Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unmarried couples

Unmarried couples sometimes combine their assets, debts and income. When those unmarried couples separate, they need legal assistance to resolve disputes regarding the financial entanglements.

Minnesota does not recognize common law marriage. This means that unless you obtain a marriage license and get married, you are not married, no matter how long you have lived together.

If you have lived with someone for a number of years, you may want to talk with an attorney when you split up. If you are on the title to the homestead, you have ownership rights. If you and your partner have children, you may be entitled to child support.

Should you do Mediation?

Separation and divorce doesn't have to be a long and overwhelmingly expensive journey. You don't have to fight. There does not have to be a winner and a loser in the end.

Mediation is a more humane sensible alternative to reach resolution of all the marital issues.

  • Mediation minimizes expense and emotional stress. Typical mediation session costs less than the time for your attorney to draft motion papers.
  • Resolves problems quickly. A judge is entitled to take up to 90 days to make his or her decision. Some judges take all of the allotted 90 days.
  • Promotes positive communication between the parties. If resolution occurs only after an adverse decision by the court, the parties are unlikely to trust the other person.
  • Lessens the emotional damage to the children. Divorce is always hard on the people involved including the children. Resolution of your disputes in mediation can be easier on the children.
  • Permits creative solutions which are not obtainable from the court
Mediation works because you and your spouse work together to put together a method for living apart. The voluntary cooperation allows you and your spouse to work through the step by step process.

You should talk to an attorney about mediation if you are a victim of domestic abuse. Many types of mediation are not appropriate for victims of domestic abuse.

Mediation is available for unmarried couples and neighborhood disputes as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Divorce in Twin Cities

Can I get a divorce in Minnesota?

In Minnesota the only ground for dissolution (divorce) of a marriage is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship. This means that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation of the parties and the marriage cannot be saved. Your current spouse cannot prevent you from getting a divorce.

Must I live in Minnesota?

Yes. In order to start a divorce in Minnesota, either you or your spouse must live in Minnesota for 180 days (about six months) before you can file for dissolution.

How long will it take to get a divorce?

Most divorces take longer than several months, depending on how complex the issues are and whether the spouses are able to agree on the division of assets, debts and children issues.

How does the court decide who will get the kids?

In most cases you and your spouse decide where your children will live and how you will divide the responsibilities of raising your children.
You and your spouse can agree on custody (the right to take care of your children) for both the children's physical needs and legal needs. The court refers to physical custody and legal custody of the children. If you cannot reach agreement with your spouse, then the judge in your case will make a decision based upon the best interests of your children.

Some parents decide to share physical and legal custody of their children equally. Sometimes it works better for parents to have one parent with sole physical custody or/ and sole legal custody.

Regardless of the custody label you agree upon, both parents are entitled to information about their children and the right to contribute to the parenting of their children. In rare cases a parent maybe denied contact with his or her child. These cases usually involve serious forms of abuse or other unusual circumstances.

Parenting time in typically awarded to both parents. Your children's experience of your divorce will depend upon how their parents act and talk. You can make this experience better for your children.

How I can make this experience better for my child?

Never talk to your children about adult matters related to the court action. Keep in mind that children do not understand what is happening. They will look to you and your spouse for reassurance that everything will be okay. Your attorney can refer you to an educational program for your children or an appropriate therapist.

What if my spouse is hurting me?

If your spouse is physically hurting you or threatening to hurt you, you should call the police or seek help from one of the battered women shelters. There are free services available to help take the steps to keep to you and your children safe from violence.

Will I have to pay child support?

You children are entitled to the support of both parents.

What if my spouse and I cannot reach agreement?

If you and your spouse cannot talk, then it might help for you to hire a mediator. Mediators are trained to help you sort out the issues and come to your own decisions. Divorce requires that you separate your debts, assets, retirement accounts and resolve how to raise your children. It is complicated and a skilled mediator can help you through the process.

Liz Pierce, attorney
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Gay and Lesbian Estate planning tool

Minnesota recently passed a new law that allows people to tranfer title to real estate upon their death by executing a Transfer on Death Deed. This deed is like your bank accounts or brokerage accounts that may have a transfer on death provision.

The deed allows a gay or lesbian couple who lives together but only one party owns the house, transfer the home to the surviving party without going through probate or the expense of a trust.

The transfer on death deed can be beneficial to small estates. Seek legal advise to determine if the transfer on death deed should be included in your estate plan.

Contracts modified by an email

Be careful when you send an email. A New York Appellant Court has ruled that an employee modified his employment contract by e-mail.

After replying to an e-mail saying he was "psyched" about the new responsibilities he was taking on, an employee sued to enforce the original terms of his employment contract.

But in April, the court held that a series of e-mails could amend the agreement, even though the contract required changes to be in the form of signed writings.

The case, Stevens v. Publicis, provides an important lesson for lawyers and their clients: be careful when you hit "send."

As in contracts and in life be careful what you say because it can have lasting impact.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Family conflicts are difficult. Sometimes the conflict is the result of a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Sometimes the conflict is a result of something deeper. Whether your conflict is a misunderstanding or a deeper issue, you can reach agreement in mediation.

If you are about to attend a mediation session consider writing a list of issues you want to be addressed. Here are some practical issues for you to address if you are seeking a divorce:

House, retirement, assets (including personal property), debts, cars, custody, child support, life insurance, tax exemptions, current year's tax return and payment of the mediator.

Remember you can have any agreement reached in mediation reviewed by your attorney.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Beneficiary Designations

Every person should routinely check their beneficiary designations to ensure that his or her intended love one receives the benefit of the asset. If you have a financial advisor she will help you check all of your designations.

A will is an important document for all of us. In some circumstances your attorney will recommend a living trust. This document could be revocable or irrevocable. This refers only to whether you can change the trust after it is established.

If you are recently divorced you may want to speak with an attorney about drafting a new will or trust.