Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Complex Psychology of the Battered Significant Other

It happens frequently in court: the victim of a domestic abuser refuses to cooperate with the prosecution of her assailant, or requests that the court dismiss a no-contact order, or asks the court to dismiss an order for protection.  I have had domestic abuse victim advocates and attorneys appear on my cable tv show and describe the complex psychology involved when victims recant and choose not to protect themselves.  I recall that it takes on average about 8 trips to court seeking protection before a victim will remain strong enough to accept the no-contact order.  Below is a link to a New York Times article about the Ray Rice matter in which there is discussion of the financial dependency on the assailant as being a factor.  Critics of the courts would be well-served to consider the psychology described in this article.

Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/us/seeing-abuse-and-a-pattern-too-familiar.html?ref=todayspaper

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Learning Lessons in Good Oral Argument From Bad

It is a real pleasure for a trial judge to hear concise and learned arguments from attorneys, even more so when they are respectful of the court and opposing counsel.  Lawyers who personally attack opposing counsel, or interrupt them or the judge, or make factual or legal misrepresentations to the court, are doing their clients no favors. 

Here is a link to an Abovethelaw.com article about extremely poor oral argument.  Lessons can be learned from this.
Link:  http://abovethelaw.com/2014/09/how-not-to-behave-at-oral-argument/

Friday, September 5, 2014

Judge Orders Pre-judgment Garnishment in Minnesota Divorce Case

A Minnesota judge has frozen a Lebanese man's financial assets in a marriage dissolution case, a very rare grant of such relief.  The parties and their son are all in Lebanon.  Court documents allege that husband took wife's passport and then got a Lebanese court order prohibiting the parties from leaving Lebanon.  Wife sought to freeze the parties' assets so husband could not move them to Lebanon, potentially out of the jurisdiction of the MN court.  Another hearing is set next week.  I will update if any significant developments occur.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Big Law Firms Get Involved in Family Law Matters: Big Fees, Angry Judge

Here is a link to an article and the opinion in a case where a big law firm gets involved in a child support matter rather than a multi-billion dollar merger:

http://abovethelaw.com/2014/08/biglaw-yells-and-defies-court-orders-in-family-law-case-receives-stern-benchslap/

One lesson: just as non-family lawyers should venture carefully into family matters, family lawyers venturing into other areas should consider carefully whether they should do so.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Helping Your Client Prepare an Expense List

There is a good article in the 8-11-14 issue of Minnesota Lawyer entitled "Budget 411: Make it easy for the client."  There are good suggestions in the article.  I have addressed the issue of reasonableness and documentation of monthly living expenses in prior posts.  Judges review expense lists with a critical eye, as do certainly the attorneys for the opposing parties. 

Minnesota case law is that the expenses must be current, NOT prospective.  In Minnesota:
   1.   A party should not list rent for an apartment or house they do not currently rent.
   2.   A party should not list a savings account or other prospective investment not currently made.
   3.  Vague expenses ("personal and social") could be disregarded by the judge if not documented.
   4.  Be reasonable and don't exaggerate: $200 a month for hair?  $10,000 a year for vacations?

Parties facing a temporary relief hearing should consult an attorney about this issue.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Unrepresented Parties Must Follow All Court Rules

Many parties appear in court on family matters without a lawyer.  Frequently I will tell an unrespresented party that they failed to serve and file a required document, therefore their motion is denied or their opponent's motion is granted.  A common response is,"But, judge, I didn't know I had to file anything."  While the Minnesota appellate courts have allowed judges some discretion in how strictly court rules are enforced, particularly as to timeliness of service and filing of motions and affidavits, that does not mean that the rules will be entirely disregarded.  Parties coming into family court without a lawyer must generally follow the court rules AND deal with the opposing attorney in a civil, non-threatening manner.  If a lawyer is in litigation as a party, they also should get their own lawyer.  As the old saw says, "The lawyer that represents themselves in court has a fool for a client."

Remember that if you do not have a lawyer, the judge cannot ethically guide you through the process or give you legal advice.

Bottom line: Talk to a lawyer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unprofessional Conduct, Even in an Email or Letter, Not Tolerated

Here is a link to a good article in AbovetheLaw.com about unprofessional language between lawyers:

http://abovethelaw.com/2014/07/judge-youre-an-ahole-dan-is-not-how-an-attorney-should-address-her-adversary/

My impression from 24 years practicing family law and 12 years as a judge is that family cases bring out the worst in some parties AND some lawyers.  Some lawyers simply take on the persona of their client.  This does nothing but sully the lawyer's reputation with the lawyers they must deal with for years, as well as the judges before whom they appear.  Such churlish conduct will not be tolerated.

A good article on civility is in the July 7, 2014, issue os MN Lawyer.