In Minnesota, “family law” involves a number of matters involving those in a familial relationship, including divorce, adoption, prenuptial agreements, domestic violence and protective services cases. Our experienced family law attorneys have represented clients throughout the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. While we work very hard to resolve matters out of court, we are prepared to litigate if necessary.
Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that the court will not take into account “misconduct” as part of the final Order. There are, however, times when “fault” does creep into a case – for example, alcoholism in a custody dispute.
Custody is one of the major issues (usually the top priority) involved in divorce and paternity cases. Because judges are afforded a great deal of discretion, and because every case is unique, it can be challenging to predict the outcome if the matter proceeds to trial.
Child support is a relatively straightforward matter because it is based upon a specific formula. However, issues such as a parent’s “potential” income, or determining income for a self-employed parent, can present challenges. In some situations, a deviation from the support guidelines is appropriate.
The valuation of assets and tracing of non-marital interests can present a host of challenges. Marital assets and debts are typically divided equally among the parties. Property and debt division is relatively straightforward for some, and rather complicated for others.
Spousal maintenance is an emotionally charged issue. The fact that no formula exists relative to alimony awards means each case is treated uniquely. Given the lack of predictability concerning alimony awards, litigants sometimes have a tough time deciding how to appropriately settle their case.
Many people consider a divorce finalized when the court enters the divorce decree. However, entry of the judgment and decree does not mark the end of the process. There are many reasons a divorce decree may end up being modified.
Paternity cases involve the same child-related issues as a divorce, but also include the adjudication of paternity. Minnesota law provides that unwed mothers have sole authority over the upbringing of a child until a court order grants a father custodial rights or parenting time.
Prenuptial agreements are often considered by individuals who own businesses, or other valuable assets, prior to marriage, and parties who are getting married for a second time and want to preserve their estate for their children.
Our lawyers are privileged to represent those who wish to adopt a child. It’s exciting, emotional and very serious. We’ve handled adoption cases throughout the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.
Child Protective Services
Minnesota takes every allegation of child abuse or child endangerment seriously. This often means a thorough investigation – during which a child can actually be removed from the care of his, or her, parents.
Domestic abuse allegations should not be taken lightly, and can significantly impact the outcome of a related custody dispute. A rather efficient process is in place to deal with domestic abuse cases, but there are many legal issues involved in the issuance of an Order for Protection.
Harassment, in the legal sense, has a relatively narrow definition. Victims of harassment have an opportunity to seek a Harassment Restraining Order, which precludes further contact, or acts of harassment, by the harassing party.
It shouldn’t be difficult for grandparents to keep in touch with their own grandchildren, but grandparent rights can frequently be violated. Fortunately, Minnesota family law allows the court to grant certain relief for grandparents.
There are several reasons why you may choose to have a legal separation rather than a divorce. Many couples will choose to go through a legal separation as a trial period, to see if they should get divorced. A legal separation often turns into a divorce – or it can actually turn around a marriage.
Termination of Parental Rights
A termination of parental rights ends the parent-child relationship, rendering the child free to be legally adopted by someone other than their biological parent. The process of terminating of parental rights can be an extremely complex one, and Minnesota courts take these issues very seriously.
There is a growing movement toward using alternatives to traditional litigation to resolve divorce cases. One of the most popular options is mediation, which involves both spouses, and their attorneys, meeting with a neutral person trained to help them come to an agreement that is mutually acceptable.
Early Neutral Evaluation
Early Neutral Evaluation under Minnesota law is a process that originated in Hennepin County family court. Today, most Twin Cities counties offer some sort of early neutral evaluation process to divorcing parties.
Allegations of Mental Instability
Our client was a stay-at-home mother of two young boys. She suffered from postpartum depression, which did not affect her ability to effectively parent the children. However, she attempted to take her own life just prior to the separation of the parties, and again about one month following separation, under stress of marital conflict.
