Can I Get an Annulment in Minnesota?

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.

 

 

“You’re Ugly, I want a Divorce”

The Love Story turns “Ugly”

Man falls for woman.  Man and woman get married in China.  The happy couple conceive their first baby and enjoy nine months of marital bliss.  

Then the baby comes and there’s a problem.  The father finds the baby hideously ugly.  So ugly, in fact, that he can’t believe it came from him.  

Prelude to Divorce: Adultery or Something Else?

He’s immediately suspicious and begins investigating to figure out what happened.  It turns out, his wife was completely loyal and faithful to him during the marriage.  

However when they got married there was one thing she had kept from him.  She had previously received extensive facial plastic surgery, reportedly to the tune of over $100,000.

“What?  You aren’t really attractive?” –  Divorce Time

So, the husband filed for divorce on the grounds of “false pretenses”.  Interestingly, the false pretense in this case was that  the wife was genetically not as attractive as she appeared to be.  This led to the unexpected result for the husband of the “ugly” baby.

Now here’s the weird part.  The man not only got his divorce, but he successfully sued his wife for $120,000 in damages.  

Here’s one link to the story divorce story here, however it’s all over the internet if you’re interested in searching for more.

Don’t Worry, Divorce in Minnesota is not the Same

And for those of you out there like me who weren’t blessed to look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, don’t worry, looks are not grounds for divorce in Minnesota.  You only have to show there’s been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”

All joking aside, the take away message here: It’s a good idea to be open and honest about your marital relationship to avoid these kind of unpleasant surprises later.  Minnesota is a “no fault” divorce state, so the standard is effectively very low to get the actual divorce.

Divorces and Facebook Do Not Mix

Divorce Drama and Social Media

Social Media, and Facebook in particular, has changed the way we communicate.  The term “Facebook Drama” has entered our modern language and become synonymous with contentious presentation of information over the Facebook website.

The implications of a simple relationship status change from “in a relationship” or “married” to “single” can send digital shockwaves across a social group.

A divorce can be the most contentious and dramatic event that someone may experience.  It may seem natural to talk about, complain, vent, or bad mouth the other side through what’s become a normal communication channel in our society.  This is never a good idea.

Interesting Article on the Use of Social Media in Divorce Cases

This article on Social Times does a great job laying out how social media can be used in divorce cases: Social Media and Divorce

The article identifies four major areas that social media information has been used in family law and divorce cases:

  • A person’s state of mind
  • Evidence of communication
  • Evidence of time and place
  • Evidence of actions

You can imagine how differently some people would talk or behave in these situations if they knew that what they’re posting could be evaluated in the above way.

Some may be thinking: “They can’t do that.”  Oh yes, they can.  There is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” on social media, like there is with other activities in your home.  In other words, a judge may order you to produce passwords and anything else needed to access your accounts and what you’ve written.  The information on your social media pages is treated the same as other, more traditional forms of evidence.

What to Remember with Social Media and Family Cases

The take away message: Anything placed on any social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or any other outlet is easily accessible.  This includes people who may work against your interests.  Social media information is admissible evidence in court.

Never say anything related to a family case or an anticipated case, divorce or otherwise on any social media outlet.  You can only potentially be giving the other side information which could be used as evidence against you.

Help, I’ve Been Served With Divorce Papers

Divorce Service in Minnesota

It’s an awful feeling, especially if it’s unexpected.  A sheriff or random stranger comes up and calls you by name.  You respond, only to be handed an unfamiliar pack of papers. 

Inside, one says the court is giving you notice that a divorce proceeding has been started.  The second shows a laundry list of facts your spouse are claiming as true, even though you strongly disagree.  It then shows everything your spouse is asking the court to do, including divorcing you, getting your children, and getting your property.

The most important thing to do is keep yourself calm.  Carefully read over the paperwork.  You are given a period of time, in Minnesota it’s 30 days, to formally respond.  Keep in mind, in Minnesota you generally can’t stop a divorce.  If one party wants one, he or she is going to get it.  At this point, you’ve got two options.

Defending Yourself in a Divorce

Your first is to try to go it alone.  If there are no children involved, not a lot of assets or debt, and you feel like you and your spouse can be agreeable, this can make a lot of sense.  You can keep your costs relatively low, make the process go more quickly, and hopefully easily move on with both of your lives.  The Minnesota Courts website have a lot of forms and instructions available if you want to try it yourself, including their self-help “I-CAN” service: Minnesota Family Court Self-Help Site

However, often there’s a lot more at stake.  You love your children and the idea of them not living with you or you not being able to make decisions for them is a scary proposition. 

In addition, especially if you’ve been married for a long time there often will be significant property (and possibly debt) accumulated during the marriage.  You want to protect your rights to the property and not to take on more than your fair share of any marital debt.

Getting a Divorce Lawyer Helps Level the Playing Field

As a general rule, the more issues at stake, the more complex the case, and if your spouse has an attorney (you’ll know from the original service paperwork), you will want to strongly consider getting a family law attorney to help you. 

