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Category Archives: Family Law Article

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How to Handle Your Divorce When You Need to Travel Extensively for Work

When you have to travel for work and are sometimes gone for maybe two weeks out of every month, what do you do when the marital relationship breaks down? Divorce is stressful enough, even without the complications of travel, and you want to be sure that you have an attorney who’ll not only work with your schedule but who is also invested in the best interests of you and your children.

Even if there are no children involved, you still need an attorney who will help you survive all of the ups and downs during this time.

With a divorce, there are many concerns and disagreements that will arise, but those surrounding child custody, parenting plans, spousal support, property and debt division can have long-term consequences on your decisions. What can you do?

Child Custody

When you divorce, you not only separate, you have to agree upon a plan that establishes the protection and well-being of your children. If you are a parent who travels extensively, this is extremely important because it may be necessary for your spouse to serve as the custodial parent. This doesn’t mean, however, that you want any less quality time or any less control over the care of your children.

An attorney helps you establish a custody arrangement that is fair and works best for you and your children. In this way, you have someone who is on your side to help protect your rights as a parent.

Spousal Support/Property and Debt Division

Did you know that generally, alimony is not an automatic right and that judges are not required to order it? Whether you are the one who earns more money or whether you earn less, you both must determine a workable solution.

During this time, tempers can flare which means that there is usually an inability to agree. You both want to protect your own unique interests and with the services of an experienced attorney, you will have the help you need to determine the best way to proceed.

An attorney steps in and examines your finances so that you both can move forward in negotiating a settlement.

With property and debt division, this is one of the most highly contested aspects of a divorce and can involve everything from household goods and consumer debts to more complex business assets and other valuable property.

It is critical during this time to properly value property, assets and debts so that there is a fair division.

Divorce doesn’t always have to be a contentious process, however. In many cases, there are ways to handle the breakdown of a marriage that are advantageous to both parties.

Collaborative Divorce

In this situation, all parties commit, in writing, to resolve their issues out of court. This is a more convenient process, especially when you have to travel for work, and allows you to gain more control on the outcome. Here are some other important factors.

It’s less costly and time-consuming than traditional divorce proceedings.
It allows everyone to be more open and honest which goes a long way in reducing the level of conflict.
It allows each spouse to have access to a lawyer which provides an added measure of security and helps negotiations meet in a fair and just way.

No-Fault Divorce

A No-Fault divorce means that it isn’t necessary to prove your spouse is at fault for the breakup of the marriage. In this case, it’s only necessary to prove that there has been “an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship.”

How is this helpful?

Any personal matters or other hurtful things won’t be presented in court which helps to alleviate some of the emotional, as well as the exhausting toll of a traditional divorce proceeding. An attorney still plays a role, however, and presents evidence that determines spousal support, alimony and the general division of any assets.

Uncontested Divorce

In this situation, an attorney works with you and helps create proposed agreements so that a court doesn’t have to divide property or determine spousal and child support, etc. This is typically much quicker than a contested divorce.

During this process, both parties must read and sign the final agreement, and it is then submitted to the court for approval. If there are no children involved in the divorce, the judge usually reviews the documents and signs them without you having to go to court. If you do have children, however, you will probably have to go to court and appear in front of a judge so that you can answer any questions they may have.

 

Submitted by Beckman Steen & Lungstrom.  For more information or legal help, visit us at www.beckman-steen.com

 

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The High Stakes of Divorce for Business Owners

Divorce can be traumatic for anyone, regardless of what they do professionally, the size of their income and assets, and whether or not there are children involved. For business owners who have spent years building a successful business, a marital separation and divorce can be fraught with additional concerns. Besides sorting through the often searing emotional pain of separating from your spouse and children, there are equally deep worries about protecting the value of what may be your largest asset – your business.

In this article, we will discuss a few considerations unique to high-asset business owners going through divorce and outline how the process will unfold over the next several months so that what now may seem alien or even frightening won’t be completely overwhelming.

