Photo of Jason Brown

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. 

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sveen v. Melin has proven groundbreaking for many reasons. In our last article, we offered background information on this landmark case. Next, we’ll take an in-depth look at how Sveen v. Melin might impact divorcees in Minnesota and across the nation.

The Supreme Court’s Ruling

In a rare 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sveen’s children. New Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch was the lone dissenter. In breaking with the majority, he hoped to draw attention to the application of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause. However, Justice Elena Kagan explained, “the law is unlikely to disturb any policyholder’s expectations because it does no more than a divorce court could always have done.”

How the Supreme Court’s Decision Will Impact Future Divorces in Minnesota

Minnesota is one of over two dozen states that maintains revocation on divorce — a practice involving the removal of beneficiary rights after a couple ends their marriage. As in many states, this approach is based on a notable Uniform Probate Code amendment, which refers to the failure to swap beneficiaries as ‘inattention’ and not ‘intention.’ The Supreme Court’s decision allows Minnesota and other states to continue revoking beneficiary rights.

As a divorcee, the main takeaway from this case is that you are not automatically entitled to beneficiary rights simply because your ex failed to designate somebody else. That’s not to say your ex is barred from designating you as beneficiary; he or she would simply need to refile the appropriate paperwork.

As a Minnesotan considering divorce, you’re rightfully worried about the role Sveen v. Melin and current state statutes will play in your financial future. The Brown Law Offices can provide the insight and guidance you need. Reach out today to learn more.

Change is afoot in the Supreme Court, but as we’ve focused on new justices, many of us have ignored recent decisions that have a direct impact on our lives. One of the most notable? Sveen v. Melin, a case that began with a Minnesota state statute and ended with an influential ruling.

The Story Behind Sveen v. Melin

Sveen v. Melin revolved around a Minnesota statute that allows ex-spouses to be removed as post-divorce beneficiaries. It all began when Mark Sveen married Kaye Melin and purchased a life insurance policy — listing his then-wife as the primary beneficiary. When the couple divorced in 2007, the decree made no mention of the policy.

Sveen did not take steps to alter the beneficiary designation. When he died in 2011, his ex-wife remained the sole beneficiary. By that time, however, a Minnesota statute had declared that divorce automatically revoked beneficiary designation for ex-spouses.

The Role of Timing

Following Sveen’s death, his children claimed that, based on the aforementioned Minnesota statute, Melin should not be the sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy. Melin countered that Sveen purchased the policy in 1998 — well before Minnesota enacted the statute in question. She argued that it was unconstitutional to enforce a rule that didn’t apply at the time of purchase.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sveen’s children. In Part 2, we’ll examine the reasoning behind this decision, and how it might impact not only divorces, but state law in general.

Worried about how Sveen v. Melin (and divorce in general) will impact your life insurance policy? You don’t need to go it alone. Work with the Brown Law Offices to determine the best approach to your divorce.

The video game taboo should have died a long time ago; a recently published study from the Pew Research Center suggests that over half of Americans ages 18-49 play video games. But while gaming is more prevalent than ever, it remains mired in misconceptions. These stereotypes can plague marriages, particularly if one spouse games regularly and the other doesn’t.

Concerned spouses may wonder: does my partner’s hobby spell doom for our relationship? The answer, as is the case with all ‘problematic’ behaviors is: it depends. Spouses of gamers aren’t automatically doomed to divorce, but a lot depends on how the hobby is pursued and whether it takes precedence over other activities. The following factors could play a role in marriage quality among gaming spouses:

Time Spent Playing Games

Ask three different spouses what, exactly, constitutes ‘too much’ gaming and you’ll receive three different answers. There is no concrete point at which gaming becomes universally excessive. The specific number of hours may not be the real sign of trouble, but rather, whether extensive gaming time interferes with work, childcare, or other obligations.

Physical Health

Yes, DDR and Wii Fit exist, but no, most players do not focus on these physically-active games. Most gaming is sedentary, and often, accompanied by unhealthy beverages or snacks. Spouses who fail to maintain their physical health due to excessive gaming may experience moodiness and sexual dysfunction. Game-related sleep disturbances can also wreak havoc on marriages, particularly if gaming keeps both spouses awake at night.

Video games, like anything in life, warrant moderation. Couples who strike a game-life balance can enjoy blissful marriages. In fact, many claim that gaming is their favorite shared activity.

No matter the role gaming or other unique concerns play in your marriage or divorce, you can count on the Brown Law Offices for help. Reach out today for more information.

In our last post on custody in Minnesota, we explored the various factors used to determine custody and parenting time. Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to delve into specifics regarding paternity, residency requirements, and parenting plans.

How Paternity Impacts Custody

While the Minnesota marriage rate remains higher than that in most states, it’s quickly dropping — in part because more couples opt for cohabitation. Whether parents live together or apart, children conceived out of wedlock are not automatically presumed related to the father. To achieve custody or parenting time, the father must officially establish paternity. Otherwise, state law mandates that the mother receives sole custody.

Residency Requirements

To qualify for a Minnesota judge’s declaration in custody decisions, your child must have resided in the state with a parent or eligible guardian for six consecutive months. Exceptions sometimes apply in emergency situations.

