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MPR’s Bob Potter presents “The Role of the Courts in a Changing Society: Divorce, Voices in the Wind,” a documentary that examines Minnesota divorce laws. Includes such topics as how divorce law in Minnesota has changed from "fault" to "no-fault", alimony, child support, visitation, post-dissolution problems, and the role of attorneys.

This is the second in a six-part series of documentary programs on the role of the courts, legislative action, and law in a changing society.

Click links below for other documentaries of series:

part 1:

part 3:

part 4:

part 5:

part 6:


1979 Ohio State Award, Series category

1978 American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award


Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

Today Minnesota Public Radio presents the second in a series of broadcasts on legal problems and the role of the courts in a changing Society funds for the series are provided by grants from Leigh Nash foundation and the Minnesota bar Foundation. Today's broadcast is on divorce law in Minnesota how it's changed in recent years and how it works. Well, this program does not pretend to be a complete explanation of any particular legal issue. We hope that it will help make understandable some important principles and procedures of family law.Hear ye hear ye, this family court of the state of Minnesota is now in session. On today's docket are the cases of Smith vs. Smith Brown vs. Brown Jones vs Jones. He was gone so much and when he was always gone and it was her way of life nice. He was on the ball games are playing cards or doing anything with the project all my problems on to my spouse used to drink a lot and come home late and they used to fight a lot about it. I know when I got back I was a basket case emotionally divorce simultaneously horrible and wonderful, frightening and liberating and increasingly common. There were almost 1.1 million divorces in the United States last year for every 100 couples tying the knot today 35 or 40 will be divorced that's 14 times the divorce rate. The century ago it was unsuccessful marriage as well last about seven years on the average. The divorce rate in the Upper Midwest is lower than in most of the rest of the country but it is still much higher than in most foreign countries most divorces involve children in 1974 over 1 million children had parents who are divorced that year was the immediate thing was a check on his office girl where they wanted me to soon before we were ready. We got pushed into marriage my push to because I want my name for my son raising one baby and I decided I didn't want to raise another baby and at that point, I was only 20 years old and I can barely take care of myself. And the thought of you know dealing with something like this for the rest of my life was just overwhelming and so I just packed up and headed for the airport. I don't see why they don't talk to us about this and how we feel about it one study indicated that divorced people are more likely to report physical disability chronic illness Neurosis depression and isolation, but another study showed that after initial intense pain. Most of our seas have become more assertive independent and confident and less tense but perhaps even that initial pain is lessening as religious and Community mores changed and does laws become more liberal from time immemorial governments have one way or another been a party to marriage relationships. If you're married, you're not simply going to do a relation with your spouse. You're in a triple relation with you. Sue your spouse and the state involved the state defines rights and responsibilities of your union and reserves the power to declare or deny its existence and if you are divorced, you know that it's a whole lot more Complicated to untie the knot than it was to tie it so short is an attorney who is handling a large number of marriage dissolutions first that client walks in the door. And then I'm the the basic areas that we needed to before the ground for the dissolution. What happened in this marriage? What why is it that this marriage marriage has not worked then the children things things with regard to their custody their care any special needs. They may have Caitlin the property find out what the property is what they think it's worth approximately and what their feelings are as to who should get what and how much Alimony what I find out whether there are strong feelings about alimony with the person person believes alimony should be granted to him or her and why then wait then we usually get down to to the following debts. I forgot that's how can I forget? That's that's another big area divorce can indeed be a legal Quagmire from the time of Hammurabi. There's been a fluid movement of legal solutions to the problems of personal relationships. That movement has been no less fluid here in the United States where it is range between the Puritans on the permissive 10 years ago people who could afford it flock to Nevada or Mexico to legally separate two centuries ago. They went to Pennsylvania and various times. Even Sioux Falls South Dakota and Fargo North Dakota have been divorced capitals of the country. Justice prohibition didn't stop drinking tough divorce laws haven't prevented people from separating. So on the last seven years most States including Minnesota have changed their laws to reflect the changes of Modern Life as Hennepin County family court judge Suzanne Sedgwick points out that change was partly because recent response to Arcane divorce laws had often been Shameless perjury in courtroom testimony have to rig up the grounds or Purdue themselves, or they would have to go out of state to get really what they wanted in the first place which was the temporal resolution of their marital difficulties really not too many years ago, even in Hennepin County. We required to witnesses as a practical matter most people and they're having their marital difficulties. Don't do it out in the backyard for the neighbors to see so many times. So I'm sure the Witnesses were rehearsed that requirement