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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. 

Social media has thrown many divorces for a loop by bringing new and unexpected forms of evidence into the dissolution process. Often, seemingly innocuous errors can hold huge implications for both spouses.

In Part 1 of our series on shocking social media mistakes, we delved into a few real-life scenarios involving adjusted alimony and even criminal indictments. Now, we explore celebrity examples of divorce-related social media gaffes:

Liking the Wrong Page or Status Update

Active posting alone won’t get you in trouble; your behavior on social media extends well beyond what you post on your wall. Likes and comments can come back to haunt you. Such was the case for actress Anna Faris, who blew the lid on her separation by ‘liking’ a post about divorce one week before she and Chris Pratt made their big announcement. While she didn’t suffer too much, it bears repeating that likes and comments could have stronger implications in some divorce cases, perhaps even impacting alimony or child custody.

Ranting About Exes On Social Media

Reality star Roger Mathews’ divorce from Jenni ‘JWoww’ Farley may still be pending, but it appears that he has done lasting damage to his custody case with a recent social media rant. In a disturbing Instagram post, Mathews used threatening language. A small sample: “I hope you die a slow painful death…just for fun. (Which is the most powerful setting and is like being shot by a police taser).” While we have yet to see the full impact of this behavior play out in court, it’s likely that Mathews’ behavior could lead to the loss of custody or parenting time — he could be deemed incapable of providing a safe home environment for his children.

If social media is throwing you for a loop as you navigate the divorce process, don’t hesitate to seek feedback from the Brown Law Offices.

Research suggests that Facebook prompts approximately one-third of modern divorces. But that’s just the beginning. Once the separation process is underway, couples find themselves navigating new social media complications. What can they post? What can be used as evidence? In this blog series, we’ll take a look at some of the most shocking social media mistakes that caused major misery for divorcing couples.

Alimony Impacted By Belly Dancing Pictures

Dorothy McGurk originally scored $850 in monthly alimony due to injuries from a previous accident that allegedly left her unable to work. That is, until her ex-husband Brian discovered belly dancing images along with a treasure trove of other incriminating photos online. These social media updates made it abundantly clear that McGurk was far more capable of working than she’d indicated while negotiating her original alimony settlement. Her social media flub resulted in a court ruling that saw her alimony cut in half.

Threatening Rap Lyrics

Social media’s interplay with Facebook is so significant, it has already reached the Supreme Court. It all began when Anthony Douglas Elonis posted terrifying rap lyrics to Facebook under a pseudonym. A grand jury indicted him on several counts of threatening not only his estranged wife, but also park employees and local law enforcement officials.

Ultimately, Elonis prevailed, as the Supreme Court reversed the initial decision. Still, this case holds considerable implications for future situations involving threats (whether real or perceived) posted to social media. When in doubt, it’s best to avoid posting anything that could be deemed threatening — even under a pseudonym.

Look to the Brown Law Offices for assistance as you navigate the complicated interplay of social media and divorce. Reach out today to get started.

These days, the nuclear family sometimes feels like little more than a myth that we occasionally witness on reruns of classic TV sitcoms. United States Census data indicates that, while 40 percent of 1970 families consisted of two married parents living with children, this arrangement comprised just 19 percent of homes as of 2013. These changes impact not only multi-person households, but also the increasing number of single-person households, several of which involve divorced or otherwise estranged parents. Economic concerns can be considerable for all parents involved; those charged with paying child support may struggle to cover these obligations, especially if their kids reside with different parents. Below, we offer valuable advice for handling steep child support bills:

Reassess Your Budget

If you currently lack physical custody, you may have the capacity to downsize your lifestyle. This is probably not an option for your exes, who still need ample space and resources to raise your children. Take a close look at your budget and determine whether you can realistically cut back for the good of your children. For example, it may be possible to move into a smaller apartment.

Negotiate With Your Ex

Is your ex in a position to handle a greater share of childcare expenses? Are there any trade-offs you could make to secure a lower monthly payment? Be willing to compromise. If you’ve upheld your parental responsibilities since filing for divorce, one or both exes may grant you some leeway as you seek a workable financial solution.

 

Seek Court-Based Modification When Absolutely Necessary

Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible for a court-based modification of child support. There are no guarantees, of course, but unexpected situations such as job loss or severe medical issues could at least temporarily reduce your financial burden.

Does your child support situation feel hopelessly complex? Consider weathering the storm with help from the Brown Law Offices. We can help you arrive at a support solution that is ideal for both you and your children.

In Minnesota, as in most states, a variety of factors are considered when determining custody. These are covered in detail in MN Statute 518.14. Read on to learn more about this important statute and its impact on Minnesota custody proceedings:

Best Interests of the Child

Above all else, Minnesota courts make custody decisions based on what is deemed in the child’s best interests. What, exactly, constitutes a child’s best interests can vary significantly from one family to the next. Generally, however, courts consider:

  • How proposed arrangements might impact the child’s physical and emotional needs
  • Special needs regarding medical care or mental health
  • The child’s reasonable preference if he or she is of sufficient age and ability to make such a decision
  • Current or past domestic abuse in either household
  • Each parent’s emotional ties to the child — and the ability to maintain such ties following divorce

What About Joint Custody?

MN 518.14 specifically addresses the issue of joint custody, highlighting that courts should hold no presumption for or against such an arrangement — unless evidence indicates a history of domestic abuse in either household. The statute also mentions that parenting time need not be exactly equal for parents to receive joint custody.

Parental Rights Granted By Minnesota Courts

Regardless of custodial designation, Minnesota courts typically grant both parents the following rights:

  • Access to school, medical, and police reports
  • Notification of accidents or serious injuries
  • Notification if the child is the victim of a crime
  • Reasonable electronic contact with the child

No matter your preferred strategy for resolving custody issues, you can count on the Brown Law Offices for strong legal representation. Reach out at your earliest convenience to learn more about our approach to family law.

 

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.