All posts by Arrigoni Law

Parental Alienation Issues Negatively Impact Children

A very troublesome issue in some Custody and Parenting Time disputes and Divorces is when a parent intentionally attempts to alienate the children from the other parent. Trying to prove the alienation can be difficult as often there are vastly different stories and claims made by both parents and oftentimes the parties and the children are the only witnesses to the disputed facts.  Most judges are extremely reluctant to allow or have children testify in court and due to budget crunches and other factors it can be very difficult to have the court appoint a guardian ad litem.  Custody studies are also becoming more and more expensive.

In these types of cases it is usually critical a competent psychological evaluator and/or custody expert be retained to assess the children and situation, which will require a court Order unless the opposing party or counsel agree to the assessment.  Often times the alienation is only discovered, after the fact, when there is Parent Reunification Counseling that is completed.

There can also be disputes whether an alleged abusive parent’s own conduct has caused the alienation instead of the opposing party. To successfully prove alienation  claims it is also important to have an experienced divorce attorney who is familiar with these type of unique issues.

Experts recognize the dire tragic impact serious alienation has on children as do some judges. A recent article, by Paul Reitman,  discusses the problems it can cause and the need for more study by the courts. I am including the article in this blog as it is important and helpful:

Courts need to study parental alienation
Courts need to study parental alienation
By: Paul Reitman May 19, 2017

I have been doing parental reunification therapy since 1990 up until 2017. Throughout the years I have been extremely frustrated with parental alienation being minimized by the courts and then being allowed to continue. The impact is serious and can have lifelong effects, and children who are alienated are at a higher risk for psychological and psychiatric disorders.
I would like to discuss the major issues that cause parental alienation to be so difficult to confront.
A syndrome, not a diagnosis
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) did not recognize parental alienation as a diagnosis; therefore, the myth has developed that there is no such thing as parental alienation.
Another issue that comes up from time to time is that some courts believe that in any type of adversarial divorce parental alienation is a normal development. This simply is not true. There are many individuals who get divorced who have adversarial feelings towards each other but they are able to discriminate between their own feelings and the need for the child to have a significant relationship with their mother or father.
Parental alienation should not be a diagnosis because it is a syndrome. It is a syndrome that causes children to develop depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, as well as personality disorders, causing severe impairment in the child’s ability to establish future intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex.
Often, courts will simply acknowledge parental alienation and set up a course of action whereby a mental health professional is appointed to do parental reunification. Typically, this will occur once a week, which is totally inadequate to confront the alienating parent. Ideally, there should be a team of mental health professionals who have the appropriate credentials, i.e., training in clinical psychology with respect to child development, attachment theory, and the ability to diagnose individuals and children with mental disorders. They also should be able to assess for parental coaching.
When there are inadequate measures, the alienating parent will typically not discontinue the alienation and the children will typically identify with the alienating parent and create an alliance with that parent. This is not to be unexpected. Children and even adolescents have not matured cognitively to be able to discriminate and understand that they have a right to have a relationship with each parent and because of the psychic conflict and cognitive ambivalence they have, they will identify and ally themselves with one parent.
In my professional experience, it has been the exception when a judge ordered children to be removed from the alienating parent’s home and then participate in deprogramming with a clinical psychologist that has that expertise.
Furthermore, if the alienating parent will not cease his or her activities, then he or she should be required to have supervised visitation.
Comprehensive assessments
There is an array of mental health professionals who participate in parental reunification therapy. Competencies and expertise are crucial and once again, as discussed above, the mental health professional should have training in clinical psychology and the ability to diagnose mental disorders in children and adolescents as well as in adults.
Furthermore, comprehensive assessments are required and roles need to be delineated so that the mental health professional is not taking on too many roles. For example, if a psychologist is appointed to do assessments of the entire family to determine if there is in fact parental alienation occurring, then he or she should not be the reunification therapist.
Psychological assessment is an exquisite art that requires comprehensive training in understanding the uses and abuses of psychometric testing. So often I have encountered assessments utilizing the MMPI-II or the MMPI-II-RF as well as the MCMI-III. These tools report to give an assessment of psychopathology and psychopathy (symptoms of mental illness and symptoms of personality disorders).
However, when parents are in an adversarial relationship or an adversarial custody study, it will likely produce elevations on psychometric tools that are transient and not permanent. For example, a father who is being alienated from his children and is not getting any true psychological assistance or relief will likely endorse symptoms of paranoia, mistrust, anxiety and even depression. If this presentation is taken in a vacuum, it produces a false positive assessment of mental illnesses. The examiner must be trained in understanding reliability and validity of psychological testing as well as being able to be at the center of the assessment, often times dismissing elevations based upon transient symptoms.
Additionally, under the American Psychological Association Guidelines for Custody Studies, a psychologist should not make recommendations about parental alienation without seeing the mother, the father and the children. Seeing one parent only and not examining the children and then making recommendations that: a) parental alienation is occurring; b) the children should be removed from one parent’s household; and c) the children should be placed in a different household, is simply not ethical.
First, parental alienation is a pervasive pattern of confusing children, causing them a great deal of distress, depression and anxiety, and typically if they are living with the alienating parent, they are in a role reversal whereby they are becoming little adults taking care of the alienating parent.
Second, when partial interventions are made and the alienating parent is not understood and given the opportunity for therapy to confront the alienation, then it is highly unlikely that it will stop. I have had too many cases whereby a child at 15 was alienated and partial procedures were implemented and it never dented the child’s psychological status. It went on until the child became 18 and then simply terminated the relationship with the parent that has been alienated.
It is quite clear in the clinical literature that children who come from divorce are at higher risk for mental disorders. However, the literature and research is quite clear that children that are able to maintain and sustain a significant relationship with both parents have a much better chance of living normal lives and become productive.
I highly recommend to the judiciary and the Legislature that a study be undertaken to examine this syndrome and to become familiar with the type of interventions that are required in order to discontinue this syndrome that has significant adverse effects on children and adolescents.
Paul M. Reitman, Ph.D., L.P., F.A.C.F.E., has been a forensic and clinical psychologist since 1981. During that time, he has also practiced in the fields of hospital psychology, outpatient psychology, and has always maintained a clinical practice on both an outpatient and inpatient basis. he has always maintained a clinical practice and was a hospital psychologist up until 2017.

