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Brainerd Minnesota Law Blog

Signs that a divorce is imminent

People in Minnesota may experience various conflicts and changes in their relationships. When people get married, they may intend to stay together for the rest of their lives. However, as people change and grow, they can find themselves at odds with their spouse. They may have conflicts over career or parenthood, or they may suffer issues with addiction, infidelity or even abuse. In other cases, they may simply find themselves growing in different directions, especially if they married at a younger age or experienced significant upheaval in their lives. There are some indicators that experts say reveal when couples are more likely to end their marriage.

Contempt is one issue cited as a common sign that divorce is in the future. For example, a spouse may not consider a partner at all in making decisions about major issues, like elective health procedures or a big career move. This can indicate that the spouses no longer see each other as an important factor in each other's lives or that they do not have respect for the other person's opinion. In other cases, contempt can be shown much more clearly, as when one spouse calls the other names, mocks them openly or speaks about them dismissively.

It can happen here

That was the title of a book written in the 1930s about a Nazi style takeover in this country. People assumed that something like that could never happen here, and it did.

Discharging student loan debt in a bankruptcy

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which was signed into law in 2005, makes student loan debt exempt from discharge in most situations, and individuals who seek relief from educational loan obligations are generally required to establish undue hardship by passing the Brunner test. However, Minnesota is one of a handful of states where bankruptcy courts apply the totality of circumstances test instead of the Brunner test.

To pass the Brunner test, an individual's situation must meet three criteria. Making their required monthly student loan payments must not leave them enough money to enjoy even a minimal lifestyle, their situation must be unlikely to change significantly in the future, and they must have made good faith efforts to pay their debts. The Eighth Circuit, which includes the District of Minnesota, has ruled that this sets an unfairly strict standard and includes a good faith requirement that is not found in the bankruptcy code.

Estate planning for couples without children

Some couples in Minnesota and other states have decided not to have children because of insecurities regarding their parenting skills, concerns about their finances, worries regarding climate change and instability, and a wide variety of other reasons. Couples who decide to be child-free experience challenges related to estate planning that are different than couples who have children.

One common idea is that a will is not necessary for child-free couples. Not having a will is actually quite common; it is estimated that over 60% of people do not have one. However, if an individual dies and does not have this important document, the state has the responsibility of determining where a couple's assets will go. Of course, this is upon the death of both spouses. If just one spouse was to die, their assets would likely go to the other spouse.

Facing the unique challenges when getting a gray divorce

In Minnesota and across the United States, a growing number of older people are moving forward with a divorce. This is frequently called a "gray" divorce. The reasons for divorce can range from no longer having the same life goals to experiencing boredom, dissatisfaction and unhappiness. While the overall divorce rate has been in decline and is at its lowest point in four decades, people 55 and older are increasingly choosing to part ways.

There are unique challenges with gray divorce. Alimony is a common concern in any divorce, but older people are likely well advanced in their career. This can complicate the amount of alimony because the salary can have different aspects like bonuses and stocks in addition to salary. Since Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, the court seeks to come to a fair split, and it might not be 50-50. Assets and income can be impacted.

Crow Wing County tests outsourcing certain probation cases

At a recent Crow Wing County board meeting, County Attorney Don Ryan, spoke about a pilot program to outsource certain probation cases to Diversions Solutions LLC. Diversions Solutions LLC is a company out of Red Wing, Minnesota with the goal of alleviating the stress county probation offices feel when confronted by high volumes of work. Crow Wing County introduced the program earlier this year and has been using it for traffic diversion and other low-level misdemeanor cases.

The Elephant In The Room

Many attorneys and clients have a hard time talking about fees, even though they are very concerned about them. Attorneys want to get paid to cover their overhead, education costs, and make a living, clients want to know what cases will cost, and keep their costs under control. As with all tough subjects, talking about the issue up front is always better than trying to sweep it under the rug.

When estate planning, remember to include your pet

Many people in Minnesota might put off estate planning because the topic is not an easy one to consider. However, it may be especially important for people who have a special bond with a pet to have up-to-date estate plans. In the event that a pet owner passes away before a pet, an estate plan could help ensure their dog, cat or other animal companion is taken care of.

To safeguar­­­­d a pet's future, it's important to consider short-term and long-term plans should one pass away or become incapacitated. While provisions might be placed in a will, this likely is not enough because wills take time to process. Creating or adding to a trust may be a good idea as pet owners can set terms and provide funds for a pet's needs.

How witness testimony can influence a criminal proceeding

Minnesota residents could be harmed if a police officer engages in misconduct. In some cases, misconduct could include lying on a witness stand or otherwise providing inaccurate information in a criminal matter. Recognizing this possibility, groups in Florida, California and Texas have sent letters to authorities in those states. The letters ask that police officers who engage in misconduct not be allowed to testify in criminal cases.

Many communities have Brady lists of officers who are not used in a criminal prosecution. In California, the district attorney in Orange County placed four officers on his Brady list. This occurred after information came to light that they solicited statements from suspects through jailhouse informants. The statements were made by the suspects without having access to legal counsel.

A prenuptial agreement today could save precious time in the future

Wealthy couples commonly use premarital, or prenuptial, agreements to determine how their property gets divided if they get divorced in the future. However, there might be some excellent reasons for average-income Minnesota couples to use this tool and avoid a costly divorce. Although drafting a prenuptial agreement could cost more than $5,000, the benefits of having one might far outweigh the costs.

A premarital agreement defines ownership of property. When one or both spouses enter a marriage with their own property, a prenup could ensure they don't lose it in a divorce. This is especially important in blended families where one spouse wants to protect property for his or her children from a previous relationship. Instead of avoiding the tough financial conversations early in a relationship, couples who draft these kinds of agreements may spend less in divorce court. Since disputes about money are a leading cause of divorce, having serious conversations about it earlier could result in longer marriages.

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