Temporary Orders
It is vital to reach a temporary agreement with your spouse as quickly as possible. As most couples separate their households upon the filing of a divorce, you will have to find a way to temporarily manage two households on the income that formerly supported one. A reasonable couple will realize that this is just a temporary arrangement until the divorce is finalized, and not spend an enormous amount of emotional and financial resources on issues that are only temporary in nature. A temporary stipulation is filed with the court and spells out things such as temporary child and spousal support, temporary custody and parenting time, home occupancy and management of a business until the divorce is final.

Dividing Assets
Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, meaning that, in most cases, absent a prenuptial agreement, marital assets are equally divided. This includes the value of the marital business. Even if a spouse is not involved in running the business, the value of the business will be divided as part of the overall asset division. Usually, the business is valued and the managing spouse is assigned that value on the marital balance sheet while the other spouse receives other assets of equal value, such as the home or retirement assets. Sometimes the spouse managing the business pays out one half the value of the business in a cash property settlement, sometimes paid in installments.

Valuing Your Business
I’ve had divorcing clients say to me, “I don’t want my ex to be a partner in the business now that we’re splitting up.” Generally speaking, this isn’t really a worry. What your spouse likely wants is their share of the value of the business, not to be a “silent partner” in it through the years. However, some businesses are difficult to value, or a synergistic sale is expected to happen sometime in the near future, and in those rare cases, the non-managing spouse may want to retain an interest in the business to reap their share of the profit when the business is sold.

Your attorney will help to select a qualified business appraiser who will work with you to establish the value of your business. An attorney will know who the qualified valuation experts are in the county where the divorce is filed and will help to choose one who is not only extremely competent to value the business, but, as important, one who also has the ability to persuasively testify to the judge regarding why the court should accept your value, as opposed to the value found by the opposing party’s expert.

Often, the attorneys and parties will agree upon one expert to act as a neutral to value the business. This can save the parties a considerable amount of money and prevents a “battle of the experts” if the case is litigated.

Once an expert has been identified, you and your attorney will have an initial conference with the expert to establish that there are no conflicts, that the expert has sufficient experience in the particular area in which your business operates and to discuss the parameters of the engagement. A separate retainer letter and retainer will be required by the expert once he/she had been chosen.

After reviewing financial documents, the expert will examine the business premises and interview management, the business accountant and often the non-involved spouse. The expert will not, however, conduct depositions, subpoena bank records or prepare interrogatories and other discovery. This is where your divorce attorney steps in, making sure that the expert gets all of the information needed and providing him or her with any relevant information found in the discovery process.

Choose Your Attorney Carefully
It is not uncommon for some clients who own their own businesses to ask their company’s attorney to represent them in a divorce. But few divorces end up as simple as they seem at the outset, even when the couple believe they’ve agreed on the details. Retaining a family law attorney who understands the unique issues that arise for individuals with significant assets and who own their own businesses will ensure that your agreement meets Minnesota’s often complex divorce laws.

Managing Expectations
It is not uncommon for clients going through divorce to begin the process with unrealistic expectations about the ultimate outcome of their divorce, how long it will take and what it might cost. They may base their expectations on the experience of friends and colleagues, or on something they read on the Internet. At your initial meeting with your lawyer, expect to discuss the range of possible outcomes, how long things may take, and what your costs may be in addition to sorting through the unique intricacies that you are faced with as a business owner. Just as you are the expert in running your business on a day-to-day basis, a well-chosen attorney who is experienced in complex family law matters and high-asset divorce will help ensure the best possible outcome for you both personally and professionally.

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The High Stakes of Divorce for Business Owners

Kathleen M. Newman - Divorce & Family LawDivorce can be traumatic for anyone, regardless of what they do professionally, the size of their income and assets, and whether or not there are children involved. For business owners who have spent years building a successful business, a marital separation and divorce can be fraught with additional concerns. Besides sorting through the often searing emotional pain of separating from your spouse and children, there are equally deep worries about protecting the value of what may be your largest asset – your business.

In this article, we will discuss a few considerations unique to high-asset business owners going through divorce and outline how the process will unfold over the next several months so that what now may seem alien or even frightening won’t be completely overwhelming.