for two witnesses, which judge Cedric mentioned a rose from the legal perspective. One of the two parties was somehow at fault in the breakdown of the marriage that one person was in the wrong and the other was innocent. So the courts required testimony to ascertain that fault in much the same way as in a criminal matter the law head neat categories of para dolor extramarital activity, which you've proven would suffice to legally and the union but those need legal categories did not reflect the human reality that sometimes people simply don't get along and since the law did not reflect reality people simply lied in the courtroom to get what they wanted. In 1974 the Minnesota Legislature rewrote, Minnesota statutes chapter 518. It was called a no-fault divorce act. The laws most important change was to add your retrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship to available grounds for divorce the terms plaintiff and defendant were eliminated in the 1974 act the new terms are now petitioner and respondent. The word divorce was eliminated and the new term is marital dissolution in this program will use both terms interchangeably. Although the 1974 law did Mayte divorce much easier in Minnesota off and it is still difficult both legally and emotionally after a couple decides to get a divorce. Usually one party will seek the advice of an attorney will outline some of the considerations which super short mentioned a few moments ago. Then what usually happens is the lawyer makes up a summons and petition. The summons is to formally let the person spouse know what's going on. The petition is to the court seeking the dissolution of marriage at this point negotiations and Arrangements between the parties both in and out of court begin in Earnest if they have begun much earlier often times circumstances will warrant the husband-and-wife appearing at a temporary hearing this hearing usually occurs within a couple of weeks of the filing of the original petition and is designed to deal with urgent matters of immediate importance as attorney. Sue Shore points out this often happens when children are involved which cannot wait for 4848 a further date a lengthy determination who has who has temporary custody custody during the pendency of the preceding what the temporary visitation rights are to be if there are debts, which are probably would have a person ordered to assume immediate responsibility for payment of the dead. So the creditors wouldn't get wouldn't get nervous about they not pay the bills. For example. You can get an order for temporary exclusive occupancy of the homestead that sometimes is the subject of controversy, especially when custody is also in controversy is as I said before the person who gets custody usually is the person who gets occupancy the homestead the court can also Grant at that point. I a temporary word of alimony for the support of one of the other during the dependency of the preceding in the larger County such as Hennepin and Ramsey the courts have referees who handle all these initial hearings referees fulfill all the same functions as judges, except a judge must sign and a final order and they hear appeals from referees decisions Hennepin and Ramsey County's have special family courts what channel most divorce cases however new legislation abolishes both referees and family courts in July of 1978. Suzanne Sedgwick is the only Hennepin County family court judge. She signs all referees orders and hears all child custody dispute yourself. Only if there is a contest over property division between a couple of I have no children will a disillusion matter be handled in the regular District Court calendar and most other counties in Minnesota. These matters are taken up by the regular District judges and turn with all sorts of other legal matters judge Sedgwick points out that sometimes these temporary hearings are the most important functions of the Court hearings are almost all on affidavits. In other words, the the statements that are filled out both has to income and generally has to the party situation and on file with the court. Those are the affidavits in the statements that are red by the referee and used to make the determination as to the initial matters and the people appear at the temporary hearing but there is not testimony taken. The testimony has really taken by affidavit. So short explains the next step in this process. Try to to reach an agreement was just called a stipulation between the parties as to what is going to go into the Judgment decree of dissolution that would cover things like custody visitation and child support alimony property division dad's Insurance are all of the all of the various issues only takes a long time to agree upon a stipulation because people may have lengthy disagreements over for example how their property should be divided in that case. They may be extended negotiations between the husband and wife negotiations, which often take place through their lawyers rather than face-to-face that she that was one of the things that I wanted was the house we tried to get it so that we would give him like $3,000 because of figured that that was about all that he had really put in if that much and he wouldn't that you know, he he wouldn't go for that. And this was through his liar and my lawyer I didn't have anything to do with it. And then and then we ended up with 6 or so, which is that mean that he has on the house right now and that was in our final stipulation that he would get that if and when I sell the house, but I'm not forced to sell it which is a very good thing. I mean that was the one thing that I was afraid of was that a judge might say, which I I know they have in many cases. That the wife has to sell the house at the time of the youngest child's graduation from school high school, then they can divide the property. I'm making out a will and this is part of the stipulation of the divorce that I make out of well that the house will go to my children and divided equally and that he will get his $6,000 at the time of my death. And then if I remarry this was the one thing that