Changing Custody

Custody arrangements in Minnesota can be altered following a court order, but only if the court deems that the family’s situation has changed significantly — and that a new order will benefit the child. When determining possible changes, courts only examine new circumstances.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans help divorced or separated parents determine the specifics of child care. Topics covered may include education, emergency medical treatment, residential arrangements, and more. The state provides a parenting plan worksheet that can be used as a blueprint for parenting discussions or as a tool to prepare for courtroom proceedings.

Still confused about custody and visitation in Minnesota? You’re certainly not alone. Don’t hesitate to seek additional information from our knowledgeable and caring team at the Brown Law Offices. Call 763-323-6555 today to schedule a consultation.

Custody is often the most emotional aspect of a Minnesota divorce. While some couples inherently agree that their children are better off living with just one parent, others bicker endlessly over parenting time. These spats can be minimized, in part, by a better understanding of how custody works in the state of Minnesota. Below, we review a few basic ideas you should understand before proceeding with custody negotiations:

Types of Custody

First, it’s important to understand custody categories. As in many states, Minnesota divides the concept into two main branches: physical and legal custody.

Physical custody is probably what you picture when you think of custody. In Minnesota, this term refers to where the child resides and who makes day-to-day decisions about routine activities.

Legal custody involves major decisions about the child’s education, health care, and religious upbringing. Many Minnesota parents split legal custody but designate a sole physical custodian.

While parents with multiple children often maintain similar custody plans, arrangements could realistically be different for each child.

How Is Custody Determined In Minnesota?

Some parents determine custody on their own through mediation. Many, however, defer to the state’s court system. Minnesota courts focus on the best interests of the child — a surprisingly complicated concept that can take several factors into account. These include:

  • The child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
  • Special needs regarding physical or mental health.
  • The child’s preferences.
  • The presence of abuse in the child’s household.
  • The child’s relationships with parents, siblings, and other family members.

Clearly, no two Minnesota custody cases look exactly alike. As you strive for a positive outcome, think carefully about each child’s best interests.

At this difficult time, you can lean on the Brown Law Offices for support. You’ll never doubt that we care about your family. Call 763-323-6555 today to schedule a case consultation.

Say what you want about the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) — it delivered at least a few unexpected benefits. Perhaps the most surprising: reduced likelihood of divorce among a specific population: middle-aged, college-educated spouses. Read on to learn how Medicaid expansion reduced the divorce rate — and why.

When Lack of Health Care Prompts Divorce

The interplay between ObamaCare and divorce rate is perhaps best explained by a compelling story from a 2009 New York Times  column. The Nicholas Kristof piece highlighted a woman forced to choose between destitution and divorce as she faced the exorbitant cost of treatment for her husband’s early-onset dementia. She chose divorce. She was far from alone in making such an unthinkable decision.

ObamaCare and Divorce: By the Numbers

A noteworthy study from University of Kansas researchers Donna Ginther and David Slusky suggests that the Medicaid expansion accompanying the ACA decreased divorce prevalence by 11.6 percent — specifically for college-educated spouses between the ages of 50 and 64.

Prior to the ACA, several states limited the assets couples could possess before they qualified for Medicaid. Hence, couples were forced to spend down their assets before they could qualify. By necessity, many couples divorced so as to protect at least one spouse’s property. With Medicaid expansion, asset limits were removed, allowing low-income spouses to qualify regardless of assets.

Interestingly, a Supreme Court ruling made the removal of asset caps strictly optional. Researchers later compared the states that removed asset caps with those that kept them; reduced divorce rates occurred wherever low-income spouses with greater assets were allowed access to Medicaid.

No matter the role health care plays in your divorce, you can count on the Brown Law Offices for help. Call us at 763-323-6555 to learn more about the practical elements of divorce — and how our team can help you secure the best possible outcome.

You and your spouse have worked hard to maintain a comfortable standard of living. In some ways, your high net worth makes your divorce easier; you enjoy greater flexibility with post-split housing and are less likely to fall into debt. The downside? You might struggle to keep the details of your divorce under wraps, especially if you’re a public figure.

It’s not easy to maintain privacy during a high net worth divorce, but it’s certainly possible. Keep these key considerations in mind as you proceed:

Pursue Mediation

Diverse investment portfolios complicate matters during divorce, making it exceedingly difficult for many couples to settle their differences out of court. If, however, you want to keep your personal matters quiet, mediation or collaboration may be your best options.

In high net worth divorces, mediation and collaboration work best for spouses with similar earning power. If one spouse earned far more while married than the other, a harmful imbalance of power could ensue.

Seek Sealed Records

While courtroom divorces are technically a public matter, record sealing is available in select circumstances. For example, courts may approve sealed records if public access could harm spouses’ children. Sealed records may also occur if domestic violence played a role in the relationship.

Social Media Lockdown

Your behavior on social media could destroy any semblance of privacy surrounding your divorce. Some spouses go so far as to develop social media clauses, which restrict certain types of content. When in doubt, avoiding posting anything about your divorce, even if you’ve already maximized your social media privacy settings.

