Divorce, Child Custody, Paternity & Domestic Abuse
The personal nature of matters like divorce, child custody, paternity, and orders for protection makes family law matters a unique area of the law. When you need the guidance of an attorney, it is important to select a lawyer who is not only experienced and knowledgeable but is also personal and empathetic to your case.
Family law matters blur the lines between personal, emotional and legally objective issues. Perhaps more than any other area of the law, divorce, child custody, protection orders, and parenting time modification matters strike a fundamental emotional nerve in clients that can impact the outcome of their case.
Many people who experience family law litigation become frustrated because their lawyer fails to treat their legal concerns as seriously as they do. Our team prides ourselves on our ability to handle complex divorces, custody, paternity and protection matters without losing sight of the details that often mean the most to the clients we represent. Our law firm takes our representation of you seriously and we understand what is at stake: Your relationships, your children, and your property.
You deserve a family law lawyer that provides compassionate, experienced representation. We have guided clients to positive outcomes in a wide variety of situations.
Do I Need An Attorney?
According to a 2016 Pepperdine Law Review Article, "Do Lawyers Matter?" whether you have legal representation does matter. According to the article, an individual with an attorney is more likely to be successful in their divorce, child custody, and domestic violence case.
All parties must follow the laws, rules, deadlines, and procedures whether or not they are represented by an attorney;
Failure to comply with the court's rules could result in a negative outcome;
A judge's decision will have a substantial impact on you and your children's entire lives.
It is extremely difficult to later change a divorce order whether the order was by an agreement between the parties or after a trial.
An experienced attorney is not only able to more quickly focus on relevant issues to resolve the case more quickly, but a lawyer also understands the long-term impact of any proposed agreement. In contested family law matters, a lawyer that has experience with a judge's tendencies is in an invaluable asset to your family law case.
Whether it is an uncontested or contested matter, it is especially important to consult an attorney if there are children, property, a retirement account, non-marital property, debt, or any business interest. If any of these factors exist, you have too much to lose without proper legal representation as a divorce, child custody, or domestic abuse action can have an unanticipated impact on many other areas of your life, including:
Will or trust;
Long term debt liabilities;
Your retirement accounts;
Decision-making authority relating to your children; and
Parenting time with your children.
I Received Papers...
What Should I Do?
When you receive legal papers relating to a divorce or child custody matter, it can be an upsetting and stressful experience. After the initial shock, to avoid to harm to your custody and property rights, it is important to try to get your emotions in check in order to focus and gain perspective on your situation.
The first thing you should do is write down the date you received the papers on a calendar or journal as there are certain deadlines that must be met based upon the date of service. In Minnesota, you will have 30 days to respond to a Summons and Petition for Dissolution (or Divorce), 20 days to respond to a Summons and Petition for Paternity (or child custody), and usually at least 14 days to respond to a motion relating to custody or parenting time. The Summons or Motion will state the number of days you are required to respond. A Motion will also set out the relief the opposing party is requesting. Likewise, in a divorce or paternity matter, the Petition describes the requested relief. It is important to respond within the requisite timeframe to preserve your legal rights.
Read the Papers
After the emotional rollercoaster you feel after receiving the papers subsides, it is important that you carefully read them over. The legal papers may contain a wealth of information of what the opposing party is requesting the court to do. The divorce papers will list the court where the legal action was filed as well as how many days yo have to respond and whom to respond to. Additionally, the papers will indicate whether the opposing party is filing the paperwork on their own behalf or whether they have retained the assistance of an attorney.
Hire an Attorney
Whether it is a divorce, child custody action or order for protection, the legal action can have a dramatic effect on you and your children's lives, so it is important to retain legal counsel. Even if you believe the other party is in agreement, you should have an attorney review the documents to ensure your legal rights are protected and the agreement contains the terms you have actually anticipated. It is especially important to retain an attorney if the other party already has. This will prevent you from being on uneven footing. Our firm has financing options available to retain our legal services.
After you have completed reading the papers, you must start gathering documents and other information that refutes the allegations contained in the opposing party's legal papers and supports your position.
In divorce cases, take pictures the property and assets to ensure you have an accurate inventory and have a record should your spouse remove any assets. You will also need to gather financial documents such as tax returns, W-2s, bank statements, and evidence of debts.
If the case involves custody or parenting time issues, start keeping a calendar or journal of the dates, times, and activities you participate with your children. It is also recommended that you gather pictures of the various activities and events you have engaged in with your children as well as social media posts relating to your own as well as the opposing party's activities.
If you are in a divorce, you should reroute your mail to avoid detection by your spouse. Lawyers may send letters with confidential information such as tatical plans that should not be revealed to your spouse. A post office box can help protect privacy and confidential communications.
Likewise, it is important to change all email, social media, and other passwords to prevent access by the opposing party. It is recommended to create a new email address unknown to the opposing party to communicate with your attorney.
What Not To Do...
Just as important as what you should do when you are served with papers, is what you shouldn't do. Check out our article on "What Not To Do."