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Child Support Collection “Remedy”- KDWB

A local radio station, 101.3 KDWB out of Shoreview, Minnesota, has been broadcasting in the Twin Cities for over fifty years.  Dave Ryan, one of the radio personalities on KDWB, hosts the “Dave Ryan in the Morning” show on weekdays.

One of the skits he performs on the show is “When was the last time you paid child support?”  The following description of the skit comes from Wikipedia on April 16th, 2013:

“When was the last time you paid child support: A prank where Dave calls shady, lazy baby-daddies who spend their child support money on binge drinking. Dave invites them to take a short 3-question quiz to win an iPad mini or some other modest electronic give-away. The first two questions are a breeze, but the final one reveals what tools these wankers truly are. The ensuing rage-spewed insults from the baby mamma make this bit an instant classic.”

As a family law attorney, I would not advocate any of my clients participating in this show and airing their family’s dirty laundry in public.  More importantly, creating more hostility between parents is generally detrimental to the best interests of the children.

However, I must say the skit can be enjoyable to listen to when a parent (usually a mother) decides to do it anyway.  Some of the clips seem like they were taken straight out of an old Jerry Springer episode.

Downloadable and streamable sound clips from the show can be found on his podcast here: http://daveryanshow.iheart.com/cc-common/podcast.html

Obviously this isn’t a remedy for not paying child support.  It does illustrate the tension and animosity a couple can have towards each other when children and financial issues come into play following a breakup. 

These difficulties also highlight the benefit of parties who are willing to cooperate and try alternative dispute resolution or negotiation in a family court matter to try to reach a peaceful agreement.  It’s obvious that many of these couples on the air chose to make their situation a difficult fight rather than a cooperative, problem-solving endeavor.

It also raises questions regarding privacy issues in family law matters and child support matters in particular, although I’m not sure how those would resolve.

Divorce: Putting Down the Other Parent

The following was written by Judge Michael Haas after 25 years on the bench in Cass County, Minnesota.  He retired in 2002, however his advice to parents in Minnesota divorce and child custody cases remains as profound as it was years ago.

The Judge’s Letter to Divorcing Parents

“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.

No matter what you think of the other party—or what your family thinks of the other party—these children are one-half of each of your. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an “idiot” his father is, or what a “fool” his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.

That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.

I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”

To Parents Involved in Divorce and Child Custody Situations

I hope that putting the best interests of your children first is what drives anyone in a child custody or divorce proceeding.  If that’s not enough, there are also practical reasons in the context of a divorce case to be as honorable as you can. 

The inability to get along with the other parent can reflect badly on your character in the eyes of the judicial officer and make him or her question your ability to be a mature and positive role model for your children. 

In addition, putting down the other parent can indicate to the judicial officer that you are not willing and/or able to put the interests of your child ahead of your own feelings towards the other parent.

Judges have a great deal of experience with family law situations and are well able to get to the bottom of situations if one parent is truly bad for the child.  Bad mouthing them, particularly in front of the children, will only reflect badly on you.

You Want to Divorce Your Husband, But He Gave Birth

Divorcing a Husband who gave birth to your children

This is the situation facing an Arizona couple.  Thomas and Nancy Beatie have been married for nine years.  They have three children together. They both want a divorce now.  However, they’re running into a snag.

The Marriage

It turns out Mr. Beatie was born a woman and had undergone a sex-change operation.  Despite the change, Mr. Beatie retained his ability to give birth to children and had three children during the marriage.

The couple married in Hawaii in 2003.  Mrs. Beatie is unable to have children, so Mr. Beatie conceived with donated sperm on all three occasions.

The couple are now together seeking a divorce.  If not for the transgender issue it would be a fairly routine dissolution.

The Legal Status of the Marriage

Arizona has a ban on same-sex marriages.  So now the judge has a quandary as he contemplates this divorce.  On one hand, he can’t recognize a same-sex marriage as valid by the laws of his state.  On the other, it’s not quite clear whether the couple is same-sex or a man and woman.

The judge will have to decide whether on which side a marriage involving a transgendered person falls.

Impact in Minnesota: What Marriage Validity Means

If this case were in Minnesota, the implications of whether or not the marriage was valid from the start are significant.  It could influence custody rights, child support, alimony, and property division.

In Minnesota, marriage can grant certain rights and privileges, some of which may continue in the case of a divorce.  If there never is a legal marriage, those rights could vanish.

 

Parenting Time and the Holidays

Child Custody, Parenting Time, and the Holidays

The holidays are usually a great time for children.  However there is one sure way to spoil a child’s experience.  When both parents are fighting, being petty over little things, and putting their wants first, the child will often lose.  This is true in general, but can be especially painful during what should otherwise be a joyous and happy time for the child.

The Parenting Time Trap

Holidays can often be a special time.  Along these lines, parents may place great importance on this time, and rightfully so.  However, because of this importance it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is the time to dig in one’s heels and “assert my parenting rights”.

I’m not suggesting any parent should roll over to unreasonable demands to the other.  Nor should any parent facilitate contact that would put their children in danger.  With this in mind, here are some suggestions to make the holiday experience as best as it can possibly be when there are parenting time issues.

