FAMILY LAW, CUSTODY, PATERNITY, DIVORCE, FATHERS
DOES MINNESOTA LAW GIVE UNMARRIED FATHERS A 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.
FAMILY LAW, DIVORCE, 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, 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.
DO IT YOURSELF: FAMILY LAW, CRIMINAL LAW, BANKRUPTCY LAW
BANKRUPTCY, DEBT, DEBTOR-CREDITOR LAW
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.
CIVIL LAW, CRIMINAL LAW, GENERAL LAW, LAW AND TECHNOLOGY
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.
CRIMINAL LAW, SEARCH AND SEIZURE, CELL PHONE SEARCHES
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.
CRIMINAL LAW, CRIMINAL DEFENSE, SEX CRIMES
I AM FALSELY ACCUSED OF A SEX CRIME-HOW DO I WIN MY CASE?
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.
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.
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.