There are wide variety of parenting time schedules available to family court litigants, some equal, some not. With recent changes in the law, courts have moved toward maximizing available time with both parents. Parenting time schedules often take into account a routine access schedule, holiday division, vacations and non-school days.

Regardless of custody and parenting time, divorce is bound to mess with your child care schedule. You may be forced to work extra hours to make ends meet…and when you’re not on the job, you can probably be found in mediation or court. If you don’t already have a nanny with plenty of time available to watch your children, you’ll want to find one sooner than later. Keep these strategies in mind as you begin this important search:

Ask Loved Ones For Recommendations

In an internet age, word of mouth remains one of your best tools for finding quality child care. Ask friends, coworkers, siblings, or even past nannies for recommendations.

Do Your Homework

If you seek a nanny online, take a close look at LinkedIn and other social media accounts. This will grant you a better feel for your future nanny’s credentials and conduct.

Aim For Consistency

As you seek a nanny, maintain scheduling and consistency as chief priorities. Your child’s routine will see enough shakeups as is; constant changes in nannies (or their timeline) will make this period more stressful than it needs to be.

Let prospective nannies know of your family’s situation. Be upfront about scheduling demands.

Including Child Care in Your Parenting Plan

If you work with your ex to develop a parenting plan, highlight nanny and babysitting arrangements as a key consideration. Your parenting plan can stipulate notification or even approval of new child care providers. Unless specifically specified in your plan, you’ll hold little sway in how your ex handles child care during his or her parenting time.

As you move forward with your parenting plan and other custody considerations, don’t hesitate to contact the Brown Law Offices at 763-323-6555. Our team will carefully guide you through every step of the custody process.

Economic vitality, friendly neighbors, great schools…you love everything about Minnesota. Your ex, unfortunately, disagrees. Whether your former flame seeks a warmer climate or new job opportunities, you’re worried an upcoming move will tear you away from your kids. But is this move really cause for concern? Read on to find out.

Is Your Ex Even Allowed to Move?

As a Minnesota co-parent, you cannot legally move your kids out of state without express permission from your ex. The only alternative: a court mandate. Courts base this decision on the child’s best interests. Distance plays a huge factor — moving to River Falls is not a big deal, but San Diego could be. Another major consideration? Emotional ties. Be real — are your kids equally close to both parents?

Other factors courts take into account:

  • The age and emotional maturity of the children. Some kids can handle a big move better than others. Older children express strong opinions, which factor into the final decision.
  • Relationships with other family members, such as grandparents.
  • Whether the moving parent has a history of trying to keep shared kids away from the other parent.

Should You Grant Permission?

You feel betrayed by your ex’s desire to move. Don’t let difficult emotions prompt an ultimatum. Instead, step into your ex’s shoes for a moment. Is this person struggling to find work in Minnesota? Do most of your family members or in-laws live elsewhere? Which approach truly benefits your children?

Of course, your opinion matters too. Respectfully share your concerns. Don’t forget to chat with your kids — but don’t be offended if they also want to move.

If necessary, discuss these issues with a counselor. Understand the full situation before you agree or disagree to a move. Remember, if your ex presents a compelling argument, the court may decide against you. Your ex holds the burden of proof, but you should be prepared to provide evidence indicating that moving is a bad idea.

The Brown Law Offices, P.A. can help you navigate the complications of co-parenting after divorce. Reach out today to discuss your co-parenting situation.

October is one of the most beautiful months of the year in Minnesota. The temperatures are perfect, and fall color lights the sky. Make the most of your visitation time by engaging in one of these fun activities this month:

  1. Visit a Pumpkin Patch or Apple Orchard

Kids of all ages enjoy fall festivities outside. Visit a local pumpkin patch, and have each child pick out a pumpkin for carving, or visit a U-Pick orchard for seasonal produce. These farms also have other activities like corn mazes, petting farms, and fresh cider.