On the hunt for a discreet divorce attorney capable of keeping your personal life private? Look to the Brown Law Offices for sensitive legal representation. Call 763-323-6555 today to learn more.

Your ex hates the idea of giving you even a penny of alimony or child support. You suspect that, in an effort to minimize these payments, your ex has hidden considerable income or assets. Your response can determine whether he or she is held accountable for this despicable behavior. Follow these simple steps to uncover and respond to hidden assets:

Don’t Confront Your Spouse Just Yet

The second you discover your ex’s fishy behavior, you may be tempted to call him or her out. Resist that urge; knowledge of your discovery may drive your ex underground. This is the perfect time to obtain evidence and cement your strategy alongside your attorney.

Gather Evidence

Hidden assets can be tricky to prove, but your ex may reveal more than he or she thinks. Gather every document, photo, or other piece of evidence you suspect could prove relevant. Examples could include bank statements, withdrawals, and property deeds. Make note of strange behavior you suspect is tied to your ex’s asset hiding, even if no evidence is yet available.

Work With a Trusted Family Attorney

If you’re like many spouses, you enjoy limited access to relevant financial documents. That all changes when you start working with a skilled family attorney. Your lawyer can make formal demands for documents such as tax returns, loan applications, and financial statements. Additionally, your lawyer can seek information via interrogatories, which force your ex to provide written responses to targeted questions.

Don’t let your ex use you as a doormat. Take charge of your divorce with help from the Brown Law Offices. Call us at 763-323-6555 to schedule a consultation and to learn more about our assertive approach to alimony and child support.

Separation and divorce are increasingly common among seniors. From pensions to placement in assisted living facilities, these splits hold unique repercussions for older couples. Not all complications involve retirement, however. If your spouse is suffering from dementia, you face an especially difficult separation process. Read on for insight into this unique situation — and helpful suggestions:

Consider Skipping Mediation

Mental capacity is critical in mediation. Your spouse may not be capable of making critical decisions regarding property division and alimony — and the lack of aggressive legal representation is a hallmark of mediation. Keep in mind that mental capacity is not an all-or-nothing concept; your spouse may be capable of handling this process under close guidance from a legal professional, but perhaps not in mediation. Your lawyer can provide greater insight into the concept of capacity and how it plays into your specific case.

The Possibility of Annulment

Depending on when you married and your spouse’s condition at the time, you could be eligible for annulment. While Minnesota is a ‘no fault’ state lacking grounds for divorce, annulment is based on grounds. If you can prove that your spouse was mentally incapacitated when you tied the knot, then your spouse legally could never consent to marriage in the first place — so your marriage is not valid.

Custody Considerations

Few spouses with dementia have minor children. Those who do can expect custody to fall with the healthy parent. Minnesota courts take each party’s physical and mental health into account when determining custody; a spouse with moderate to severe dementia may not be deemed capable of handling the rigors of parenting.

Protect Your Assets

Your spouse may require months, if not years, of medical care in the near future. Divorce can protect your retirement savings from being siphoned away to pay for this treatment. Speak with a trusted family law attorney and financial advisor to understand the financial ramifications of the care burden—and plan accordingly.

Separation is always tough, but dementia can quickly complicate matters. Your lawyer should advocate assertively on your behalf, but also be sympathetic to your spouse’s difficult situation. Work with a trusted law firm such as the Brown Law Offices to ensure the best outcome for both you and your ex.

If you’re one of Minnesota’s nearly 80,000 farmers, you face unique joys and challenges in all aspects of life — including marriage and divorce. While there’s no such thing as an easy divorce, the process can be particularly complicated when shared agricultural property and equipment are at stake. Keep the following considerations in mind as you proceed:

Valuing the Property

Property valuation is an integral component of any divorce. Unfortunately, farms and ranch values are uniquely difficult to pinpoint. A farm’s value includes not only real estate, but also equipment, livestock, and more. Because valuation is so complicated, each spouse often relies on a separate appraiser.

Dividing Debts

FarmFutures reports a five percent annual increase in farm debt since 2004. Dividing that debt can be complicated, particularly if one spouse was involved in the farming business before marriage.

Equitable Distribution and Separate Versus Married Property

As in most states, Minnesota courts divide shared property equitably. These means that one spouse may come away with a greater share of property than the other. Application of equitable distribution may differ in farm divorces, however — especially for a family farm passed down through inheritance.

Creative Solutions

Some farming couples pursue mediation or collaboration in hopes of achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. If one spouse is more involved in the farming business, that person may come away with both farm property and debt, while the other may receive retirement assets, other property, or a lump sum. Some spouses waive property in exchange for larger alimony payments. Others choose to sell their farm and start fresh with equally divided proceeds. Additional solutions include long-term payouts or farmland rental.

No one approach works for every farming couple. With a spirit of cooperation and counsel from the right attorney, it’s possible for both spouses to thrive after divorce.

As a Minnesota farmer, you need advice from an attorney who understands the ins and outs of divorce in your home state. The Brown Law Offices, P.A. can help. Reach out today to learn about next steps in your divorce.