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Important issues when dividing retirement accounts during divorce

Divorce among people over 50 has been trending upward since the 1990s. Older individuals in Minnesota likely have multiple retirement plans to split when they end their marriages. They could have one or more 401(k) plans and pensions from jobs over the years as well as Individual Retirement Accounts.

The value of planning for a divorce

Few couples anticipate going through a divorce when first getting married, but with divorce rates at 50 percent, planning for a future separation is the intelligent thing to do. Knowing what the expect when the time comes can reduce a lot of confusion and stress for both parties. If done correctly, planning can result in a peaceful negotiation of terms through mediation or collaboration rather than an extended and expensive trial. All the adults and children involved can benefit.

Retirement savings can be affected by divorce

Most Minnesota spouses facing divorce know to expect a range of emotional, practical and financial challenges. While people often think of these issues in the immediate terms, the ripple effects of a divorce can echo for years in a person's financial life. It can be particularly important for newly single people to plan for the future in order to increase their preparedness for retirement, especially since divorce is more highly correlated with difficulties in maintaining a standard of living in the retired years.

Financial planning for a divorce

For Minnesota couples, the decision to divorce can require a lot of financial planning. This may include obtaining copies of credit reports to clear up any errors before the divorce is underway. Soon-to-be exes should also gather copies of other financial documents and keep them somewhere safe such as with a trusted family member or in a safety deposit box.

How to plan for divorce before getting married

Minnesota couples who are getting married might want to consider creating a premarital agreement. As one financial expert points out, while this might seem like a cynical approach, it is not so different from wearing a seat belt. Neither action means a person really expects the worst to happen, but it can be important to be prepared.

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. 

Your Lawyer's Toughest Job

Telling a client what they do not want to hear is probably the toughest job of a good lawyer, but also the most important. The only way a client can make good decisions is to have good information. If the client is not told that they are pushing for something that they cannot get, they will waste time and money, and may lose the chance of getting some of what they want. Taking a position that is not attainable can backfire, alienating the judge, or making it impossible to get an agreement which lets you get some of what you want. If your lawyer always tells you what you want to hear, they are probably not doing their job, unless you have a very easy case. 

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