Temporary Orders
It is vital to reach a temporary agreement with your spouse as quickly as possible. As most couples separate their households upon the filing of a divorce, you will have to find a way to temporarily manage two households on the income that formerly supported one. A reasonable couple will realize that this is just a temporary arrangement until the divorce is finalized, and not spend an enormous amount of emotional and financial resources on issues that are only temporary in nature. A temporary stipulation is filed with the court and spells out things such as temporary child and spousal support, temporary custody and parenting time, home occupancy and management of a business until the divorce is final.

Dividing Assets
Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, meaning that, in most cases, absent a prenuptial agreement, marital assets are equally divided. This includes the value of the marital business. Even if a spouse is not involved in running the business, the value of the business will be divided as part of the overall asset division. Usually, the business is valued and the managing spouse is assigned that value on the marital balance sheet while the other spouse receives other assets of equal value, such as the home or retirement assets. Sometimes the spouse managing the business pays out one half the value of the business in a cash property settlement, sometimes paid in installments.

Valuing Your Business
I’ve had divorcing clients say to me, “I don’t want my ex to be a partner in the business now that we’re splitting up.” Generally speaking, this isn’t really a worry. What your spouse likely wants is their share of the value of the business, not to be a “silent partner” in it through the years. However, some businesses are difficult to value, or a synergistic sale is expected to happen sometime in the near future, and in those rare cases, the non-managing spouse may want to retain an interest in the business to reap their share of the profit when the business is sold.

Your attorney will help to select a qualified business appraiser who will work with you to establish the value of your business. An attorney will know who the qualified valuation experts are in the county where the divorce is filed and will help to choose one who is not only extremely competent to value the business, but, as important, one who also has the ability to persuasively testify to the judge regarding why the court should accept your value, as opposed to the value found by the opposing party’s expert.

Often, the attorneys and parties will agree upon one expert to act as a neutral to value the business. This can save the parties a considerable amount of money and prevents a “battle of the experts” if the case is litigated.

Once an expert has been identified, you and your attorney will have an initial conference with the expert to establish that there are no conflicts, that the expert has sufficient experience in the particular area in which your business operates and to discuss the parameters of the engagement. A separate retainer letter and retainer will be required by the expert once he/she had been chosen.

After reviewing financial documents, the expert will examine the business premises and interview management, the business accountant and often the non-involved spouse. The expert will not, however, conduct depositions, subpoena bank records or prepare interrogatories and other discovery. This is where your divorce attorney steps in, making sure that the expert gets all of the information needed and providing him or her with any relevant information found in the discovery process.

Choose Your Attorney Carefully
It is not uncommon for some clients who own their own businesses to ask their company’s attorney to represent them in a divorce. But few divorces end up as simple as they seem at the outset, even when the couple believe they’ve agreed on the details. Retaining a family law attorney who understands the unique issues that arise for individuals with significant assets and who own their own businesses will ensure that your agreement meets Minnesota’s often complex divorce laws.

Managing Expectations
It is not uncommon for clients going through divorce to begin the process with unrealistic expectations about the ultimate outcome of their divorce, how long it will take and what it might cost. They may base their expectations on the experience of friends and colleagues, or on something they read on the Internet. At your initial meeting with your lawyer, expect to discuss the range of possible outcomes, how long things may take, and what your costs may be in addition to sorting through the unique intricacies that you are faced with as a business owner. Just as you are the expert in running your business on a day-to-day basis, a well-chosen attorney who is experienced in complex family law matters and high-asset divorce will help ensure the best possible outcome for you both personally and professionally.

Kathleen M. Newman has experience in all aspects of marital dissolutions, and has represented individuals on complex matters involving business ownership, valuing professional practices and financial analysis. Kathy sets herself apart through her strong advocacy of custody, support and parenting agreements. A board-certified trial advocate in family law, a skilled mediator and a certified life coach, Kathy is also a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Among her accolades, she has been consistently named a Top 40 Super Lawyer for family law and one of the Best Lawyers in America in family law. For more information, please visit www.kathynewmanlaw.com.

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Prenuptial Agreements: What to Know Before You Tie the Knot

Among the most common questions asked of an attorney practicing family law is whether an individual should consider a prenuptial agreement before heading into marriage. As is the case with most questions, there is no single one-size-fits-all answer. Depending on the individual and his or her individual circumstances, a prenuptial agreement could be a very wise investment in time and money. In this article, I will share a list of do’s and don’ts for considering your prenuptial options before you prepare to say your own “I do’s.”

