Friday, October 17, 2014

"You Can Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later" TV Ad Applies to Hiring a Family Lawyer

Many years ago there was a tv ad the theme of which was "you can pay me now or pay me later." It may have been for car repair or something many people would try to fix themselves, but in any event it applies to the decision whether a party to a divorce or other family law matter hires a lawyer.  When I practiced law I saw it often, either from people who wanted to hire me a day or two before a hearing or trial, or opposing parties that sought a lawyer in "the eleventh hour."  I saw every trick tried then and I have seen it as a judge.  An unrepresented party hires a lawyer at the last minute and wants a continuance so the lawyer can get "up to speed" on the case, or because the lawyer has a scheduling conflict (perhaps intentional?).  A continuance, absent a real emergency, is usually unfair to the party and their attorney who has followed the rules and prepared, often at great expense, for a hearing or trial.  If the opponent will not agree to a continuance, rules of court generally require a written motion and hearing just about the continuance.

So if this is you, don't plan on the judge granting a continuance of the hearing.  It may not happen.

To clarify, the tv ad means to say you can pay the advertiser now to get it repaired right, or you can pay them (a lot more) later to try to fix the mess you created by "doing it yourself."  The same applies to family law, but the later may be too late.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

One-sided Property Division Agreement To Avoid Creditors May Be A Fraudulent Transfer

In a recent decision the Minnesota Supreme Court held that a particularly one-sided property division agreement may constitute a fruadulent transfer which creditors of the parties may seek to have set aside by the court.  Citizens State Bank of Norwood Young America v. Brown, 849 NW2d 55 (Minn. 2014)  MINNESOTA LAWYER has an excellent article outlining the implications to divorcing parties who may unwittingly fall within the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act.  In Brown the wife was awarded by agreement the vast majority of assets and the husband most of the debt in a thinly-veiled attempt to shield their assets from creditors, including loans for their business.  The decision and article discuss the "badges of fraud", including that the Browns continued to live together after their marriage was dissolved.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Supervised Parenting Time (Visitation): Does Anyone Tell The Supervisor What the Rules Are?

Here is a link for judges and lawyers to a good article on supervised parenting time:

The author asks an important question: does anyone tell the supervisor what the rules are?  I have used a form from the State of Washington for supervisors to sign setting forth the rules and their duties.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Party Seeking Modification of Order Must Come to Court With "Clean Hands"

An equitable doctrine is "he (she) who seeks equity, and he (she) who comes in equity, must come with clean hands."  Hruska, 372 NW2d 709, 715 (Minn. 1985)  Cited in Alto, 2014 WL 4672404.  Therefore, a child support obligor who is tens of thousands of dollars in arrears in child support may find a motion for reduction in support unsuccessful because they came into court having failed to comply with the court's order, ie. with "unclean hands." 

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.


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 article about extremely poor oral argument.  Lessons can be learned from this.

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.