he wanted if I remarry that I would have to sell the house. And then he would get his $6,000 Lane. So that's the way it is. And that was the stipulation for the divorce and he signed it. Ulation. But as in this case when both parties are finally able to agree on property division, the process moves out a bit and moves toward what's called a default hearing the stipulation is typed up in its final form acceptable to both people and is signed by both. It is filed with the court sometimes with a few supplemental documents and the court sets a date for the hearing then there is a waiting. For example in Hennepin County. There's a mandatory 90-day waiting. Between the filing and the hearing itself. Only one person shows up at the hearing the petitioner the one who was formally request of the disillusion that person is usually accompanied by a lawyer referee and the clerk are generally the only other people in the courtroom. It was very easy and I I just thought it went so smoothly and it was really a good experience for me and my lawyer was he was really so kind he wrote the question so that all I have to give us yes or no answers and it was just as easy as could be Is your two incorrect name Mary Ellen Smith? Were you and the response we married on September 11th, 1973 in Minneapolis Minnesota since that time have you been and are you now husband and wife what happens physically is very simple. The petitioner takes the witness stand and the lawyer asked series of leading question, but usually require just a simple yes or no answer. Has there been any retrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship did extreme and hostile disagreements over money and financial matters cause recurrent frustration and serious marital Discord this Discord cause you loss of weight sleeplessness nervousness and did it make you extremely irritable outline why the marriage is broken down and why it should be dissolved by the court. This is the time to when name changes take place name changes are written into the stipulation and become a part of the final court order along with the more mundane items such as who gets the car or the refrigerator with a good sofa refrigerator. Yes, have you and respond satisfactorily divided all other items of personal property household goods and Furniture, which you own. The referee where are the judge will probably have some questions which he or she wants to ask but very off and they will break in during the grounds part of it and ask whether for example they have had marriage counseling how that worked out. I'm good at that sort of a thing then they they may be curious about it, but other about matters, which they did not think we're covered fully in the in the attorneys presentation, then they will eventually say they'd be the findings were proved. The dissolution is granted name changes granted and then they that they if it's a referee referee than signs a statement on the findings of fact, which are the documents Which Wich the attorney presents to the court and which constitutes the official court statement of what what happened at that hearing the dissolution is not final however until the judgment and decree is recorded in the in the Judgment docket by the clerk of court. Very nice, you know, he said he agreed with the stipulation. He thought it was fair and Equitable and he would Grant a divorce and that was all there was to it and it was so easy that I guess I was surprised sometime. So it's not so easy for one reason or another the husband-and-wife may end up fighting it out in the courts people still face unpleasant courtroom scenes if there's a dispute over custody or visitation rights with children or there may be a financial dispute over child support the division of real and personal property or that bane of the grass widower alimony. I don't want to see sex with children. ASAP Mob On August 6th 1954 John Jacob Astor married Dolores Fullman. They went on a 46 day honeymoon. Got off the boat and never live together. Again, John and Dolores battled in the courts for the next 14 years in 1954 alone. John Astor paid $100,000 in attorneys' fees and return for 46 days of cohabitation. He paid almost $200,000 in alimony attorney fees to his wife plus a considerable but undisclosed property settlement large property settlements are not necessarily an equitable. However, several years ago in the Minnesota case of bowling back versus bowling back the state supreme court emphasized the principle that when a man wants to get rid of his wife or somebody else he has to give her enough money so that she can retain the standard of living to what she's become accustomed in that case the husband had inherited several million dollars and the court required him to give half of the money to his wife of many years just because he was tired of her the court said he couldn't store What is the cold with nothing transition from Marriage to divorce can be painful enough without forcing people to drag each other through the mud in a public forum. However, when the 1974 legislature passed Minnesota so-called no fault divorce at the lawmakers were not altogether clear about whether they meant to eliminate all the mud while the law effectively remove fog as a necessary ground for the dissolution itself. Legislators are unclear about whether fault should remain a consideration in financial matters such as alimony child support and property division. No specific mention of this issue was made in those particular sections of chapter 518 this created a hole in the wall where two conflicting positions were arguable concerning the role that fall should play in divorce property settlements University of Minnesota family law professor Robert Levy. Therefore it was fair to argue on the one hand that the old decisions which said that fault where relevant continued to be relevant. So long as the legislature had not said that they aren't that it's no longer to be taken into account on the other hand. The argument could be made that the reason for changing the law respecting grounds for divorce was to take hostility and anger and name-calling out of divorce