex, but now is not the time to share that information with the children.

Acknowledge that the arrangement is temporary

While offering extra support in the short-term, you are within your rights to emphasize that this additional help is temporary until she finds her feet. As an adult, your daughter needs to figure out how to move forward as a single parent, including setting up a more permanent solution for childcare. Don’t be afraid to say no to babysitting requests if you need a break or have other plans, and don’t be pressured to set aside any long-term plans for your “golden years.” You aren’t being selfish by drawing healthy boundaries—in fact, you are empowering your daughter to regain her self-sufficiency for the long run.

Written by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury in 1981, the bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In has become a go-to resource for working through challenging negotiations. As it turns out, the “getting to yes” methodology can also be very helpful in mediating difficult divorce agreements. Below are some key insights that we can apply to divorce negotiations, based on the book’s five-point method.

1. Separate the people from the problem

When you view your ex as “the problem” or vice versa, negotiating a settlement becomes much more difficult. In truth, there are specific issues between you that are causing the split—not any one person. Focusing on the issues rather than placing blame takes you much further toward a solution that works for both.

2. Focus on interests, not positions

When you simply take opposing positions in a disagreement, one person “wins” while the other “loses.” Instead, try focusing on the interests of each person: what do you want in a settlement? What does your ex want? Is there any position you could take that could serve both interests?

3. Generate options for mutual gain

Once you’ve identified each person’s interests in the divorce, start imagining a number of alternatives in which both people stand to gain, turning a win-lose into a win-win scenario. This is key to turning combat into negotiation because both of your interests are now being served.

4. Insist on objective criteria

When contemplating the alternative solutions, you must base the consideration on an objective set of criteria. This is the more difficult part of the negotiation, because both parties will likely give up something they want. Here is where a neutral mediator can be most useful because he/she has no emotional investment in the solution.

5. Know your “BATNA”

Should negotiations fail or you find yourself losing too much ground, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is your baseline or safety net—the “worst case scenario” or default course of action you must take if you can’t come to agreement. Knowing your BATNA gives you a fair point of leverage in negotiations as the low point that both parties wish to avoid, helping you both stay motivated to come up with a better solution in the divorce agreement.

 

In parts one and two, we covered an overview of military divorce and discussed special considerations regarding children and military divorce. In our final post in this series, we’ll examine implications for pensions and alimony as well as how to advocate for your rights and a fair result.

How Military Pension Works

When a service member retires after a minimum of 20 years of service, he or she receives a pension as compensation. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act of 1982, these pensions are considered marital property. As such, they are split during the divorce, and that division can be negotiated. In many cases, the deciding factor is the length of the marriage and whether it overlapped with the person’s time in the service and, if so, for how long. Again, that division does not need to be equal.

Under the USFSPA, state courts can withdraw a maximum of 50 percent of the retired person’s pension. Although the courts might award a higher amount, the retired person will then need to pay the difference directly to his or her ex. In addition, the marriage needed to last a minimum of 10 years in order to go through the finance center. If the court does grant pension to a person whose marriage lasted less than 10 years, then he or she again needs to directly pay the ex.
In some cases, the spouse might trade off a smaller portion of the pension for another consideration, such as a house. The spouse should consult with a family law attorney to see which option makes the most strategic sense depending on the situation.

Survivor’s Benefit Plan

The spouse should ensure that he or she is included in the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP), which continues to pay the pension if the spouse precedes him or her in death. The SBP is separate from the pension, and it should be assessed accordingly.

Service Members Group Life Insurance

During a divorce, the couple can also negotiate naming the ex as the beneficiary in the Service Members Group Life Insurance policy. This money can be designed to replace child support payments should the person die while serving his or her country. For example, the ex can receive $80,000, while the remainder can be placed into a trust for the children.

Additional Military Benefits

An ex-spouse might also be entitled to full medical, theater, exchange and commissary privileges under the following circumstances:

•    The couple was married for at least 20 years
•    The service member accumulated a minimum of 20 years of service and
•    The military service and the marriage had at least a 20-year overlap.

Pension Payments and Your Military Divorce

Pension negotiations can be quite complex, especially if a couple has been married for 20 years or more. Our family law firm understands these challenges. Contact us at 763-323-6555 to find out how we can help.

In a military divorce, the nonmilitary spouse likely has not worked outside the home or possibly only held down part-time employment in order to accommodate the lifestyle with moves and lengthy deployments.

On the one hand, nonmilitary spouses often struggle to find employment because of those factors. On the other hand, they can frequently build strong cases for child custody. After all, the military professional’s frequent deployments may make child care complicated if not impossible.

Considering the Best Interests of the Child

The judge will consider what’s in the best interests of your children. If he or she determines that military-related moves could hurt the children emotionally and socially or disrupt schooling, sports, medical treatment or other activities, the judge might award custody to the parent who is less likely to move.

Special Considerations

Since both parties understand the need for cooperation in the event of sudden deployments, they should work with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can provide them with good advice on how to proceed.

Similar to a civilian divorce, a military custody plan should consider diverse factors, such as:

•    The age of the children
•    The possibility of deployment and a plan of action
•    A plan of action for a return from deployment and
•    Visitation in the event of a stateside or international deployment.

In addition, assess the custody plan according to the age of each child and future considerations. You might need to make adjustments based on a different job, remarriage or other relevant criteria.

Collecting Child Support

In some cases, the parties will need a temporary order to address the payment of daily expenses during the separation until the divorce is finalized. Both parents must support their children, and the court will consider the following factors when ordering payments:

•    The number of children
•    Any special needs
•    Shared custody arrangements
•    The number and frequency of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent and
•    Other relevant factors.

The military enforces the collection of child support via the following methods:

•    Wage garnishments
•    Voluntary or involuntary allotments and
•    Court orders.

Addressing Custody Matters in Your Military Divorce

Due to the relocation of military parents, custody issues can lead to especially sensitive conversations and debates. Our experienced and skilled family law team can suggest solutions; call us for help at 763-323-6555.