  1. Take in a Football Game

Whether you’re a Golden Gopher, a Viking, or a Maverick, football can be a fun way to spend the day with your children, particularly if they’re older. October brings some of the most entertaining Big Ten matchups to TCF Bank Stadium, while NFC North battles heat up the professional gridiron.

  1. Go to Minneapolis Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Minneapolis offers something for young and old alike–take in authentic German music and fare, watch people in lederhosen, and even learn to dance the polka.

  1. Find Halloween Fun

While trick or treating might be for October 31st, many places offer an opportunity to wear your costumes all month. Find a haunted house, visit a trunk or treat, or go to a costume contest. Anoka is the self-proclaimed Halloween capital of the world and offers events all October long.

  1. Celebrate the Harvest

Finally, do something to celebrate the harvest season. Minnesota pays homage to the harvest with scarecrow contests, pumpkin weigh-offs, “booyahs,” and craft fairs. The Stillwater Harvest Fest features a giant pumpkin boat race, while the Applefest and Catapult Contest in Alexandria is sure to garner some laughs.

Minnesota offers plenty of outdoor entertainment during the month of October. On rainy days, consider staying in and making pizza together or watching a family-friendly movie. Filling your schedule with fall fun will help you make the most of your visitation time, but remember: the thing your kids want to do most is spend time with you. The rest is just details!

Once divorce proceedings have begun, procrastinating is one of the worst things you can do. No one particularly wants the headaches of paperwork, lawyer consultation and other details, but it’s a safe bet that your ex is not procrastinating on his or her end, and you don’t want to find yourself at a disadvantage. Here are 6 signs of distraction you need to watch for when working on your Minnesota divorce.

1. Too busy with work

One of the most common ways to put off divorce details is suddenly to find yourself with too much to do at the office. While there’s always work to be done, you probably don’t have to take on as much responsibility as you are. Discipline yourself to keep your normal office hours and don’t use work as an excuse.

2. Too busy with “other” paperwork

There’s nothing better to distract yourself from something unpleasant than something else that’s only slightly less unpleasant. Now is not the time to start figuring out your taxes, for example, or to start an argument with an insurance company over your recent fender-bender.

3. Over-socializing

From spending hours a day on social media to signing up for three different bowling leagues, it’s easy to find so many after-hours activities that you barely have time for anything else. If you’re overdoing the social life, try limiting your outings to one per week until the divorce is final. Also, limit your social media time to an hour or less per day.

4. Home projects

You’ve spent years avoiding cleaning out that garage. Why all of a sudden are you so motivated to do it now? Major projects at home that suddenly must be done now are a clear sign you’re looking for distractions.

5. Rebound relationship

This is potentially a huge distraction, and also a dangerous one because it might be used as leverage against you. If necessary, press pause on your dating life for the moment. Your new romance will do much better without a pending divorce hanging over it, anyway.

6. Over-scrutinizing the process itself

If you find yourself suddenly unhappy with how your divorce attorney is handling things, or you decide to undo a part of the negotiations that have been settled for weeks, these may be subtle signs of a deeper issue. Divorce can be scary, and it’s easy to create delays subconsciously to avoid facing the day when it becomes official. Changes are fine, but if you’re suddenly finding fault with things you’ve already approved, it’s time to ask yourself why.

The traditional “Nuclear Family” – two parents originally and only married to each other, with children – has become less common over the past several decades. This Leave It to Beaver paradigm has given way to a more diverse, intricate set of family types. Let’s explore some of these new family structures and discuss the opportunities and challenges they present.

Person with children marries a spouse with no children. This type of blended family can run into obstacles if the parent-spouse assumes that the new partner will automatically take on the roles and responsibilities of “mom” or “dad.” The childless partner, meanwhile, may feel overwhelmed or awkward because of the new family responsibilities.