If your spouse is working with an attorney and you are not, you will effectively be handicapped during all of the proceedings and when attempting to assert your rights.  Judges are not allowed to take sides to help level the playing field.  It is very possible you will not walk away with a fair shake.

Disclaimer

All of the materials available in this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between Majeski Law, LLC and anyone who uses it.

 

When a Divorce Lawyer May Be Just What You Need

Divorces can be incredibly difficult both emotionally and procedurally.  A divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process.  This includes making it as smooth and quick as possible while still protecting and advocating for your rights.

Reasons You May Want a Divorce Lawyer

The following are some typical reasons you may want to strongly considering hiring a divorce lawyer: 

  • You don’t trust that your spouse will be honest and do the right thing during the divorce 
  • Your spouse has already shown they are vengeful, dishonest, or aggressive 
  • You are concerned that your spouse may be hiding assets 
  • You’re uncomfortable with the divorce process 
  • You’re not sure what to do during a divorce process and feel easily overwhelmed by the large amount of paperwork 
  • Your spouse has a divorce lawyer representing them 
  • Your divorce has special issues that need extra attention, like: 
  • Who will get custody of the children? 
  • How often will each of you spend with the children? 
  • Who will get child support and how much will it be? 
  • Are either you or your spouse entitled to alimony? 
  • How will marital property be split up? 
  • How will marital debts be split up? 
  • There has been domestic abuse or child abuse in the relationship 
  • You’re worried your spouse may become abusive if a divorce is started 
  • You don’t feel comfortable negotiating a divorce alone with your spouse 
  • Either you or your spouse has problems with drug or alcohol abuse 
  • Either you or your spouse has mental or physical health problems 
  • You would be comforted having someone help guide and lead you through the potentially complex process. 

When a Divorce Lawyer Can Help if You Have Children

Children are often hit the hardest by divorces.  Not only do they see their primary caregivers split apart, unfortunately some are put in between the parents in potentially horrible ways.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the divorce process by itself.  This pressure becomes even more enormous when you’re worried about the welfare of your children. 

A divorce lawyer can be especially helpful in the following situations, when your spouse has: 

  • Been physically or emotionally abusive towards them 
  • Used the children to try to manipulate you 
  • Denied you access to your children 
  • Threatened to harm or take away the children if you leave 
  • Has already kidnapped the children

A Divorce Lawyer Gives You Piece of Mind

Ultimately, a divorce lawyer will deal with all of the legally complex issues and arguments that may need to be made during a case.  The lawyer will keep you informed of your options and where the case is going.  Lastly, the lawyer will allow you to go on with your life as seamlessly as possible and help you move on.

 

 

 

 

Mediation in Family Law in Minnesota

What Mediation in Family Law Is

Mediation in family law involves both parties, like a divorcing husband and wife, meeting with a neutral 3rd party.  This neutral 3rd party, is a person called a mediator.  The mediator will try to help clarify the issues, facilitate communication between the parties, and help the parties reach an agreement on their own terms.

The mediator does not take sides.  The mediator does not make the agreement for the parties.  Lastly, the mediator does not have any decision-making authority like a judge does.

Along these lines, the parties don’t have to agree to anything if they don’t feel comfortable with it.

 Advantages of Mediation

First and foremost, when the parties reach complete agreement in the mediation, they may then proceed to end the case.  Any agreement the parties reach will go before a judge and generally will become a court order.  This ultimately saves the parties time, money, and more emotional distress that comes with a long, drawn out trial.

In addition, the mediation process manages risk and gives the parties control of the process.  If the parties don’t agree, a judge will ultimately decide the issues.  This could leave either party in much worse a spot than had they reached a settlement agreement.

Finally, in family law situations which involve children, research has shown that children tend to be better adjusted later on when their parents can work together and reach an agreement themselves.

Mediation is an excellent option for parties in different family law situations, including divorces, child custody cases, and alimony situations.  It’s so potentially valuable that in some cases, the parties may be ordered by a judge to participate in mediation to at least try to resolve their disputes with minimal court involvement.  Mediation in family law cases should almost always be at least considered.

 

Self-Help Divorce: You Can Only Marry one Person at a time in Minnesota Too

Self-Help Divorce Mistake #1: Using a Friend

Alan O’Neill, 42, a resident of Washington State, enlisted a friend to help him with a self-help divorce from his first wife.  Afterwards, Mr. O’Neill started another relationship and eventually decided to try his hand at marriage again. 

He happily married a second time and all was well.  The happy couple, as many do today, put pictures of the ceremony on Facebook to share with others.

One person, however, definitely did not “like” the joyous event:  Mr. O’Neill’s first wife, who he had never divorced.

It turns out Mr. O’Neill’s friend never filed the necessary legal paperwork to complete the first divorce proceeding.

Understandably Mr. O’Neill’s first wife brought the situation to the attention of the authorities.  Mr. O’Neill was charged in March of this year with attempted bigamy.  He pled guilty a few days ago.

Self-Help Divorce: The Potential Penalties

So, Mr. O’Neill had to endure months of public embarrassment and ridicule.  In addition, his second marriage was annulled.  This means the marriage was effectively cancelled, as if it never existed.