Following her treatment and release, husband refused to allow the children to return to her care, claiming it was “unsafe” for them. For over a year, husband limited her interaction with the children. Our experts opined that she did not present a danger to herself, or the children, and that the root cause of her breakdown involved being prescribed the wrong type of medication for her depression.
After 18 months of contentious litigation, and a three-day trial, our client was granted sole physical custody of the children.
Father Awarded Joint Physical Custody
Our client was a police officer and father of a special needs child. His schedule afforded him lots of time with his son prior to the dissolution of his marriage. Wife petitioned Anoka County (known at the time for declining an award of joint physical custody – especially when the parties don’t agree on it) for sole physical custody.
The case settled on a full and final basis in favor of our client after our lawyers convinced the court to award joint physical custody at a temporary motion hearing.
Relocation to Arizona Permitted
We represented the mother of two young boys. Husband moved our client, and the children, to Minnesota from Colorado under the pretense that it was for the purpose of being “closer to his family.” In reality, he was having an affair with his high school sweetheart, and wanted to live near her. Not six months after the move, husband served our client with divorce papers. Our client immediately took the children to Arizona, to be near her family.
At trial, we presented recordings of husband’s mistreatment of our client in front of the children, husband’s abusive conduct directed toward our client’s family (such as spitting on her wheelchair-bound mother during a visit to Arizona), and making the children feel guilty for living so far away from him. Husband testified, under oath, that he had not done any of these things. He didn’t know about our recorded evidence, which was subsequently presented to impeach him.
After a three-day trial, our client was allowed to remain in Arizona with the children and was awarded sole physical custody.
Our client was the mother of three young children that she home-schooled. Husband committed acts of domestic abuse upon our client, and the youngest of the parties’ children, during the marriage. Despite evidence to the contrary (such as being arrested for assaulting our client and being charged with driving drunk with the children in the car), husband would not admit that he had an alcohol abuse problem or issues controlling his anger. Husband sought an award of sole physical custody of the children, with the support of a custody evaluator.
After four days of very damaging testimony against husband, and our cross examination of he, and his witnesses, husband elected to settle. He agreed that our client would receive sole physical custody and sole legal custody of the minor children. Further terms called for him to exercise a graduated supervised parenting time schedule, on the condition that he complete alcohol abuse treatment, be subject to random breath tests and complete a domestic abuse program.
Father Addicted to Drugs
We represented the mother of a two-year-old boy. Father was addicted to cocaine and continued to use and sell drugs in the presence of the child, including driving the child while under the influence. A well-known divorce attorney represented husband. Before trial, it was agreed that our client would receive sole physical and legal custody of the child. Husband’s parenting time was agreed to be supervised only.
Motion to Modify Custody Denied
We represented the mother of a teenage girl. Mom was awarded sole physical custody of the child during the divorce. Two years after entry of the judgment and decree, father learned that our client was living with a sex offender. Boyfriend, in his mid 30′s, was convicted of rape when he was 18 years of age. He served his time, completed sex offender treatment, and was long relieved from probation. Father moved to modify custody, based on a claim that the parties’ daughter was endangered while in the care of mom, and that mom committed a fraud upon the court by not disclosing this information.
The court appointed a guardian ad litem, who opined that custody should be modified – not based on endangerment (she grew to respect boyfriend), but based on the fact that mom hid this information from the child’s father.
After over a year of contentious litigation, and day’s worth of trial testimony, including our vigorous cross examination of the guardian and father, the court denied father’s motion to modify custody. The court specifically found that the child was not endangered while in the care of mom, and that mom did not engage in a fraud upon by the court by failing to disclose her boyfriend’s criminal past.
Waiver of Arrears Claimed by Mother
Our client was the father of two teenage boys who were experiencing mistreatment by their mother and her new husband. As a result, they elected to stay primarily with dad. Our client was under a court order to pay the wife child support, even though the boys rarely saw their mother. Despite that fact, wife sought to enforce the support provisions in the divorce decree. She also sought retroactive support of over $42,000.