The Do’s
1. Consider whether a prenuptial agreement is even needed. If you are young, with minimal assets and heading into your first marriage, you may not need a prenuptial agreement. On the other hand, your fiancé may require a prenuptial agreement if he or she has considerable assets. If this is your second marriage and you have children (including adult children) from a previous marriage, a prenuptial agreement may be worth considering for your own peace of mind and estate planning.

The profile of today’s bride and groom has also changed from previous generations when two often penniless lovebirds began their lives together. Today, many couples marry later in life after achieving success in their own careers. They may have acquired homes and other significant financial assets and begun to build healthy retirement accounts they wish to protect in the unfortunate case of a failed marriage.

2. Have an open mind. There is a preconceived notion that prenuptial agreements are callous and only favor one person, namely the one requesting it. We frequently see prenuptial agreements woven into television shows and in the movies with the classic scene involving a woman about to marry her wealthy prince. She is handed a document minutes before the wedding and forced to sign so the couple can live happily ever after.

The reality is quite different. A prenuptial agreement is carefully crafted and both parties are made fully aware of the contents before signing. Some couples adopting prenuptial agreements may be coming out of a divorce themselves or may have experienced a messy divorce between their parents earlier in life. These couples are realists and have a shared desire to protect and not destroy each other in the unfortunate case of a future divorce.

3. Consider the trouble a prenuptial agreement could save you. A simple prenuptial agreement might cost a couple thousand dollars. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands you could spend battling out a nasty divorce.

The emotional cost is equally high. Imagine months of back and forth arguing over every asset. If a couple is on bad terms, this process could take years. It is time consuming and emotionally and physically draining for the parties involved. A prenuptial agreement can help eliminate much of the confusion, fighting and back-and-forth that often occurs at the time of a divorce.

The Don’ts
1. Don’t assume a prenuptial agreement is set in stone. In Minnesota, a prenuptial agreement must not only be fair at the time it is created, but it must also be deemed fair at the time of the divorce. At that time, circumstances may have changed including employment, health and the presence of children. Some of our cases have involved couples who had children not initially anticipated at the time a prenuptial agreement was signed, people who have experienced debilitating illness during the marriage and others who have experienced lifestyle changes, such as becoming stay-at-home parents. In these cases and others, prenuptial agreements can be contested and changed.

2. Don’t skip the finances talk. Deciding whether a prenuptial agreement is right for you is your decision. Every situation is unique. If you’re trying to decide if a prenuptial agreement is a good idea, maybe it is best to first have a more general talk about money. For the best outcome, try to get a good sense of your partner’s approach to finances before becoming engaged. Talk openly and honestly about financial situations that you may have to deal with as a couple and share your expectations and any anxieties you may have about money.

3. Don’t avoid difficult discussions. For most couples planning to wed, the very thought of a post-divorce existence will feel depressing. However, even with the talk of alimony and tax consequences, the prenuptial process, when done correctly, can in fact draw a couple closer. Knowing that the person you are committing to for the rest of your life is open to discussing any issue, regardless of how awkward or difficult, is comforting. The bottom line is to make sure you use your head when planning marriage and consider a prenuptial agreement as a means of protecting each other in the event you do someday decide to end the marriage.

4. Don’t wait too long. One final word of advice regarding prenuptial agreements. It is very important to have this conversation with your future spouse-to-be early and well in advance of the wedding. Rushing to sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding is never a smart decision and can cause unnecessary anxiety at an already stressful time. In some cases, it may even cause the agreement to not be enforceable.


Kathleen M. Newman has experience in all aspects of marital dissolutions, and has represented individuals on complex matters involving business ownership, valuing professional practices and financial analysis. Kathy sets herself apart through her strong advocacy of custody, support and parenting agreements. A board certified trial advocate in family law, a skilled mediator and a certified life coach, Kathy is also a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Among her accolades, she has been consistently named a Top 40 Super Lawyer for family law and one of the Best Lawyers in America in family law. For more information, please visit www.kathynewmanlaw.com.