Among most age groups, marriage dissolution rates have declined sharply since 1990. The one prominent exception is divorce among people over 50, or so-called “grey divorce.” These rates have skyrocketed since 2000.
Still, a significant number of marriages end in divorce. There is a lot at stake in these proceedings, so it’s very important to find the best Brainerd divorce lawyers.
What are the qualities you should look for in the best divorce attorney? And what’s at stake if you choose the wrong lawyer? We’re answering these questions and more in this article, so keep reading.
Temperament Is Important in Divorce Proceedings
Aggressive representation is very important in marriage dissolution matters. As outlined below, there are a wide range of complex issues. Assertive representation is the best way, and perhaps the only way, to preserve your legal and financial rights.
But there is a difference between aggressive representation and blind obstructionism. Unfortunately for their clients, many Brainerd divorce lawyers adopt the latter stance. They reason that the client wants bulldog representation in this legal matter. So, they contest every inch of legal ground.
On the surface, that may seem like a good idea. But, in fact, it is often counterproductive. One factor in child custody and visitation is the ability to co-parent. The former spouses do not need to be friends, but they need to be able to work together. If a parent is obstinate, the Crow Wing County judge may conclude that the person would not be a good co-parent. It is almost impossible for these individuals to win a custody fight.
The right disposition is only part of the equation. The best Brainerd divorce lawyer must also be highly familiar with all the issues involved.
Hire Brainerd Divorce Lawyers With Experience and Expertise
Not just any attorney will do when it comes to fighting for your rights during divorce. Instead, you need a Brainerd family lawyer who has experience with divorce cases and can guide you through the process of how to get a divorce.
Not only that, but you’ll also want to focus on professionals who have specific expertise with the type of divorce you’re going through. After all, you don’t want to hire a divorce mediator specializing in compromise when you have a court custody battle coming up.
How do you ensure you’re hiring an expert? Here are our three top tips for finding the best Brainerd divorce lawyer the first time, every time.
Before you ever hire a divorce attorney in Brainerd, you should ask for references. An attorney should be able to refer you to former clients whose case he or she won. Any divorce lawyer who can’t or won’t provide references isn’t worth your time.
It’s also important to look up your attorney’s credentials. You can access online information about your divorce lawyer’s continuing education, which is a good sign you’re dealing with a highly educated and experienced professional.
Finally, it never hurts to check your attorney’s online reviews. Browse the reviews on your lawyer’s website and also take the time to browse reviews on Yelp and Google. Of course, one bad review shouldn’t send you running, but an overall trend of former client dissatisfaction should be a red flag.
The Best Divorce Attorneys Communicate Well
You know the saying, “communication is key”? The person who came up with that adage must have been talking about lawyers. Because, when it comes to finding the best divorce attorney in Minnesota, you’ve got to ensure he or she is highly communicative.
There may be a lot on the line during your divorce. If you and your attorney can’t clearly and easily communicate, you may feel alone.
Any good lawyer should make you feel comfortable bringing up questions and concerns. He or she should explain complicated laws or arguments in a way that’s simple for you to understand.
Most importantly, your attorney should never communicate unrealistic expectations about your case. In Minnesota, it’s illegal for attorneys to make promises about results, and doing so could be a reason for disbarment.
What’s At Stake in a Brainerd Divorce Proceeding?
Divorce is also known as dissolution of marriage in Minnesota. Marriage dissolution can be contested or uncontested.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses can sit down together and compromise about the terms of the dissolution. However, when a couple can’t agree on the divorce terms, the case will go to trial.
Contested divorces typically go to trial. This type of divorce requires lengthy court battles that can be highly expensive.
So, the biggest thing at stake during divorce proceedings is money. You’ll have to pay at least $375 to file for divorce in Crow Wing County and, on top of that, your divorce lawyer’s retainer. The longer the divorce proceedings go on, the higher the cost.
Further, the terms of your divorce will determine your share of debts and assets. These terms decide child custody issues, such as where your kids will live, go to school, and spend holidays. And divorce terms also spell out who pays child support or alimony payments (i.e., spousal support) and how much.
Luckily, a Brainerd divorce attorney can help you get the most favorable outcome in court. Here are some of the top strategies the best divorce lawyers in Minnesota use to fight for their clients’ rights.