proceedings and simply to direct judges to find out whether the marriage was dead or irretrievably broken. If it were permissible for a judge to take bad conduct into account in distributing property or in determining how much alimony was to be paid? then the same kinds of fights which had been encouraged in determining whether a divorce was proper would simply be shifted over to the determinations by the judge as to how much property should be distributed with a thousands of divorces which occur in the state each year. This issue could not remain unresolved for long. The Minnesota Supreme Court was eager to end the confusion and it did in the case of Peterson vs Peterson Professor Levy and others argue to the Supreme Court that the legislature in passing the $74. I had intended by implication that courts should no longer consider fault or marital misconduct in dividing property on the other hand Raymond plots and attorney who specializes in divorce cases argued to the court that it would be unfair and unreasonable if the court could not considered marital misconduct in property Division II, you have no intent of subscribing to the marital duties imposed on you that you feel no responsibilities to the marriage or to your spouse. But that don't forget to send the alimony or don't forget to remember me favorably in the property division as you can see that's contradictory and that sort of kind I just woke up. We speak of what we say serious marital misconduct in the Peterson case the Supreme Court of Minnesota decided that fault would continue to be relevant to property and alimony distribution but issued in what lawyers called victim victim is a an instruction the judges which is not necessary to decide the case, but none the less a statement which judges would take into account in any event in victim the Supreme Court of Minnesota made it clear that although fault was still relevant a judge had discretion to decide whether or not he would take fall into account. Now we go back to end of the long line of decisions dating back to 1877, which says that this is sort of kind act is one of the many considerations and determined Happy relationship day with the financial distribution should be between parties. I think that original decisions said and it has been repeated in various forms throughout the years is an adulterous woman cannot stand in regard to Alamo need to equal to one is kind of is irreproachable. And you know, what is adultery or other things that are just totally destructive as America relationship totally selfish. I think it'd be at least considered. My problem is I just don't know how to do it. I guess. I don't know. How you Number one assess fault on the part of both parties and added up and you'd almost have a comparative fault type thing if if the fault that's to be considered is the traditional though. Biggest fault which is our always was adultery. I don't really think that's the predicating cause of the breakup of very many marriages. It might be an ancillary Factor but I don't think it's a predicating class and I don't think it ought to be the grounds for treating one party and equitably after 30 years of marriage. So, I don't know I've tried to reconcile the Supreme Court decisions with my own way of thinking by telling me attorneys that if they intend to introduce fault and they want the court to consider that in an inequitable division of property. They're going to have to tell me how to do it cuz I just plain don't know how judge Sedgwick admitting her confusion with this area of the law is unusual judges. Do not often speak for attribution and I really open about such feelings perhaps with good reason judge Sedgwick has several times been reversed on this issue by the state supreme court. So it's hard to tell whether she is unusual in her approach to the problem of weighing fault in property division. There are of course many factories in addition to marital misconduct witch any judge will have to look at in deciding how to divide income and property between two people who are separating judge Sedgwick. Number one. I want to know how long a marriage is and I guess I have to know what the relative responsibilities of the parties were during that marriage if there's a traditional marriage where the man has been the breadwinner in the woman has been in the home and there's been a long marriage for 20 25 or 30 years. Then obviously there's a a security problem because a man is going to have usually job security. He may have pensions or profit-sharing trusts and any event. He has a relatively secure future and depending on the woman's age is particularly if she's over like Late forties the job market is pretty bleak unless she has some unusual skills, or is it unusual woman, but I would try to sometimes on equally divided property in order to give more security to the party that doesn't have the job security if I had the choice for example between being able to equalize the parties relative positions by property. Or doing it by alimony. I probably would do it by unequal division of property if there was a lot of animosity between the party so that I can break them off completely and alimony still keeps them tied to one another. However, there's two sides to that story too because alimony is also a very real tax planning considerations. Actually. We have them a property settlement. The the property transferred is not tax-deductible to the person that has two transferred nor is it taxable to the person who receives it or you have alimony it's a text. It's tax-deductible and under the new Under the 1976 tax reform act. It really has a substantial impact on some of the middle-income people because alimony can be taken right off the top along with the standard deduction by the person paying it and prior to that you had to itemize deductions. In order to take out mine, but now you can take the standard deduction and alimony right off right off the top by the person paying you alimony is tax taxable to the person who's receiving it the tax planning that goes in there can make the difference between a family living comfortably after the