Minnesota Family Law Bills Become Law. What Does it Mean?

Just a billOn May 14, 2015, Governor Dayton signed the omnibus family law bill (S.F. 1191) 1191 (now Minnesota Session Laws chapter 30) and a week later SF No. 1458 (now Minnesota Session Laws chapter 71).  The laws are a series reforms in the area of family law, some more significant than others.

If you are a single parent or going through a divorce, you may wonder what the changes will mean to you.  Bloomgren Hanson Legal will be providing a series of posts that address the changes to the law in more detail.  To start, below is a simple outline of the major changes to the law.

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Daisy Camp: A Unique Opportunity for Women Facing Divorce

When people face life impacting problems and decisions, it is not enough for an attorney to simply solve the problem.  At Bloomgren Hanson Legal, we also believe successful results require empowerment: education about the problem, about the process, and about what result(s) you can expect now and in the future. This is especially true when it comes to matters surrounding families and divorce.

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Child Support in Minnesota

The Minnesota child support statute changed significantly in 2007.  If you were divorced before 2007 and paying child support, your obligation is likely calculated under the “old” system.  If you were divorced after 2007, you are operating under the new system. The new law completely overhauled how child support is calculated.  Under the old law, the key element was which parent had physical custody.  The parent with physical custody was owed child support by the other parent.  Now support is calculated based on a combination of both parents incomes as well as parenting time.

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Why You Shouldn’t Let Google “Diagnose” Your Legal Ailment

I admit, I’m one of those people who self diagnoses medical ailments by inputting the symptoms into Dr. Google. But, even when I am certain I’ve properly diagnosed myself with a strange tropical disease during the dead of Minnesota winter, I get a second opinion from my real doctor. I question if people are as careful when they consult with Google, Esq.?  You should be.  And I learned why tonight.

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Divorce Myths: Moving Out-of-State with Children

I recently spoke at a parenting through divorce class and once again, I was asked about the rules of moving out-of-state with a minor child.  There is a big misconception about the rules in Minnesota regarding moving the residence of a minor child. Unless the other parent agrees, you may not move the residence of your child to another state without court approval.  This is true even if you have primary physical custody (are the custodial parent).* Continue reading “Divorce Myths: Moving Out-of-State with Children”

Overdose of the Tiger Mother

This week I’ve read no more than four articles reviewing/flaming/praising Amy Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. One of many conversations with the author can be found here.  For the few of you in dark, Ms. Chua’s premise is that the strict, uncompromising standards of  stereotypical Chinese parents makes children successful. How does this relate to the law and why am I writing about it on my blog? Well, I’m still making a tenuous connection to the law, but at least there a little humor in this article in the Huffington Post which was brought to my attention by former law school classmate and family law practitioner, Elizabeth Drotning Hartwell. For those of you not entirely overdosed by Tiger Mother commentary, Enjoy!

Basics of Property Ownership Between Spouses

So many folks who I work with on real property (land) matters have at least some confusion about how property ownership generally works, especially between spouses.  Here are some of the issues I see the most often and a basic explanation of the law related to each instance: Continue reading “Basics of Property Ownership Between Spouses”

Divorce Lessons for Children (and Adults)

We all know divorce is difficult and that it is difficult to talk to children about divorce. Here is a link to a simple but good article on the Woman’s Divorce website about lessons from divorce that you can pass on to your kids. The tips focus on respect for both your self and your (ex)spouse and frankly are things we should always keep in mind as adults (divorcing or not).

The Woman’s Divorce Website has other helpful resources for women and men going through divorce.

ICMC? SENE? FENE? Is “ENE” of this making sense to you?

For the last few years Hennepin County has followed a unique process for marriage dissolutions.  The process is aimed at trying to expedite courtroom proceedings and minimize the conflict and the expense associated when parties quickly resort to litigating dissolutions.  In the fall of 2010, Carver County, Scott County and Dakota County jumped on the band wagon and have adopted Hennepin County’s process.  It works like this:

As soon as a party files a petition or answer with the court, the matter is assigned to a judge or referee who will be responsible for all aspects of your case until its conclusion. Within two or three weeks, the Court will schedule an Initial Case Management Conference (“ICMC”). All lawyers and both parties must appear at the ICMC. And, in almost all circumstances the parties will not be allowed to file motions, including temporary motions, until the ICMC takes place.  Prior to the ICMC each party fills out as simple form that provides an overview to the court of the issues relevant to their case.

Depending on the judge or referee, most ICMC’s are informal. The judge will come into the courtroom and give a small presentation to the parties. There is no court reporter and no one gives testimony. This presentation has a common theme- the benefit of working cooperatively to reach a mediated settlement.

The judge will then discuss what issues they believe your case presents, what needs to be done to reach a resolution of those issues, what procedures are necessary to prepare the matter for resolution (either through subsequent settlement or trial) and how much time will be needed to complete these tasks.

The parties are also given an opportunity to dispose of issues they have already resolved.  Some judges will allow this information to be placed on the record. At this point, it will also be determined whether a temporary hearing is necessary (for thing like temporary maintenance and support).

Next, the parties discuss with the court whether one or both of the processes called early neutral evaluations would be beneficial to the parties. If the court is advised a custody/parenting time issue is present, the judge will likely order that the parties participate in a Social Early Neutral Evaluation (“SENE”). In this process the parties and counsel are scheduled to meet with two  evaluators – one male and one female.

At the SENE, each party tells their story and then responds to questions posed by the evaluators as to how they have traditionally parented/co-parented the children, and what custody/parenting time arrangement each desires. The two evaluators will then briefly adjourn, and then return to advise the parties what recommendation would result from a full custody evaluation. Lawyers usually attend the SENE with their clients, but often they say little.  Frankly, the parties know their situation better than the lawyers. Many parties are able to reach a settlement of most parenting time issues after hearing this informal report.

A second option is a financial Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (“FENE”.)  An FENE is for people who are having difficulties amicably dividing assets and debts. This is not the place to discuss who gets the bedroom set, but how to divide pensions and real estate. As part of this process, other trained attorneys or financial experts not involved in the matter are chosen as an evaluator.  They are provided with financial information as to the parties’ respective income, needs, and assets. This expert then advises the parties of what result he or she believes would occur as a result of a trial on the matter.

Different attorneys have different opinions about the ICMC/ENE process.  Frankly, I think it is very useful and although takes some time and cost up front, is cost saving because it prevents expensive and protracted litigation. A good judge can be very helpful in resolving matters at the ICMC which prevents the parties from needing to seek temporary relief.  Moreover, I personally believe the ENE process is much more effective than mediation.  At most ENEs, the parties remain in one room together versus being split up into separate rooms: this forces dialogue between the parties.  Moreover, quite often a mediator will not provide his or her opinion on the case in the same manner an evaluator will.  This is especially true at an SENE where the evaluators provide suggestions that at minimum can work as framework for making final custody decisions.

Issues to Consider When Seeking Marriage Dissolution

Deciding to dissolve your marriage is one of the most difficult decisions you will ever encounter.  Marriage dissolution is fraught with emotions. One of the easiest things to do when faced with difficult emotions is to avoid. When proceeding with divorce it is important you do your best to separate your emotions and recognize that a large part of your dissolution is a business decision.  Since the day you were married, you and your spouse have co-mingled assets and debts not much differently than a small business partnership would. You need to think like the manager of a business when dealing with many of the decisions surrounding your divorce.

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