In addition, he has to go through the entire divorce proceeding from scratch again.  After finishing that, he will then have to marry his second wife again to have it legally valid.

Bigamy is Illegal in Minnesota Too: Take Away Messages

There are a few lessons here: First, there are a lot of procedures involved with a divorce.  It’s critical to do them correctly both to get the proper legal result and to advocate for your rights. 

Second, a family law attorney is a fantastic resource to help walk you through all of the potential pitfalls involved in the long and complex divorce process.

Third and finally, don’t trust a friend or neighbor to do it for you, unless they happen to be a lawyer.  If you ignore this advice and go with a friend’s help anyway, at the very least double-check everything they do.

Disclaimer

All of the materials available in this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between Majeski Law, LLC and anyone who uses it.

 

Separation and Divorce: Cultural and Socioeconomic Data

Different Trends with Separation and Divorce

A research study at Ohio State University  released last week revealed interesting research regarding separation and divorce rates.

The study followed over 7,000 people from 1979 until 2008.  The participants were interviewed every other year from 1994 to 2008.  Some interesting findings:

  • 49% percent of participants left their first marriage during the study
  • 60% of those individuals had gone through a marital separation
  • 80% of these separations ended in divorce

It’s important to clarify that “separated” in the study simply meant living apart.  This is different from a “legal separation” which requires a court hearing.  A legal separation involves a division of property and spouses living separately, however does not legally divorce the parties.

In addition to looking at general divorce patterns, the study also examined differences between those who legally divorced and those who just separated.  Historically, a legal separation has been a viable option for those with religious beliefs which disapprove of divorce.  However, this study did not show a difference in separation rates among those in different religious groups.

The Demographics that Relate to Separation vs. Divorce

In contrast, almost 75% of those who separated and stayed that way or who separated then reunited were black or Hispanic.  Those who separated also tended to have more children than those who divorced.  In addition, “In every measure we had, including family background, income and education, those who remain separated are more disadvantaged than those who are divorcing,” Zhenchao Qian, one of the researchers, said.  Based on this Professor Dmitry Tumin, study co-author, concluded, “Long-term separation seems to be the low-cost, do-it-yourself alternative to divorce for many disadvantaged couples.

Lastly, divorce proceedings include child custody, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and property division rulings.  Without these, individuals may have difficulty enforcing their legal rights or get the benefits they need from their spouse/ex-spouse.  Unfortunately, those without sufficient means, knowledge, or confidence in the legal system may not do what’s needed to protect these rights.  Legal help services are available in Minnesota for those who need it.

Minnesota Low Income Legal Assistance

The Twin Cities has many legal resources for individuals with low or no income.  Unfortunately, many low-income individuals who may be in dire need of these services may not have access to them or in many cases aren’t aware they exist. If you or someone you know is in need of legal resources and is struggling financially, check out the links below for assistance.  

The following are some prominent legal aid services in the Twin Cities area. If one of the agencies listed below is too busy or unable to assist, don’t be afraid to ask if they have additional resources, recommendations and/or can give you a referral.

In addition, Legal Services State Support coordinates legal services for low-income individuals across different areas of the state of Minnesota. They can be a good starting point if you’re not sure where you need to go.

Legal Assistance Agencies and Legal Resources:

1. Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA)

Mid-MN Legal Aid provides legal assistance for individuals with low-incomes, senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. Legal areas include Housing Discrimination, Immigration, Senior Law, Tax Law, Youth Law, Family Law, and Disability Law. They mainly serve individuals in the 20 counties of central Minnesota, including Hennepin county, but you can use the website to check for services available in your county and finding an office near you. You can also apply for free legal services online at their website.

2. The Volunteer Lawyers Network

The volunteer lawyers network serves individuals throughout Hennepin county in Minnesota, with most of their walk-in clinics located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They provide legal assistance in the following: Bankruptcy, Family Law, Criminal Expungement, Housing Court, Real Estate, Sexual Violence, and Youth Law.

Phone: #612-752-6677

3. Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS)

Legal assistance and legal resources for low-income individuals and senior citizens (60+) with housing-related problems, government benefits, and family law (such as, contested custody, domestic violence, etc…) Language interpretation services are typically available upon request. SMRLS serves the 33 counties of southern Minnesota, including the east and south metro area.   

Phone: # 1-888-575-2954

5. Tubman Legal Assistance for Women (L.A.W.)

If you’re a victim of a domestic abuse-related crime, Tubman provides legal advice and referrals for family law matters. They serve individuals throughout Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington county in Minnesota. They also have informational workshops on family law-related topics, such as divorce and a clinic for self-representation. Fees vary based on services, income and availability. Half hour individual appointments are available when scheduled by phone and in advance. 

Tubman Center West – 3111 First Avenue South  Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408, Phone: # 612-825-3333
Tubman Center East – 1725 Monastery Way Maplewood, Minnesota 55109, Phone: # 651-789-6770
Tubman Chrysalis Center – 4432 Chicago Avenue South  Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407, Phone: # 612-871-0118