dissolution and a family having to really scrape. I don't like this. I don't understand what's happening. I'll tell you why you might not understand kisses. I should I put that I've got something to say. Your Mother's Day. But I'm going away. No, we're not mad. Don't see eye-to-eye. Say a prayer before you go to bed. Make sure you get yourself to school on time. I know you do think your mother asks going to need your mother's day and every night we're going to get lost. I was really sad. And when I heard my mom and dad getting divorced I couldn't believe it. I was too scared to I cried and I couldn't get to sleep when they told me that they were getting divorced and that night my mom slept on the floor and didn't sleep with my dad. I want to live with my mom and my dad. I don't see why they don't talk to us about this and how we feel about it. You're getting a divorce. But what about the kids child custody and visitation can be the most volatile painful and difficult decisions in the whole divorce process children generally love and need both parents and most parents are genuinely determined to do what is best for their children. Usually by the time a couple comes into court to finally dissolve a marriage. They've already determined with who makes child with live and what visiting rights the other parent will have these circumstances. Usually the mother gets custody of the kids and the father has very flexible visitation privileges, but it isn't always so easy. All this type of separation is being arranged all parties involved parents and children alike are often quite confused on willing to make a final decision on such an important matter. So they will ask the court to decide but courts prefer to avoid such responsibility if at all possible so many metropolitan areas have developed special services to encourage people to make these decisions themselves. We have tried to facilitate people making their own decisions by a mediation process. And that's what I that's what initially happens. Now if a couple comes in and indicates to the court that they can't resolve the question of who is to have primary care of the children. We would explain to them the mediation process and explain to them that we have Experts of seeing a lot of families with a lot of similar problems that would be available to help an alternative to systems in relying on the ability of people to make decisions for themselves most of it as a counseling process. To this entire process is the involvement of all the family members. You see the key. Is then to to give some kind of an atmosphere so that people can talk between themselves or Robert like off of Hennepin County child custody cases are on the same floor as family court and they are an official auxiliary to the court their office has over 20 counselors and Saint Paul has a comprable staff counseling sessions and groups are occurring constantly dealing with the problems such as personal adjustment to divorce child custody visitation and even drug dependency. Sometimes the father and mother have been fighting bitterly. Sometimes they have an amicable relationship, but just cannot agree about what should be done with the kids. Sometimes these problems continue years after the divorce Cinemark in she doesn't have much money and then we don't see her until after dinner when she comes home and and when my mom's now Dear then we fight and we then we're have a lot of yelling and the neighbors think something's wrong. People know how to parent be parents to their children. Mom and dad say bad things about each other and non-custodial parents for instance that they have access to the child. Maybe once a week. Okay. There's a real inclination to make that a goody time. We're going to go out and pull out all the stops will go to the candy store will go to shows and will do all those exciting things. When my mom picks me up, she she always gets me a candy bar or something. The idea of the closeness of parent to child gets lost in that kind of stuff. You see there's not really the more than the communication and I just being together. That's so important. Most of the people who utilize this type of service work out an arrangement between themselves, but there's always that 10% who can work it out then it's up to the judge factors are pretty well laid out in the statue that are to be considered by the court, but I suppose they're the common sense factors that most people would list themselves and that's the emotional ties and the love and affection that exists between the competing parties in the children, which party is best able to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the children have one child been born of this marriage. Is that child's name Eric John Anderson born on September 1st 1973. You are a legend at the best interest of the child would be served by granted custody to you and that you are a fit and proper person to have a care custody and control of the child has the child been living with you since he was born are there love affection and other emotional ties existing between you and the child and it's it is who provides the psychological support and who can continue to provide it and provide the child with the greatest ability of the minor child. Do you believe that the respondent has a violent temper? Do you believe that the respondent abuses alcohol child would be impaired if the respondent wherever granted custody of the child. party that the child will Call or come for come to for Comfort. Once the court makes this type of custody decision several questions, May remain such as child support payments and visitation rights attorney. So short with a child support it is what the court does is that the court evaluates the financial circumstances of both parties and under the statute. They also may consider the financial circumstances of the custodial parent. That's the parent with a child spouse if there is one now that's does not have any support obligation as a child, but they do consider that as a source of the source of Revenue. It is not there's no enforceable support obligation that they kind of kind of kind of