Brainerd, MN Attorney at Law

Minnesota Law and Unmarried Fathers: Raw Deal?



I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it does, based on 19 years of experience.  I would have expected to see good progress in our laws and court system between the mid 90s and now.  Unfortunately, when it comes to fathers who are not married we are stuck in the 1950s.  Minnesota law gives unmarried fathers no rights until they go to court, even if both the father and mother sign a document acknowledging who the father is.  This means that a couple could live and raise a child together for years, break up, and the father would have no right to see the child until he goes to court.  Getting into court to get an order allowing a father to see a child usually takes months.  

Bad law is often made worse by judges who do not seem to recognize that children and fathers need to see each other.  Most judges do not consider it an emergency, or even urgent that a father is not being allowed to see his child.  When a case finally gets into court many judges require a father to wait until they are formally adjudicated as the father, which takes several more months before giving them a visitation schedule.  Married fathers are given equal rights immediately without having to go to court.
I have worked in this court system for 19 years.  It disturbs me to say that it is frankly backward in it’s treatment of unmarried fathers.  Not allowing them rights to see their children deprives tens of thousands of children in this state of a relationship with their dads, and is an insult to all fathers.  We need to move our family law system into the 21st century by changing laws, and changing how many of our judges view father-child relationships.
What should you do as an unmarried father now?  You are in a tough situation, but it is not hopeless.  If the mother is not cooperative, you will need to fight to be a part of your child’s life.  The sooner you start working on getting into court the better, it is important that you not delay, time is not on your side.   Check out our page regarding custody disputes for more information.

Family Law: Divorce and Custody



Too many people see family court as all negative, people getting in trouble, making bad decisions, doing things that they could not imagine doing.  Reality is much more complex.  At some point in our lives, at least half of us will end up in family court at some point.  Being in family court does not make one a bad person.  What type of experience you have there is based on the decisions you make.  Being reasonable and putting the needs of your children first will make your experience positive, or at least not too unpleasant.  Whatever you do, do not fight over cable T.V. boxes, Chris Christopherson albums, three prong adapters or NASCAR themed pool cues.  I have seen all of these items in dispute in different cases.

Child Support and Family Law


Few issues get people as fired up as child support.  Just about every week people tell me that the child support they are paying, or getting in their case is too much, or too little.  

Child support in Minnesota is calculated based on a formula that considers the incomes of both parents, though the income of the parent paying support is given more weight, the parenting time schedule, and the cost of insurance for the children and childcare.  The personal expenses of the parents are considered by the courts, but rarely have an impact on how much support is paid.  

Bottom line, maintaining two households is more expensive than one.  When families split, everyone usually has less money to cover their expenses.  Raising kids is expensive enough without paying to keep two households.  Child support is a source of frustration because, in most  cases, both the parent paying support and the parent getting support have a lower standard of living than they enjoyed when they were together.  


DIY Legal Services: Family, Criminal, Bankruptcy Law


Many attorneys, and other professionals, doctors, mechanics, accountants, etc get defensive when their clients talk about doing work themselves.  I do not think that is an appropriate response.  I do not blame anyone for wanting to save a few bucks by doing work themselves, and being an informed consumer by learning about the law.  

Do it yourself is a good move in some situations, and a bad choice in others.  An example from my experience, when I was in law school funds were limited, I paid my way through.  My car was a beast from the 70s I paid $600.00 for.  I have never been a mechanic, but I was able to perform most of the car repair on my own.  I saved money, but was often without a car for a few days, sometimes a week or more.  Fortunately, I lived alone, not too far from the law school and my part time job, and did not mind riding my bike several miles or walking to get to either.  If I had a job with a long commute, or a family to transport around, being without a car would not have been worth what I saved on a mechanic.

What does that mean if you are thinking about doing your own legal work?  If the stakes are low, could be worth a try.   A small claims court case with a small amount of money at stake, you are usually better off doing that yourself.  If the stakes are higher, you are charged with a crime, your kids are at stake, or there is alot of money on the table, you are better off getting professional help.  Back when I drove a $600.00 car, I saw a doctor if I had any medical questions.  When the stakes are high, paying for help is worth it.

Bankruptcy and the State of Collections


A recent story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio reported that about 1 in 3 Americans is in collection, meaning that  they have accounts that are behind or in default.  

Why is this number so high in a time of economic recovery?  Even when we are not in recession, millions of Americans either make in income too low to pay their bills, or have unexpected high expenses, usually medical bills that they cannot pay, even with a decent income.  Because most of the benefits of recent economic expansion have gone to the top income brackets and large corporations, including the financial services industry, most of the middle and working classes have seen stagnant incomes and increased expenses.

What does this mean to you?

If you cannot pay your debt do not feel ashamed, you are not alone.  When you are in collection your credit drops, meaning it will probably not get much, if any worse by your filing bankruptcy.  Take a look at bankruptcy as an option to get out from under your bills and get out of collections.


Law and Technology: The bridge to an efficient future


I have never been known as a cutting edge tech guy.  I do not have cable TV, rarely use my smart phone for anything but making calls, and would much rather be outside than in front of a screen.  But, how people do business and use legal services is changing, and the legal profession needs to be on the cutting edge.  With considerable help from my associate Andrew Wipper, my office is updating our systems to provide the most efficient service to our clients.  


Our judicial system has its roots in 13th century England, and the founding of this country.  Rule of law is critical to a free society.  While the judicial system is making some changes to reflect current technology, when I go to the courthouse I am amazed by some of the outdated practices that I see.  A court reporter is still paid to write down every word said in the courtroom.  That made sense back in the horse and buggy days, but not now when quality video recording is easy and inexpensive.  Parties to cases and others are not even allowed to record the proceedings in any way!  Why not allow recordings, and have an official recording instead of paying someone to record what was said.


