Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

Who Keeps the House?

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Hand Over Home Who Keeps the House?The home is the largest asset for couples because the home most likely has some equity. Of course, the amount of equity fluctuates with the housing market. During the most recent collapse of the housing market, it became a case of taking losses and many couples that divorced saw their homes lost in the foreclosure process because neither party could afford the payments.

Now the housing market is on the rebound in Minnesota and that is putting divorcing couples in better positions to split the equity in the home. In the 13-county metro area, the Pioneer Press states that the median sales price has risen to $160,000, which is 14.3 percent higher than January of 2012. The market is finally thawing out and that means that home valuation being correct is going to be a priority in a divorce.

There are usually two scenarios that occur in property division of the marital home. One of the former spouses may be able to continue to live in the home and pay the other spouse their share of accumulated equity. Sometimes an interest in the homestead equity can be offset by awarding retirement accounts to the spouse who does not continue to live in the home. There are various adjustments that can be made to the value of these accounts. In other cases, the home may be refinanced in order to split the equity, but the other common solution is to sell the home and split the money. Either way, it is a must to determine the property value.

The first way to determine the value is through a professional appraisal. What it was worth during the housing bust may not be what it is worth now. It could be worth more or less. If the value is inflated, that could mean paying more than what a person should to live in the home. The opposite an also happen, which is when the tax-assessed value is too low. If it’s too low, the spouse that does not live in the home may not receive a fair amount of money. This makes it worth the cost to hire an appraiser.

If upside down on a mortgage (mortgage is more than the worth of the home), it may be worth arranging a short sale with the lender. This may occur when neither spouse can afford to refinance or stay in the home, but this action is up to the bank. However, a November 1 federal rule states that homeowners current on their payments are allowed to qualify for a short sale. Short sales are typically for those seeing a hardship and divorce is considered a hardship when it involves a change in finances.

When it comes to property division, your attorney can advise you of what to do and the options available. Finding the best solution for you can mean not taking on an expense that you cannot afford or losing the home when you need a place to live and the other spouse doesn’t.

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Violence Warning Signs of Domestic ViolenceIn the past month alone, authorities say that three women have been killed by their boyfriends or husbands. The victims are a pregnant National Guard member, a teenage girl, and a Mall of America store manager.

Experts in the area of domestic violence say that the batterers usually appear to be on control on the outside, but they are raging on the inside. They tend to terrorize their households.

A suspect in a recent murder, Roger Holland, is an Army National Guard member. Unfortunately, military members that have a tendency to become violent do so as the result of post-traumatic stress and the transition back home. They may have no previous violent incidents, but they suddenly snap and they hurt the ones that they love. Experts say that the vertical society of the military in which members follow orders is much different than the horizontal society of a relationship. If it is noticed that a member of the military is acting out, it is important to try and get them help as soon as possible. It is especially helpful if they recognize that they need help.

With that said, here are the warning signs of domestic violence:

  • Threats
  • Stalking behavior
  • Put-downs and name calling
  • Controlling behavior
  • Physical abuse
  • Isolating the partner

Some individuals think they have not been abused because they haven’t been hit. However, the other forms of domestic violence are just as damaging. Each sign should be taking seriously because they could lead to physical violence or worse.

The good news is that the number of women murdered due to domestic violence dropped in 2012 from 2011 levels, but the bad news is that the number has already increased for 2013.

There is a 24-hour hotline for individuals who may be the victims of domestic violence. Women can call 866-223-1111 and men can call 866-379-6367. Victims are also encouraged to call their attorney to obtain an order for protection and take steps toward getting out of the abusive relationship.

Is Permanent Alimony a Life Sentence?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Most people believe they are going to be married for the rest of their lives when they say their wedding vows. Unfortunately, they don’t always consider the fact that something may happen that will lead to the demise of the marriage. Because of this, unexpected things can happen.

Alimony is one of those things that happen after divorce. When one spouse earns more than the other, the higher earning spouse will have a financial responsibility to the other. If the former spouse receiving the alimony payments doesn’t remarry, then the payments continue until they pass away or the spouse making the payments pass away. In other words, the payer can pay for the rest of their natural life. Even if the one receiving payments lives with a significant other that they are not married to, they can continue to receive payments. This is something that is happening more and more.

But even those who are not fans of permanent alimony state that there are good reasons for it. A disability is the perfect example, especially if that disability prevents the former spouse receiving the payments from work or their ability to work is limited. On the other hand, permanent alimony is viewed as a way for a person who made the mistake of marrying the wrong person pay for it for the rest of their life.

