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Unmarried Fathers In Minnesota

In this day and age most people accept that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. While gender bias remains, there are fewer and fewer roles that are seen as being just for women or men. The days of men having a limited role in raising children are over for most of us. But, family court seems to be a holdover from the old days for unmarried fathers. Too often, unmarried dads in this area are treated like possible threats to their children, even when they have never committed a crime.

You Can't Always Get What You Want

The Rolling Stones said it best, you can't always get what you want. In fact, most of the time we do not get what we want. It is important to keep that in mind when deciding whether to make an agreement to resolve a case, or go to a trial. If you can get at least some of what you want in an agreement, there are some huge advantages to settling as opposed to letting a judge, or in some cases a jury decide.
You know what will happen, judges, and jurors are unpredictable, you do not know what they may do you could win big, or lose big.
The process of a trial, regardless of the result is generally unpleasant. In family court, you will hear the other parent, and their lawyer trash you in open court, often for hours on end. While it is true that you and your lawyer will get to trash the other parent, most people would rather avoid a mutual semi-public bashing.
In criminal court, if you lose you will be convicted, and likely go to jail or prison, for family court, your future with your children is likely at stake, or your financial security. The stress when the stakes are that high is very hard for many people to bear, to say nothing of the increased legal costs of contested cases.
Don't get me wrong, if there is no reasonable offer on the table, I am happy to go to trial with you, have done it hundreds of times. But, if I can negotiate a fair agreement for you give it some serious thought, by taking it you will avoid a lot of grief regardless of the result. 

Judges Are Not Gods

I was talking to a judge I know today at a mediation. He told me that he is a human being, who tries his best, but like all humans is not perfect, sometimes makes mistakes. As any other judge I know will tell you, putting on a black robe does not elevate one to perfection. The judges I know do their best to make tough decisions in family law disputes, often pressed for time with woefully inadequate information. A divorce trial usually takes 1 to 4 days, with about 7 hours of in court time per day. In this time the judge is expected to receive information about a marriage that lasted decades, decide which parent is best able to raise the children going forward, and also decide how financial assets should be decided, and what financial support spouses will pay to each other. To expect any human being to make all of these decisions correctly under these conditions is simply not realistic. Bottom line, if you, and your soon to be ex wife, or the other parent of your child can make an agreement without a trial you not only save money, but avoid the risk of a harried judge making the wrong decision based on the limited info presented at the trial. 

Bridge To The 21st Century

FAMILY LAW, CIVIL LAW, CUSTODY, DIVORCE, CRIMINAL LAW, REAL ESTATE LAW. Those of you who remember the 90s probably remember this slogan, used by another Clinton running for president. Bill Clinton said that he would build a bridge to the 21st Century during the 1996 re-election campaign. Now that we are in that century, in many ways the bridge has been built, almost everyone is online, and connected to the world via their cell phones. Almost every aspect of our work and personal life have changed. Unfortunately, in many ways the Minnesota Courts have not made it into the 21st Century, they seem to have missed the turn for the bridge. The Courthouse in Brainerd does not allow anyone, except attorneys to bring computers or mobile phones into the court. Parties to cases, and witnesses are often in the building for hours waiting for their case to be called, or to testify. They are not able to get work done, or even communicate with their employer during this time. The Court System needs to treat people better than this, and take that bridge to the 21st Century. 

Guardian ad litem: Weak link in family law cases?

I have written before about the serious problems with the guardian ad litem program in this area. For those of you who have not worked with a guardian, their job, in a nutshell is to investigate child custody or visitation dispute and make a recommendation to the court about where a child should live, and how often they should see their parents. The City Pages, a newspaper out of the twin cities ran a story about the need for major reforms to the Guardian ad Litem program, focusing on the metro area. Unfortunately, most of the problems identified in the story exist here to. Guardians are inadequately trained, they are only required to complete a 40 hour program, they are rarely held accountable, there is no independent authority where complaints can be made, and judges usually follow the recommendation of the guardian. No one wants to make custody decisions in contested cases, it is easy for the court system to defer the decision making to guardians in most cases. The problem is that guardians, despite having good intentions in most cases, are frankly not qualified to make many of the recommendations that they make. The court system needs to either make significant improvements to the guardian program to make it able to do the job it is given, or stop relying on it. Entrusting the most important job in the legal system to people who are often not qualified to do it as we are doing now is the worst case scenario.

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