Property Division in a Brainerd Divorce
The Gopher State is an equitable distribution jurisdiction. The judge must equitably divide marital property. That’s not necessarily the same thing as equally dividing property.
Division is a two-step process. First, the judge must classify property as either marital or non-marital. The general rule is that property acquired before the marriage or by gift is non-marital property and everything else is subject to joint division. But there are some complexities, and commingled property is a good example.
Especially during lengthy marriages, commingling is quite common. For example, Husband may use funds from his paycheck (marital property) to fix up a classic car he owned before the marriage (non-marital property). At a minimum, Wife is probably entitled to reimbursement for her portion of these marital funds. In some cases, especially if the car was just a jumble of parts when the couple exchanged vows, the non-marital property may have transmuted into marital property.
Second, there is the division itself. Some common factors in this distribution include:
- A party’s prior marriage,
- The length of this marriage,
- Any agreements between the parties,
- Relative age, health, and educational status of the parties,
- Current and future income potential,
- The economic needs of each party, and
- Custody of minor children.
For the most part, the judge weighs all these factors equally. One is not more important than the other. Spousal agreements may be the exception. Most Brainerd judges enforce most property agreements as long as they are reasonably fair and entirely voluntary.
Debt Division in Brainerd Divorce Proceedings
In Minnesota divorces, courts typically divide liabilities based on who accumulated the debt. That means each spouse pays his or her own non-marital debts. Things get trickier, though, when considering marital debts.
For example, you may be responsible for your spouse’s debt in the following cases:
- One spouse uses his or her credit card to purchase household groceries or supplies for the whole family
- One spouse has a history of using his or her partner’s credit card, which has accumulated debt
- You and your spouse agreed to share the debt in a prenuptial agreement
Additionally, consider the case where one spouse acquired a debt that solely benefitted the other partner. For example, consider the case of a husband acquiring debt after paying for his wife’s non-necessary medical expenses. In this case, a Minnesota court would most likely order the wife to pay the debt since it solely benefitted her.
Child Custody Issues in Brainerd
Assuming there has been no domestic violence, there is a rebuttable presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the children. Joint custody probably will not involve a 50-50 division. Instead, one Minnesota parent has primary custody and the other one has liberal visitation rights. The best Brainerd Divorce Lawyer can give you excellent advice in this area.
Much like property division, there is a list of factors for the Crow Wing County judge to consider. Some prominent ones include:
- Parental preference (agreements between the parties),
- Preservation of the status quo,
- Parent-child relationship,
- Each parent’s commitment to co-parenting, and
- Physical and mental health of each family member.
Preservation of the status quo is perhaps the most important factor. The old saying that “possession is nine-tenths of the law” definitely applies in Brainerd divorce cases.
The Best Brainerd Divorce Lawyer for Domestic Support Obligations
In most cases, DSOs involve both child support and spousal support. In terms of child support, Minnesota is an income shares state, as are most other jurisdictions. The child support formula considers the income of both parents and then assigns a proportional obligation to the noncustodial parent. The guidelines are applicable in all but a few cases.
Spousal support works much differently. First, it is not applicable in all Brainerd divorce cases. The judge must make affirmative findings that one spouse has an economic need. Second, the amount and duration of payments is very subjective. Some factors to consider include:
- Oblige spouse’s economic need,
- The obligor spouse’s ability to pay,
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Length of the marriage,
- Noneconomic contributions to the relationship, and
- The age, health, and earning potential of each party.
Like child custody provisions, domestic support obligations can usually be modified based on changed circumstances. The obligee’s remarriage terminates the obligation altogether, but “remarriage” is not always easy to define in this context.
Call Today To Speak With a Brainerd Divorce Lawyer at Carlson & Jones
The best divorce attorneys are aggressive, experienced, and communicative. They have the expertise to defend your rights, whether you’re fighting for property, child custody, or spousal support.
Are you searching for a divorce attorney in Crow Wing County, Minnesota? The best Brainerd Divorce Lawyers have considerable skills and always have your best interests at heart. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Brainerd, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A.
Originally published on May 19, 2018 and updated on October 28, 2021.