Even payments from lottery winnings typically end after 20 years, while permanent alimony can continue even through retirement, although the amount of payments can be reduced by the court. Unfortunately, a number of senior citizens find themselves losing a portion of their Social Security check to a former spouse.

The following is an example of this: In 2003, a man divorced his wife and then remarried in 2005. He was ordered to pay his ex wife $80,000 per year in alimony. That was 30% of his income. When the recession occurred and his income decreased, the annual amount was lowered to $71,000. Unfortunately, that $71,000 was 57% of his annual income.

So why does this form of alimony exist?

It exists because the breadwinning spouse supported the dependent spouse. The dependent spouse may not be able to survive on their income alone or they may have no income at all. Typically, alimony is awarded when there is a need and usually only for a fixed amount of time. Minnesota awards alimony for the purpose of having an income while working toward finding another job, going to school, or achieving a raise or increase in position at a current job. Once that goal is achieved or the receiving spouse remarries, alimony stops.

The reason why Minnesota puts limits on alimony is to prevent individuals from being deterred from working to better their lives. It is also designed to keep the paying spouse from having to pay for the rest of their lives. There are instances in which alimony is paid longer, but they are rare. But as long as there is a valid need, payments may have to be made.

Grandparents’ Rights in the Twin Cities

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

In the Twin Cities area, it is common for grandparents to rely on the law to make sure they are involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents feel a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their grandchildren, as watching grandkids grow up to be healthy adults is something that gives a great deal of pleasure.

Fortunately, Minnesota is a state that has grandparents’ rights laws so that grandparents can ensure they are able to watch their grandkids grow, but even gives grandparents the right to petition for custody if the need arises.

Minnesota law also allows for grandparent visitation, which means a grandparent can be given the legally enforceable right to see their grandchild. If grandparents are kept away from the grandchildren, they have the right to ask the court for visitation of their minor grandchild as long as the parent of the child (the grandparents’ child) is deceased, the parents of the child are divorced, or the child has resided with the grandparents for a year or more and was later removed from the home by the parents.

If the Minnesota court finds that grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child and that such visitation will not interfere with the child’s relationship with their parents, visitation can be granted. When making this decision, the court will consider a number of factors, such as previous contact with the child, what the child wants, and anything else the court feels is relevant.

There are times when the grandparent may feel that custody is not enough. Custody involves legally managing the child’s everyday activities, as well as making decisions for the child. In Minnesota, grandparents may seek custody if the grandparent has had de facto custody or the grandparent can show that the child will experience harm if they continue to live with their parents.

De ‘facto custody is when the child has lived with the grandparent for a certain amount of time, while the parent has not actively participated in the child’s life. The court will look at why the parent is absent, how involved the parent is with the child, and why the parents placed the child with the grandparent in the first place.

Meeting the definition of a de facto custodian or seeking custody as an interested third party is just the first challenge when seeking custody. The priority of the court is what is in the best interest of the child. The grandparents will only be able to secure a favorable custody decision if they are able to show the court that there is good reason for them to seek custody.

Child Welfare Costs Increase around Minnesota

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

All across Minnesota, counties are required to collect child support, detoxify those that are drunk and place children in foster care, among other tasks.

While the tasks are the same, each county performs them differently.

Of the counties evaluated was Blue Earth County. This is due to the fact the county is above average in how it establishes paternity and in that it is cost-effective. For every $1 that the county spends, they collect slightly less than $6 in child support. This is compared to a state average of $4.50 for every $1 spent.

But while Blue Earth County is above average in some areas, it is below average in its percentage of court-ordered child support that is paid. The county collects approximately 67 percent of owed child support, compared to the state average of 71 percent.

Phil Claussen, the Human Services Director for Blue Earth County, is considering making changes to the child support strategy by levying child support based on the payer’s ability to pay. He feels that there is a major deterrent when an order is for an unrealistic amount. Rather than being able to pay at least some of what is owed or through an affordable payment plan, the individuals who cannot afford the ordered amounts are not paying at all.

However, the county has not made it a goal to always beat the average. The goal is to help the children in need of support and care. The statistics could improve if the amount of child support orders was reduced, but the question lies in whether or not such changes would be beneficial for the affected children.

At a commission meeting, commissioners had questions about how Blue Earth County collected child support. One question was what is done when people don’t pay. The answer is that the county can garnish tax returns and wages, but not much is done in the way of criminal prosecution. It has been shown that putting someone in jail for not paying child support does not do much good because their ability to pay usually does not change no matter the penalty.

The Blue Earth County commission also heard about what other counties are spending. Out-of-home placement for children increased to $1/3 million. Detox costs increased 8 percent because only 20 percent of individuals that end up in detox are insured. On a positive note, child care costs decreased by $1.01 million.