Following multiple motion hearings, our client prevailed in full and wife was ordered to pay him ongoing child support for the two boys. The court forgave the vast majority of our client’s arrears. Wife sought review by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Her claims were denied.
Motion to Reduce Child Support Denied
Our client was the mother of two. The parties stipulated that husband would pay an upward deviation from the child support guidelines as part of their divorce. Six months after the entry of the divorce decree, husband was demoted because he was having an affair with a subordinate. He moved the court to reduce his child support obligation in light of his pay decrease.
Our attorneys argued that he was not entitled to a support reduction for two reasons. First, the agreement to deviate upward was specifically negotiated and supported by contractual consideration. Second, husband’s own misconduct lead to his reduction in income. The court agreed on both counts and denied husband’s motion.
Arrears Forgiven Following Investigation
Our client was a Canadian citizen. He and his wife were married in 1989. Their daughter was born in 1990. They divorced in 1991, following wife’s return to the United States without Husband, who could not enter the country because of a lack of documentation. A default decree was issued against Husband, who was ordered to pay child support and permanent spousal maintenance (despite a very short marriage).
Over the course of decades, our client failed to make many payments to Wife. Some child support and alimony payments were issued. Still, the county was seeking arrears in excess of $40,000.00 from husband. Husband retained our firm.
An investigation by our attorneys revealed that at the time the wife married our client, she was still married to another man, rendering the marriage of the parties void as a matter of law. Husband had no idea she was married. Because one must be a “spouse” in order to collect spousal maintenance, the court credited husband for all maintenance payments made from 1991 to 2013 and retroactively eliminated alimony. In doing so, our client’s arrears were deemed satisfied and his “wife” owes husband nearly $20,000.00.
Full Transfer of Retirement Interests Following Trial
Our client was a sole proprietor electrician. The parties had substantial debt, which our client agreed to take, on the condition that his wife transfer her 401(k), in full, to him. After months of negotiation, she would not agree to do so. She claimed the debts were all “business in nature.” We tried the case, proving that the debts were, indeed, personal in nature. A judgment and decree in favor of our client followed, with wife’s 401(k) plan transferred to him, in full, to satisfy her share of the marital debt.
Award of Business Value Following Retention of Expert
We represented the husband in a divorce proceeding. Wife owned an import business, but claimed that the business had no value. We retained a business valuator and, with his assistance, obtained a substantial property settlement in favor of husband.
Wife Conceals Assets; Misdealing Uncovered
Our client owned an auto repair business. Wife worked as the business manager, but secretly opened an individual bank account and funneled more than $40,000 away from the business. A prominent family lawyer represented wife. She denied under oath that any such account existed. We were able to obtain an ex parte injunction that prohibited wife from the business and uncovered various acts of misdealing on her part. The case settled before trial.
Settlement of Marital Estate Exceeding Four Million Dollars
We represented husband, a retired senior Best Buy executive, in a divorce proceeding. A prominent downtown Minneapolis law firm represented wife. The marital estate of the parties was valued at over four million dollars, including substantial investment assets and real estate. The parties, through counsel, elected to engage in pre-suit mediation. After extensive negotiations, over many months, a settlement was reached.
One Million Dollar Alimony Award Upheld
Our client divorced her husband several years before we were retained to represent her. He owned a portion of a successful litigation consulting business that generated annual income in excess of $200,000 for husband. Husband also received an annual bonus in excess of $300,000.
The divorce decree indicated that husband would pay our client ongoing spousal maintenance of $7,000 per month and 25% of his annual bonus income for ten years. This was partially based on need, and partially based on our client’s agreement not to demand her equity in the business at the time of divorce.
A few years after entry of the divorce decree, husband sought to amend the decree, based on the claim that he “never expected that his bonus income would be so substantial.” High-profile lawyers represented husband from two different law firms at the hearing.
During the course of litigation, we uncovered pre-dissolution evidence that presumed his bonus income would actually exceed that which he actually received. At the hearing we argued the complex principles of the parol evidence evidence rule permitted the receipt of this evidence into the record. The court agreed.