To succeed, the couple should establish clear rules regarding how to care for and discipline the children and how to meet family expenses. Strive to show a united front to the children. Allow new relationships to develop organically. Reassess the family’s governing rules periodically, as the children grow and as the relationship evolves (e.g. couple moves in together, etc.).

Divorced parent with kids marries another divorced parent with kids. This “Brady Bunch” blended family can get quite complex, given the sheer number of relationships and all the permutations they create. On the plus side, both “Brady Bunch” spouses will be experienced spouses, and the children (when well managed) can band together to help each other and/or assist with chores around the house. Again, organization is key to harmony. Consider establishing a weekly meeting, where everyone can speak freely, air grievances or creative ideas (if any), and do something fun as a unit.

Widow or widower with children remarries. These step-families can lead to healing or destructive dynamics, depending on the nature of the new parent-child relationships. The absence of the deceased spouse/parent understandably can powerfully influence the family dynamic. Communication and empathy can deepen bonds. Avoid trying to rush intimacy or the psychological healing and coping processes.

Divorced or widowed parents of adult children marry. Work to address issues related to inheritance, medical care and retirement to alleviate concerns among the children. If the blended family is geographically distant from all or some of the children, create opportunities for bonding, such as shared holidays or vacations.

Our experienced and compassionate Minnesota family law attorneys can address the diverse legal issues that arise in blended families. Call us for a free 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.

October brings the best of autumn: cooler weather and fun activities for those in Minnesota. Don’t spend your next visitation weekend sitting around the TV and playing video games. Try one of these family-friendly activities instead:

Find a U-Pick Center

Cider mills and U-Pick centers are full of nature’s bounty. Find a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard to spend the day. Sample those yummy apple cider donuts. Let your kids pick out their own pumpkins and carve them as a family. Don’t forget to roast the seeds!

Discover a Corn Maze

Local farms set their corn mazes for the season. The mazes range from courses suitable for preschoolers to the truly challenging for all ages. Consider attending at nightfall for a spookier experience with older children.

Go to the Scarecrow Festival

Visit the Scarecrow Festival in Belle Plain now through October 30. Admission is $5.50 and includes tractor trikes and wagon rides.

Visit the Como Zoo

Have preschoolers at home? The big kids are back in school. Try Lil’ Explorer Thursdays where your little one can learn all about the animals in the exhibits. Bring the whole family on the weekends to explore the Halloween exhibits and everything else that the zoo has to offer.

Visit the Library

Looking for something fun and also free? Visit your local library. Libraries offer story time hours free of charge for toddlers and preschoolers. Even older kids can get involved with workshops. Visit your county or town library’s website to see what’s available in your area.

Prepare a Meal

Pick a dish, and let your kids get involved in the meal preparation. Let them pick the recipe, get the ingredients from the store, and do the cooking. It could be something as easy as pizza, or it could be a new food the family’s never tried before. Always provide supervision around the oven, stovetop, and sharp knives. Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin seeds? Pumpkin bread?

Go to the Museum

Travel to one of the Twin Cities’ museums on a cold or rainy day. Younger children will love the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Older children will enjoy the Science Museum of Minnesota. They’ll be having so much fun that they won’t even notice that they’re learning something new.

Raising children on your own is challenging enough without the added stress of teenage rebellion. Still, it is your duty as parent to establish guidelines for behavior that could keep your child from getting in trouble with the law. Here are some tips for the single parent dealing with a teenager’s bad behavior.

1.    Realize you can’t necessarily control the behavior. Start by trying to understand your teen. They are beginning to go through changes associated with puberty. Secondly, they are at the age when exploring their self-identity is common, so give them some breathing room. It’s possible that a recent divorce could be a contributing factor.

2.    Open up the lines of communication. Your teenager may be experiencing peer pressure and testing boundaries. Start an ongoing dialogue about what constitutes good, respectful behavior. Then, let them make their choices.