balance the balance the financial circumstances State the amount of earnings. They type of types of assets owned by the people and they arrive at a figure which seems reasonable for the non-custodial parent to contribute toward the support of the children who are with a custodial parent. The child support of word is Almost Never. To to to care for that child totally for a maze usually expressed in in terms of an amount per child per month. I didn't really even know if I would get child support I said I would but I also know what my husband is like and how he probably wouldn't give it to me anyway, and I also know how the law works, you know, what they can they can only do so much. If he doesn't pay, you know, you can put them in jail, but what good does that do we still is going to pay unfortunately within two years of the divorce. Most people are no longer paying their child support or alimony collecting. These court-ordered payments is such a problem that the Anoka County Attorney's Office for example has set up a special section to take care of such tasks frequently people who don't get the payments from their former spouse and open afdc generally legal remedies are so difficult or traumatic or fruitless that most people do not take the matter back to court among those people who do make payments. There are frequent complaints that the payment figure originally settled upon has become unfair after. Of time for instance a non-custodial parent has gotten a much better paying job has quadrupled his income. And so now I can afford much more than the $60 a month. She has been paying finances just change all the time and the lies that there has to be a substantial change in circumstances. Between the time of the judgment and decree and the time the matter comes back into court and that this substantial circumstance really has to be on both parties. There has to be an increase need on the part of the children. That has substantially increased. As well as the increased ability to pay. So the mere fact that somebody is lucky enough to have quadrupled their income doesn't necessarily mean that the court can legally quadruple a child support. Perhaps the most difficult situation with child support and alimony arises in Interstate situations. We are there a Mobile society which creates a real problem when for example, the non-custodial father moves to Montana and stop sending any money that is a mechanism for enforcing child support and alimony across across state lines. The process is simply to apply to the court in the home state of the person who is entitled to receive the money that Court will correspond with the that never been ordering the County Attorney. Actually the one who does the corresponding with the county attorney in the in the foreign State and then they put Read against the debtor in that state is it then they they they the debtor appears in the foreign State and the foreign state has the power to reduce the amount which is owed. So I did pretty much depends upon the willingness of the other state to enforce the child support order, but it is generally it is a way to get to a person in another state if it's it's it's kind of insane system because we have we have this little States and you can't do anything outside your state and it's it's just really it's really it's just another state and then you just simply get out of a barrier of immunity sort of visitation can cause even greater problems than those which occur over money the initial visitation decision is made much the same way as with custody looking at what the children need and what the parents can provide the general philosophy is that a child needs both parents when both parents are reasonable. This Arrangement is usually flexible, but some people fight for air And they need continued counseling or very structured visitation times and procedures visitation. For me to see my son and Wendy was Finding every loophole in it that I couldn't or he's sick or what we're going out of town. We're going to be a town can't come back in you can have the next week and next week and come up while we're out of town to I fight I start getting tired of it and we got a consular involved and she still consoles us off and on she don't like seeing his come in and I don't like bringing her in but I never knew my dad. I never seen them. He's dead now. Jimmy's next time I have that happened. He's going to know who I am. He's going to grow up knowing me Elders over the child were transferring the child. I don't like it was it was it was a baby situation from from passing the baby from one to another and the Run ended up getting thrown down the stairs with a baby in his arms are under that kind of emotional stress on it. So when she decided she wasn't going to let me see Jimmy John backed her up, and she usually pick the time that he was drunk so I can I knew he had 50 200 pounds on me. I'm not a fighter. I never have been. these are the things I feel that my my right as a father has been taken away from not seeing that he's getting the right bringing up. And yes, I would like to get custody of them. I'm trying. It's going to be slow and when she finds out it's going to be very nasty cuz she is really going to resend it. Well, I'd have to prove. What's a word for it? And she's an unfit mother. Tammy quiet She loves Jimmy Fallon never say she doesn't. But I think she can cope with him especially right now. I don't think she can cope. With him and the two other kids and we do not lightly change and judgment and decree, but on the other hand people have changes of circumstances or children circumstances change people's Financial circumstances change. One of the things that is a very sore point and a sad thing is where are there is a remarriage in the parent with custody. Marry. Someone who is going to be moving out of state or the parent with custody is with one of the many companies who routinely transfer their employees out of state and the other parent watches the child so, you know, five six thousand miles away from home. So those matters frequently Come Back Inn. And that there is no resolution to them