Minnesota is a "no-fault" divorce state, and has been since the mid 1970's. Typical issues involved in a divorce include custody, child support, property division and spousal maintenance. While some divorces come to conclusion following a trial, the vast majority of cases resolve outside of the courtroom.

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.

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.

It’s no secret that the divorce rate is higher for spouses with significant age gaps. But what happens when spouses of different ages decide to call it quits? The same problems that plagued them in marriage may prove evident during the divorce process.

The Realities of Retirement

Spouses at different stages in life may never see eye to eye on work and leisure, but retirement brings these differences to the forefront. Retirement may also spur financial challenges, both in marriage and divorce. The younger spouse may be dismayed by the other person’s sudden lack of income. Later, these changes play a huge role in alimony, property division, and other financial considerations.

Age Gaps and Custody

Occasionally, large age gaps between spouses may impact custody proceedings. In Minnesota, age is just one of several factors that might come into play when determining the best interests of affected children. Specifically, Minnesota courts examine “the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child’s ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time.”

While a spouse’s age may say little about his or her childrearing abilities, accompanying health issues or environmental factors could play a role. For example, courts may deem spouses with age-related chronic health conditions incapable of providing the quality of care their children require.

Age gaps can influence decision-making in marriage and divorce, but these differences don’t doom couples to courtroom drama. With strong legal guidance and the desire for a mutually beneficial outcome, couples can pull off a reasonably low-stress split, no matter their age.

As you face the realities of divorcing with an age gap, look to the Brown Law Offices for personalized legal service.

 

Determined to divorce? Prepare for a pile of paperwork. It all begins with collecting the financial documents that tell the story of your relationship. The sooner you gather these files, the better. The following are especially important:

Tax Returns

Whether you filed separate or joint taxes, you’ll need access to tax returns that reflect both you and your spouse’s financial situation. If possible, obtain state, federal, and local tax returns dating back at least three years.

Proof of Income

Proving income can be tricky, especially if you or your spouse harbors any semblance of entrepreneurial spirit. Pay stubs are just the beginning; look for 1099 forms, business contracts, and other evidence of income. Provide documentation of all businesses in which you or your spouse have held interest these past three years.

Bank and Credit Card Statements

Assets and debts cannot be divided until they are accurately identified. Bank and credit card statements play a huge role in this process. These records can determine not only how assets can be equitably divided, but also whether your spouse has engaged in fraudulent activity such as hiding income. Unless doctored (which is easy for a skilled attorney to identify) bank statements don’t lie.

Retirement Records

From your 401(k) to your spouse’s pension plan, documents associated with retirement may play a huge role in your divorce. Begin document retrieval by speaking with the human resources departments at your respective places of employment. At minimum, strive to obtain benefits statements, summary plan descriptions, procedures for qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs), and any information provided by the plan’s sponsor.

Ready to file for divorce? Don’t go it alone. The Brown Law Offices will guide you through every step of this difficult process. Reach out today to learn more.

 

ADHD’s not just for kids; experts estimate that four percent of the adult population in the United States lives with the disorder. Some mask symptoms well; others find themselves in a state of constant disarray. For many, this spills over into romantic relationships.

Your marriage is far from doomed if you or your spouse has ADHD, but it may require a little additional nurturing. Read on to learn more about the role ADHD plays in marriage (and divorce), and how you can protect your relationship.

ADHD and Divorce: The Statistics

At first glance, the numbers look grim for adults with ADHD: researchers point to a relationship maladjustment rate of nearly 60 percent. Likelihood of divorce varies based on the spouse’s age; in one study, older respondents with ADHD were twice as likely to divorce, while younger respondents saw little change in divorce likelihood.

Why Does ADHD Harm Marriages? What Can You Do About It?

As a spouse with ADHD (or married to somebody with ADHD) you’re by no means destined to divorce. However, you’ll face unique challenges that other couples easily avoid. Chief among these? Spats over cleanliness, missed deadlines, and general inattention. Non-ADHD spouses may assume that their significant other just doesn’t care. Those with ADHD are also more prone to impulsive behaviors such as drug use, gambling, or infidelity —all of which clearly cause marital conflict.

Research indicates that your marriage is far more likely to survive if you seek diagnosis and treatment. This doesn’t necessarily mean medication, although drugs prove helpful for some adults with ADHD. Others find greater success in therapy and behavioral changes (such as dietary restrictions or increased exercise). Both you and your spouse should research the disorder thoroughly to determine how it manifests itself in your marriage, and which steps can be taken to combat problematic symptoms.

As a spouse with ADHD, you need compassionate counsel from somebody who understands. Call the Brown Law Offices today to schedule your consultation; you’ll be relieved to have an understanding lawyer on your side.

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.

Divorce brings out the worst in all of us. Unfortunately, in a digital age, the worst of us remains online indefinitely.

If you freaked out at your ex online, you’re in big trouble — records of your explosion could be used against you in court. It’s time to exercise damage control. These tactics will help you make the most of a bad situation:

Don’t Delete Your Account Just Yet

You’re mortified by your social media excess and eager to make it all go away. It would be so simple to press the ‘delete’ button. Proceed with caution. The damage has already been done. Tamper with your post (or worse, delete your account altogether) and you could be accused of ‘spoliating’ the evidence. Once you doctor published content, you’ll give the impression that you have something to hide. Your efforts could even lead to sanctions. Don’t edit or delete anything until you’ve consulted with your attorney.

Even accidental changes can cause problems. For example: in Katiroll Company, Inc. v. Kati Roll and Platters, Inc., the court claimed technical spoliation when a defendant merely changed his profile picture. Given the ease with which you can commit spoliation, it’s best to ask your attorney for guidance when in doubt.

Don’t Follow Up on Social Media

Want to make a bad situation worse? Keep the flood of information going on Facebook. Your efforts to smooth things over may actually harm your case. Don’t apologize online or try to explain your previous post.

Plan For Your Social Media Future

Learn from your mistakes. Don’t post anything else about your divorce. Other posts to avoid:

  • Any mentions of dating adventures or new relationships
  • Anything that suggests you have a lot of disposable income (such as images of new cars or pricey vacations)
  • Content that indicates your irresponsibility as a parent
  • Don’t lash out at former in-laws

The Brown Law Offices, P.A. team offers valuable insight into social media strategy during your divorce. Don’t let Facebook destroy your legal outcome — seek legal feedback at your earliest convenience.

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.

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.