Ten Ideas for Holiday Parenting Time

  1. The best interests of the children should come first … always
  2. Holidays can be a great time to build the relationship between parent and child.  This goes for both parents
  3. Court-ordered parenting time schedules, which should include holiday provisions, are still the rule …
  4. … But flexibility can also go a long way towards building goodwill with the other parent and making it a better holiday time for your children
  5. Along those lines, building in some holiday time for each parent with the child is often the best strategy
  6. Understand that the other parent’s holiday decisions are sometimes based on family decisions, not just his or her own.  Sometimes he or she may not be able to control a schedule conflict
  7. Usually, each parent places the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with their children
  8. Usually the children, especially younger ones, place the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with each parent
  9. One side is not “losing” if they generously offer flexibility to accommodate what’s best for their children
  10. Lastly, if any disputes over these issues go to court, a judge is generally going to be very underwhelmed with the party behaving unreasonably and disregarding the interests of his or her children.  This may be especially true for behavior during the holidays.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  I hope no one has to deal with bad custody situations during this time.

Can I Get an Annulment in Minnesota?

November 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Divorce, Family Law

The short answer, is probably “no”.  There seem to be a lot of popular misconceptions about annulments.  In particular, some believe that annulment is simply a convenient alternative to divorce and preferably a low-cost one.  This is simply not the case.

Divorce vs. Annulment

A divorce is different from an annulment.  A divorce is the legalized end of a valid marriage.  An annulment is a legal recognition that the marriage had some deficiency from the start and therefore will not be recognized as a marriage from the start. 

The reality is, in Minnesota there are only a few narrow circumstances in which you may be entitled to an annulment.  In Minnesota, there are two types of situation in which an annulment may apply.  There are “void” marriages and “voidable” marriages.

Void vs. Voidable Marriages

Void marriages refer to marriages that were never and can never be valid as a matter of law.  These fall into three types:

  • Same-sex marriages
  • Marriages with close blood relatives
  • Marriages when one party was still previously married

Most frequently I see this question pop up for the last situation.  Specifically, a later spouse discovers that their partner was married previously and had never been legally divorced.  In this situation, the latter marriage is automatically invalid in Minnesota.  The solution is to have the married party legally divorce and then remarry their second spouse.

Voidable marriages are those that will be allowed to continue, despite their deficiency, unless one party or the other challenges the marriage in a timely manner based on the deficiency.  Voidable marriages in Minnesota include:

  • At least one party was underage (less than 18)
  • At least one party was not able to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of this at the time of marriage or
  • At least one party lacked capacity due to any of:

Incapacity due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Mental incapacity

One party committed fraud or used force to compel the marriage

Annulment Conditions Usually Don’t Apply to Divorce Situations

The bulk of reasons for dissolving a marriage, like financial struggles, infidelity, disagreements regarding child care, or abuse don’t generally trigger the conditions needed for an annulment.  This is why divorce, not annulment, is almost always the proper course of action if one party wants to get out of a marriage.

Parents: How to Help Children Through a Divorce

Obviously a divorce is a significant loss to many of the husbands and wives who have to go through with it.  But even more so, divorces can affect the wellbeing, psychological health, and emotional development of children of a marriage.  The following are some ways in which parents can help minimize the negative effect divorce can have on their children.

Distinguish the Parent/Parent and Parent/Child Relationships

Remind the child that it’s not their fault.  Highlight the difference between the relationship between both parents and the relationship each parent has with the child. 

On a related note, continue to maintain an active and positive parent/child relationship after the divorce.  A child still needs this from both parents, even after a divorce. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and care for the child.

Keep Divorce and Post-Divorce Conflict to a Minimum 

This may be the most important predictor of eventual outcome for the children.  Yes in many cases there are bitter, unresolved feelings between the parents.  These feelings often make it easy to fall into the trap of lashing out at the other parent or speaking badly of the other parent.  This is particularly harmful if it’s done in front of the child.  Generally, follow the age-old adage: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Often, a divorce resolved through alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, and coupled with a parenting plan agreement made by both parents can help reduce the sense of anger and “loss” associated with a full-blown divorce trial.  This can help the parents avoid much of the anger and resentment and make it easier to be at least civil with the other parent.   These alternative methods to trial are highly recommended in most cases.

Stand United, If Possible

Remember, parenting doesn’t end with the divorce.  In many children’s eyes their mother and father are a cohesive unit who they refer to as “my parents”, not necessarily “my mom” and “my dad”. 

Imagine the difficult choices a child may face if placed in a situation in which the child is keenly aware of the anger between both parents.  The child may often be worried about showing preference for one parent by showing affection to one first or more often.  Children should never have to make those choices.

Communicate Openly and Directly with the Other Parent

Parents should negotiate with each other regarding how they will resolve any parental disputes in the future.  This may involve some form of direct negotiation or alternative dispute resolution.  Generally, unless a child is endangered, going back to court should be a last resort of the parties.

In addition, communication should be direct between the parents whenever possible (situations with domestic abuse would be the notable exception).  Children should not be used as shuttle messengers between the parents.

You Don’t Divorce Your Children

Remember, you never stop being a parent.  A child deserves the best efforts of both parents to help them develop into an emotionally health and happy adult.