The court denied husband’s request to modify. The value of our client’s ongoing maintenance award exceeds $1,000,000.
Minimal Payments for High Income Earner
We represented a husband who earned in excess of $200,000 per year. The marriage was over 15 years in length. Wife, represented by a well-known divorce lawyer, sought an award of permanent spousal maintenance of over $6,000 per month from our client.
After months of litigation and ongoing negotiation, the wife agreed to an award of $6,000 per month for just two years. In our opinion, our client’s exposure was for much more. We believe we saved our client at least $500,000 in alimony payments over the ten years he had left to work.
Trial Outcome Far Better Than Last Pre-Trial Offer
We represented a husband who earned in excess of $500,000 per year. The marriage was 16 years in length. Wife, represented by a prominent divorce lawyer, sought an award of permanent spousal maintenance of $14,000 per month from our client. Our client made an offer to pay $12,000 per month prior to trial. Wife rejected the offer.
At trial, we successfully argued that Wife vastly overstated her ongoing needs, and understated her income. The Court awarded Wife $9,000 per month in spousal maintenance – $5,000 less than Wife’s demand, and $3,000 less than our client’s best pre-trial offer.
Motion to Extend Maintenance Payments Denied
We represented a husband who was ordered to pay his wife rehabilitative spousal maintenance of $750 per month for five years, following a divorce trial. After five years had passed, wife filed a motion with the court, seeking to make the spousal maintenance permanent, for double the amount ($1,500) each month.
We secured copies of wife’s bank records (she tried to conceal many of them), and demonstrated that her income was much higher than she reported to the court. We also discovered, through these records, that wife (claiming to be impoverished) had recently taken a cruise vacation to the Caribbean. The court denied wife’s motion.
Relocation to Nevada with Three Children Granted
We represented the mother of three children: a second-grade boy and pre-school twin girls. Our client stayed home with the children while husband worked evenings as a registered nurse. Following a stipulation that she would receive custody of the children, our client wished to return to the Reno, Nevada area. Husband opposed her request.
At trial, we demonstrated that husband played an extremely limited role in the children’s upbringing. We proved that he worked until the early morning hours, went out after work, slept most of the day and returned to work shortly after waking up. We used husband’s deposition testimony to impeach him and to demonstrate to the court that he didn’t engage much with the children or take a significant interest in them.
Husband retained a well-known psychologist to testify that the relevant literature discourages out-of-state moves. We proved otherwise on cross-examination and impeached the psychologist with other appellate cases that questioned her credibility.
We further proved that the testimony of the guardian ad litem in the case was tainted by opposing counsel’s violation of a sequestration order issued by the court at the beginning of trial. The guardian admitted that opposing counsel told her that his expert psychologist was “adamant” that our client’s move not take place, when, in fact, she never testified as such.
After four days of testimony, our client’s request to relocate out-of-state was granted.
Relocation to North Dakota Granted
We represented the mother of a young child. Our client relocated to Fargo, North Dakota many years prior to our involvement. Although the father of the child did not dispute the move at the time, he brought a motion to the court to compel mother to either return the child to him, in Minnesota, or have her relocate to within the State of Minnesota (even citing the idea that Moorhead would be acceptable).
Following a trial, the court took issue with the unreasonableness of father’s position and confirmed that our client could remain in Fargo.
Case with International Challenges
Our client was the mother of two children. She was a citizen of Paraguay. Husband married our client, had children with her and brought the children to the United States under the pretense that he would “send for his wife” when they got settled. He subsequently married another woman in the United States, without dissolving his marriage to our client, and withheld the children from our client.
After years of false promises, our client decided to take matters into her own hands. She traveled through Mexico and entered the United States in southern California. She arrived in Minnesota a week later, and discovered what her husband had done. She retrieved the children and settled in the Twin Cities. Her immigration status was cleared under the Violence Against Woman’s Act.
Husband was served with divorce papers, but made no effort to communicate in the case. He failed to show up for court on multiple occasions and we were able to obtain a pure default judgment against him.