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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. 

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.

From 2001 until 2011, the divorce rate rose from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent for military couples, according to the Defense Department. The military enforces special regulations for divorces in order to protect both enlisted individuals and their spouses. These cover a gamut of issues, including processing the divorce, residency matters, compliance, custody and the division of pensions. In part one of this extended series, we’ll overview the military divorce process. Part two will address how children are affected by military divorces, and part three will cover pensions and spousal support.

Divorce Jurisdiction

Active duty personnel are immune from divorce proceedings, so that they can focus on their service to the U.S. When a military couple divorces, either party can usually file wherever they are stationed, even if neither individual is a resident of that state. In addition, they have other options as well, including filing in the state where either spouse claims legal residency.

Once the spouse files, then he or she will need to follow the laws of that state regarding the divorce, division of property and child custody and support. For clarification, contact the legal aid office at your local military base. Be advised that the JAG office can only provide general advice and cannot prepare divorce paperwork, represent clients or file the legal documents in court. Indeed, a military attorney does not need to be licensed in the state, so he or she might not know local laws. Thus, the person who files for divorce should also contact a qualified local family law attorney.

Military Identification Cards

The military member does not have the right to confiscate his or her spouse’s ID card, since those cards are granted by Congress and not by the military person. If the spouse does confiscate the card, he or she can face larceny charges. Even when the spouse refuses to sign a card, the Personnel Office can still issue one. However, the nonmilitary spouse will likely lose the card upon divorce, except if the spouse served for at least 20 years and if the couple was also married for at least 20 years. The ID card qualifies the spouse for medical, theater, commissary and other benefits. If the former spouse remarries, he or she will lose those benefits.

Understanding the Nuances of a Military Divorce

In addition to state laws, military personnel need to adhere to specific federal regulations when it comes to divorce. Our experienced legal team knows how to navigate the complex issues related to military separations. Call us for a no-obligation consultation at 763-323-6555.

One of the biggest reasons second marriages end in divorce is conflict between step-parents and children from the previous marriage. If you want your blended family to succeed, foster a positive relationship between the kids and the step-parent. Consider implementing the following tips and ideas:

1. Create a culture of respect. The family unit can’t get along as a unit unless the individual members love and respect each other. To foster those feelings, allow the step-parent some one-on-one time with each child, so everyone can get to know each other better. Schedule a half-hour outing for the step-parent and step-child each week (a trip to the ice cream parlor, a shopping spree, or a trip to park).

2. Buckle in for the emotional roller coaster. Children experiencing major life transitions are emotional. Allow the outbursts to occur. Instead of reacting, make eye contact, and listen to the child vent. Even small things like dropped candy bars and routine activities can be frustrating. Learn to listen to the frustrations (and the deeper needs and feelings behind them) without feeling like you need to fix them or alter coping strategies.

3. Get it off your chest – constructively. Parents and step-parents need to vent, too. Find a confidante outside the family (e.g. a therapist or a patient friend) to work through your own feelings about what’s happening. Don’t complain about the ex or your parenting frustrations in front of the children.

4. Participate in activities that unite the family. You don’t want to leave anyone out. Blended families face challenges when parents and their biological children go off together to do their own thing. That can be great for their relationships, but if the step-parent can never be included in your activities together with your children, tension will inevitably follow. Relieve that tension by finding things all of you can do together.

5. If possible, involve the other parent in solutions. Too many times, parents and step-parents speak negatively about the other parent in front of children. That badmouthing will cause unnecessary tension and even lead to charges of parental alienation. If the other parent isn’t meeting your needs, involve him or her in a solution. Empty complaining won’t make your situation better. And, again, keep negative, derisive comments about the other parent to yourself and away from the children.

Ask your family law questions in a private consultation with one of our Minnesota family law attorneys by calling 763-323-6555 today.

Are marriage and divorce different for the very rich and very poor? One oft-cited statistic is that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but that doesn’t account for income disparity, nor does it account for the fact that many divorces are from second and third marriages. Still, a look at marriage rates in recent years reveals  that fewer people are getting married overall.

There are many reasons why fewer people seek marriage today, which also means fewer people are getting divorced. Interestingly, when the recession hit in 1998, that economic change sparked an upsurge in divorce. That fact should come as no surprise, since arguing over money is one of the main causes of divorce, among both the rich and the poor.

While arguments over money obviously can lead to marital strife and the break down of communication, the story is not so simple. People don’t just get divorced because they lack resources. Certainly, empty pockets add to the stress of raising a family, and that can lead to poor families splitting as well as to behaviors (such as criminal acts or addiction) that further fray relationships. However, there’s a wrinkle: many poor people simply can’t afford to divorce… or at least they believe they cannot afford to separate.

Another cultural phenomenon may be relevant to our question. Over the last 50 years, women have been joining the workforce in droves. As a result, women have seen their incomes go up. Interestingly, in homes where the woman earns more than her husband, the couple seems to be at higher risk of divorce. Could new gender economics somehow contribute to some divorces?

Celebrity divorces get a lot of media attention, but are celebrities even a good proxy for the “wealthy”? Perhaps the complexities of fame dictate how and why celebrity couples split more so than fortune.

Marriage and divorce are complicated matters. It’s difficult to say which socioeconomic class divorces more often, but we can say married couples are more financially stable and that divorce (in general) leads to wealth reduction. It appears from the data we have that the most financially secure are people who get married and stay married.

Our Minnesota divorce lawyers can help you understand your options and develop a clear strategic approach to meeting your needs and protecting your children. Please call us at 763-323-6555 to discuss your situation.

In Minnesota, you can file a document with the state to recognize a man as father of your child even if you aren’t married to that man. It’s a voluntary action, and both adult parties must sign the document. If you know who the father of your child is, and he is willing to be recognized as the child’s father, the ROP offers a less expensive option than paternity testing. You can bypass many of the typical legal hoops you have to jump through to prove paternity.

It’s important that you and the father understand that signing the Recognition of Parentage form does not give the father any visitation or custody rights. It simply establishes the legal relationship between the man and the child.

The Benefits of ROP to the Father and Mother

Once the ROP is in place, the father can then petition the court to request visitation and custody rights. It also gives you the right to petition the court to force the father to provide financial support for the child, and you can obtain medical information about the father. The father also has the right to include the child on his medical and dental insurance policies. Here are the potential downsides; both parties lose the right to:

1. Genetic testing to prove fatherhood
2. Have an attorney represent them in court
3. Request a trial to prove paternity

After filing for an ROP, you can file another form to have it revoked within 60 days. If circumstances permit, you can petition a court to revoke your ROP after 60 days but within the first year, but this strategy is substantially more difficult to accomplish. If the man who signed your ROP is not the biological father of your child, and you have genetic testing to prove it, you have six months after obtaining that proof to revoke the Recognition of Parentage.

If you want to know more about ROP and paternity testing, contact a Minnesota family law attorney at 763-323-6555 right now.