3.    Establish guidelines with clear consequences. Parents demonstrate concern for their child’s safety by establishing clear boundaries and communicating the consequences for crossing those boundaries. If you include your teen in a heart-to-heart discussion and give them a chance to provide input, you are more likely to see cooperation when it comes to respecting boundaries.

4.    Praise positive behavior. Instead of harping on the negative behaviors, try praising the positive behaviors. Instill a spirit of pride in your teen, and she’ll try harder to please you.

5.    Model respect. Many parents seek to gain respect by demanding it. Instead, teach your teen to respect others by being respectful toward them. Model the behavior you expect.

Your teenager is trying to come into his or her own. That requires some patience on your part and a careful selection of battles. Help your teenager think through the consequences of unwanted behaviors. If possible, talk to your ex-spouse about your situation, and work together to get your teen on the right track.

Minnesota offers great attractions for the entire family. If you’re stumped about what to do, or where to go, during your parenting time, try these fun locations:

1. Itaska State Park – Itaska is Minnesota’s oldest state park. Not only is it great for camping, but it also contains one of America’s most enduring attractions: the beginning of the Mississippi River. Walk across the rocks from one side to the other.

2. Cave Country – Some of the most beautiful caves in America are in Minnesota (to the surprise of many – including us). Take the kids to see the historic Niagara Cave, or head over to Mystery Cave, which truly lives up to its name. Head southeast to Minnesota’s cave country.

3. Mall of America – In Bloomington, the Mall of America is a place for children of all ages. Go on a tour of the Sea Life Aquarium, have fun at Crayola Experience and The LEGO Store, supplement your child’s education at the Children’s Museum, and walk through the Amazing Mirror Maze.

4. Walnut Grove – Walnut Grove was the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. They have a museum, gift store, and a pageant of entertainment the entire family will love. Small town flair, with minimal cost.

5. Valleyfair – Valleyfair is the largest amusement park in the Upper Midwest. Enjoy thrill rides, family rides, Planet Snoopy, a waterpark, the Dinosaurs Alive exhibition (a favorite of elementary-aged kids), and more.

6. Como Park Zoo – Who doesn’t like animals? Minnesota’s Como Park Zoo is completely free, and it includes incredible exhibits of animals from all around the world. There are also great family entertainment attractions like Como Town and Ribbit Zibit. It’s the perfect day outing when you have the kids.

Whether you have a day visit, a weekend to get away, or just a couple of hours, there is plenty to do in Minnesota for children of any age.

Equal access schedules with children have become easier to achieve, following amendments to Minnesota’s parenting time modification statute.

Pursuant to caselaw, a parent who sought to achieve a 50/50 parenting time schedule, following the issuance of a divorce decree granting them less, had to demonstrate the child’s home environment with the other parent endangered their physical or emotional health. Proving endangerment is one of the most difficult things to do in family court.

The new legislation, regardless of whether a parent has sole physical custody or joint physical custody, provides that a parent, so long as a child’s primary residence does not change, need only demonstrate that the child’s “best interests” are served by the modification – if the parent seeking modification wishes to exercise between 45% and 55% of the available time with a child.

“Best interest” is a much easier hurdle to overcome than “endangerment;” up to 17 different factors play a role in the analysis. One such factor involves the wishes of a child, if that child is of suitable age and maturity. The older the child, the more weight the court will afford that preference.

Accordingly, it has become much easier to secure an equal access schedule with a child who is a bit older, and wishes to do so.

A very common scenario involves a young teen who has lived primarily with one parent and, as they age, now seeks to divide time among two households. This new legislation makes the child’s desired outcome much more likely.

Keep in mind, the custody label is not referenced anywhere in the amended statute. Accordingly, even if a parent does not have “physical custody” by label, they can seek to modify the schedule to a 50/50 split without worrying about endangerment (drug use by the other parent, neglect, assaultive conduct, etc.) in the other parent’s home.

This new legislation seems like a step in the direction of a joint physical custody presumption. More to come, this session.