other than to try to. Determine some reasonable visitation in some way to be able to keep as much contact as possible with the parent who either will remain here who will go away child custody problems become incredible mazes when they're at when there are Interstate situations whenever you have a person who who has custody in Minnesota. So you have a father who has visitation rights in this we're going to the visitation father was visitation rights in California. Say two weeks in the summer for visitation. He refuses to return the children to Minnesota at the end of visitation Minnesota Court cannot order him to return the children because of course did they add the minutes ago doesn't have jurisdiction to order him in California to do anything. So what you have to do with what the person has to do is to go to California get a writ of habeas corpus is there and I have to have the children been returned to Minnesota, but that that that that involves traveling to California or at least retaining counsel in California there are states which which will not cooperate with that sort of a process. Tri-State switch switch switch regard children found within their boundaries as being the the within the protection of the state that is very difficult prohibitively expensive to fly to California and retained counsel. But some people have trouble just paying legal expenses for the simple dissolution proceedings right here in Minnesota and even among those who can't pay there's frequently a good deal of resentment about how much it cost for what is often the very simple paperwork exercise for their divorce attorney my wire I hope he died an agonizing slow death He didn't die. I'd love to shoot him in the kneecaps and see to it that he did divorce is a process not a single event. It is often a long process during which emotions are heightened relationships ripped apart financial problems exacerbated and children hurt and on top of it all the legal system imposes. It's often confusing rules and procedures people's attorneys can become the direct representative of those legal hassles. And although the attorneys will usually served as smooth out difficult times and resolve problems. Occasionally people feel their lawyer did quite the opposite for many reasons some good some bad lawyers are not always respected in American society many people have bad memories of their Brief Encounters with the legal profession. And and it was in a building downtown. Hi floor, big sweet. Mahogany doors Rose and Rose plush carpeting for a formal very impressive. The place is respectability and Power. all manner of things unknown to us, but very impressive ushered into the lawyer's office at down. He wheezed in fat. Disgusting fellow at first glance turn out to be more disgusting later. Had a bulbous nose veiny WC Fields are turf. Character Potbelly's vest in quite make it down to his pants top. Anyway, we told him what we wanted. I wanted to divide up the the few belongings we have. That wasn't good enough for him. He started talking to the wife. And insinuating never directly went to send you a ting. That if she wanted she could have any or all of the items which we agreed. I would keep and further she could tell me to take a walk and she could keep him as her attorney and I would have to pay his fees as well as give her everything professional ethics in disciplinary rules require any attorney representing two clients in the same matter to advise both of them fully of their rights, especially when the two clients are in a potentially adversary position, like in a divorce case, this is essential otherwise, for example, one spouse might conceal assets in order to get a more favorable property settlement, but sometimes an attorney may be less than conscientious or tactful in exercising this Duty many people have the perception that the lawyer really does not have the best interest of the parties at heart rather that money and efficiency are of prime importance in 1971 truck Thibodaux and several others who had miserable experiences with divorce attorneys in courts started the divorce Education Association or DEA. They contended that 90% of all marriage dissolutions could be handled by the parties themselves without lawyers and I Really should be handled outside of the court system people get ripped off in divorce men women and children suffer at the hands of the efficiency of that sausage machine that they're pushed through there on an automated bass court orders. If you took all the court orders in one day and read them they all look alike. The only things with very the numbers on them since 1971. I've been helping individuals as a social worker Advocate obtain their own two horses without the assistance of any attorneys out of that. I would say probably 70% of the people that I met on First Contact had it all figured out most of the time you're going to find the man in a in a Pulling out saying hey, you know wife and kids take the house take all of the other assets. You guys will need that to get along on I'll get an apartment and I'll send you somebody dollars but what you said earlier was important for the other 30% and I'm talking about is it yeah, people need their legal rights decided in some form a certain percentage of though. After the contested divorce wouldn't be involved in the other 30% out of that about 20 of that 30% would come to agreement. They would they would negotiate to be willing to negotiate the other 10% want to fight and the court was there and they fought and I get destroyed they got wiped out all the wires were the only ones who walk away today is it turned off the lawyers even walked away with Thibodeaux's divorce Education Association DEA was taken to court by the State Bar Association and charged with the unauthorized practice of law DEA Clans at the lawyers were angry because the association at successively Council thousands of people to handle their own dissolution paperwork, thereby depriving attorneys in the state of many fat fees DEA also accused the bar of a conflict of interest in the case in so far as judges who are members of the bar would be ruling