In most courthouses, people are not allowed to bring cell phones in.  Cell phones can ring at annoying times, but other institutions deal with them, and the judicial systems customers, those who have business in the courthouse, need to stay in touch with their families and often keep schedules on their phones.  My clients see and comment on these practices, and they are not impressed.  
Believe it or not, the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow faxing as proper service of legal papers, but not email!  Fax was hot technology in the 80’s, but how many people do you know who own a fax machine now?  Email was routinely used by most of us in the 90’s when Bill Clinton talked about building a bridge to the 21st century.  The judicial system needs to take that bridge.  


Cell Phone Searches: U.S. Supreme Court says “Get a warrant.”


Drop the phone and slowly back away.

Hot off the presses, the United State Supreme Court, in a decision extending 4th Amendment protections to the 21st century, ruled this week that police cannot search your cell phone without a warrant signed by a judge, even if you are arrested and charged with a crime.  (Read the decision here).  With the ever increasing use of cell phones and with how much data we now store on these devices it is important to understand how cell phone searches could affect you criminally.  

The decision in Riley basically states that the police can still seize your phone when they arrest you, but they cannot look at the call logs or any other information without the warrant.    Suppression is not automatic, you have to make a formal request to the court following certain procedures.  This decision has been touted as a major win for privacy advocates as noted in Newsweek and in other major news organizations.  
If the police searched your phone without a warrant you can ask that the evidence they got off of the phone be suppressed, meaning that they cannot use it against you in court.If your phone has been taken by any law enforcement agency or you have been charged with a crime get legal advice right away.  If police ask to search your phone you have the right to say “no.”  If you say “no” to cell phone searches by the police, your next call should be to your attorney.


Sex Crimes: Falsely Accused?



First of all, forget that innocent until proven guilty line you learned in school.  If you are charged with a sex crime, you will have to prove your innocence.  The world, which includes those who will be on your jury, will assume that you are guilty because you have been accused, get used to it.  You must show them that you are not guilty.

Plan on hiring a good attorney familiar with the area where your case will be tried who will know how to relate to local juries.  Do not waste your money on big city flash, but don’t go cheap.  Someone who quotes you a low fee either has no experience, or plans on having you plead guilty in a plea bargain.  Plan on a trial, and get an attorney who will prepare from day one to go to trial.

Plan on spending alot of money on experts besides your attorney.  The prosecution will have an interview with the ‘victim’, and most likely a social worker to testify that the ‘victim’ is telling the truth.  You will need an expert of your own to explain why ‘victims’ often do not tell the truth in sex crime cases, and why they are not telling the truth in your case.  False accusations are common, but without an expert telling the jury why false claims happen, you are in trouble.  

Do not talk about your case to the police or anyone else except your attorney.  

Most important, do not give up.  False accusations of abuse can be beaten, I have done that for clients.  If you or someone you know is falsely accused take action now.


Aitkin County Criminal Law

CRIMINAL LAW, DUI, and AITKIN COUNTY:  Come on vacation, leave on probation.  

Aitkin County is one of Minnesota’s hidden treasures.  Great fishing, hunting, lakes, woods, and one of the best state parks in the state, Savanna Portage.   Aitkin County is also famous for some of the most aggressive law enforcement in the state.  Prosecutors there often seek stiffer punishments than in other parts of the state, and I have seen people accused of crimes in Aitkin for actions that I do not consider a crime, and that I have never seen pressed in any other county.  Tourists and locals alike are often surprised to be on the receiving end of Aitkin County justice.  

What does this mean for you, a resident or visitor to Aitkin?  Be aware that you can get involved in the court system for actions that you may not consider a crime, and that minor criminal offenses may be treated differently than you expect.  If you find your itinerary including a trip to the Aitkin County Courthouse, get good legal help right away.  Better to leave on probation than to stay at the county jail.  

If you need help with an Aitkin County criminal matter or DUI / DWI contact the criminal attorneys at Edward R. Shaw, P.A. today at 218-825-7030.  If you need immediate help with an Aitkin County criminal charge, call our on-call line at 218-251-3217.  


Sexual Abuse and Criminal Defense


Just the words ‘criminal sexual conduct,” or “sex offense” or “sexual abuse” bring up strong reactions.  Some people say that anyone accused of such an evil deed should be locked up right away.  Others have friends who have been falsely accused, causing them to lose contact with their children, or have themselves been accused, and see sex crime accusations as one more tool used by parents in custody disputes to keep the other parent away from their children.
The truth, as with most tough issues, is somewhere in the middle.  There are predators who abuse children, and need to be severely punished.  There are others who make false accusations of abuse in order to get their way in family court.  For parents who want their ex out of the picture, a sexual abuse accusation is the nuclear option.
People ask why, as a father am I willing to represent those accused of abusing and/or killing children.  My answer is that without a legal advocate there is no way to separate the false accusations from the real abuse.  I have seen good people separated from their children based on very shaky accusations.  I will take on a sex crime client if I believe that they are not guilty, and they are willing to do everything they can to prove their innocence.  If you are falsely accused of abuse you will find no better ally than me.  
If you are anyone you know is being accused of sexual abuse or a sex crime, please have them call a Minnesota criminal defense attorney at Ed Shaw Law to discuss their rights.  From Little Falls, MN through Brainerd, MN and up to Bemidji, MN and all areas in between we can help you defend yourself.  Call us today at 218-825-7030.