on the merits of the case the bar association claim that the Hey was run by persons unversed in legal technicalities there by potentially depriving many clients of their full rights under the law the court decided that Thibodeau in the DEA were not qualified to practice family law in spite of that decision table do points to thousands of people who successfully engineer their own marriage dissolution without using an attorney and he still strongly believes that in most cases attorneys and attorney's fees are an unnecessary even a negative factor in divorce proceedings. Judge Suzanne Sedgwick. to the analogy to taking out your own appendix it going through a dissolution action when you're sitting on the other side of the table and you're you are a client or you're one of the litigants and you have your your own concerns and you have your own emotional involvement in the situation. It probably looks easy and it probably looks as if the lawyer isn't doing anything in my experience has been that people who are emotionally involved in anything but particularly in their own Affairs are not using clear judgment and we have a lot of difficulty with people who have attempted to act as their own attorneys, and they have wanted to amicably settle something and there is either not been full disclosure between one party in the other or are there has been an unrealistic expectation of what would happen afterwards all well. I'll take care of you anyway, so don't worry about this or don't worry about that. Sometimes they're just dumb. People are too involved to make the kind of business decision that they would make on the part of somebody else and I foresee that is being the real job that a lawyer does we have been talkin earlier, but I just some of the tax ramifications of even for a relatively modest incomes and if people know that fine, but if they don't know it, you know, they can be both parties can be an SS cheating themselves even people who are glad they're utilize the services of an attorney sometimes feel that at least as far as the fees are concerned. They got cheated. It's like asking a contractor how much you would charge to build a house. I'll have to know how many bathrooms you want in your house and let you know I made it break or Stoner or wood. I'm getting ranges and where they're truly are no issues. We're both parties have a good grasp on what the assets are and what their rights are and in the light of that knowledge have reached an agreeable decision and that is reason we in accord with accepted standards of fairness $350. I have a sliding fee scale. It slides all over the place. I base it on the on the financial ability of both parties. Essentially. It is possible for either party to get a contribution to his or her attorneys fees from the other person that depends upon as I said Financial capability default can sometimes go go as high as $500 if it's a very complex and you have a lot of real estate and that sort of thing and that there are there on 1122 to charge more than that on the other hand. I have charged I have I have done them with Stephen with children and with real estate both for as little as 250 to 300 if the financial means simply aren't there that's those are the people who are caught between legal aid and the deep blue sea, I mean that date they have too much for legal aid, but they just have simply do not have the means to 2 to pay any more than that. I would say an average figure for me is 352 $400 marriage dissolution is sometimes the simplest of legal problems and that other times the most complicated and convulse it on the one hand divorce is simply a legal prep. Best involving money and property not altogether unlike a simple contract dispute or fender bender controversy on the other hand divorce encompasses the most basic of human emotions and relationships love hate Independence children identity religion and pain. I heard a lot of stuff on TV about cancer patients. And the first thing they ask is why me and I think this is probably the routine reaction of people involved in divorce. Why me? Why can't I handle this? What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? What can I do now? All these sorts of self-doubt things really? Why can't I handle it? Why am I alone in this? I'm the only one in the world that is suffering this way of both of us. Course the law can't do anything about this pain loneliness and regret the law. Is it best in imperfect structure with which to Define particular aspects of human relationships with the rest of it. You just hope that people can work it out by themselves. And it's important to know. that one is not alone. The other people are experiencing the same problems. And other people are experiencing the same pain. the same sense of failure the same feeling that somehow in the future it can happen and happen, right? Marriage is a bad thing. That the opposite sex is not out to do them in. That reparations need not be visited. Not at all. Sometimes. I miss you note to pay checks coming in and like when we're eating rice krispies three meals a day. No, I don't regret it today. I realized that it was done between Joanna me. Was a day of freedom and comfort and self-satisfaction saying, okay. So that's that. So turn away from quit looking back and start looking ahead. And within about two weeks and then another way. Which few months later I married. Problem is on inside your head. She said to me. The answer is easy if you take it logically. I'd like to help you in your struggle to retrieve the most. 50 ways to she said it's really not my Habit to intrude but more out my meaning of the last night, but I'll repeat myself at the risk of being crude. There must be 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover by William Tilton engineering by Michael Moriarty and William Tilton funds for this series are provided by grants from the Minnesota bar foundation and the Nash Foundation. We'd like to thank University of Minnesota law professor JJ count for his assistance in his preparation. This is Bob Potter speaking. The Buzz


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