It should be clear alienation needs to be stopped as it can have devastating consequences to children.  If you face these issues immediately contact an experienced divorce attorney to take prompt steps to combat and prove the claims and seek appropriate relief.

Spousal Maintenance And Income

In Curtis v. Curtis, A14-1841,  (Minn 2016) the Supreme Court reaffirmed  that a trial court has broad discretion to consider investment income to determine whether a spouse is need of spousal maintenance.

In Curtis, the husband worked as a dentist and his wife was a homemaker who had raised two children, who were now adults. The parties were married 22 years and had built a substantial marital estate, including a marital home, lake home, a second home, a vacation property in South Carolina and a commercial building. They also had an investment account worth $2,038,000 and a certificate of deposit with an approximate value of $171,000 and various other assets. By stipulation wife was awarded marital property totaling $2,800,000(57% of the marital estate), including the investment accounts and certificate of deposit, and husband was awarded $2,170,000(43% of the marital estate). The court approved the stipulated property settlement and the parties litigated the issue of spousal maintenance. The trial court denied wife spousal maintenance determining the wife could exchange the assets in the investment accounts and the certificate of deposit for higher yielding investments to produce income sufficient to meet her monthly expenses. The court did not consider the tax consequences of the restructuring and reallocation of assets. The court of appeals affirmed in a 2-1 unpublished decision.

On appeal, the Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion in taking into account the income-earning potential of the wife’s property award, but has an obligation to also consider the tax consequences that would be incurred to reallocate the assets to increase the income. (By inference apparently a trial court can require a reallocation of assets to maximize income if tax consequences are considered.) The court noted the tax consequences could impact the property division as the wife is not required to invade the principal assets she was awarded.  The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

This decision reaffirms a trial court must consider all potential income a spouse may generate from the property received in the divorce. It also makes it clear it is essential to have financial experts to perform analysis of potential income property awards and a tax expert to determine what if any tax consequences will be incurred to maximize the potential income that is claimed to be available for a spouse to meet their respective needs.

In all divorces with spousal maintenance issues or large marital property estates it is important to retain an experienced  divorce lawyer to assist in resolving the matter, whether through mediation or litigation.

Pitfalls In Handling Your Own Divorce

I have seen an increase in people trying to draft their own Divorce Judgment and Decree, which often leads to numerous problems and additional fees and expense to redraft the Decree or for the need to move to amend it because of ambiguities. Some terms or omissions can be impossible to correct afterwards.

If you have children, real estate, assets in excess of $20,000, pensions or issues relating to custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance or child support it is best to retain an experienced family law attorney to draft the final paperwork.

I have represented numerous clients when their paperwork has been rejected by the trial court or worse has been accepted, but has failed to properly address all issues or foreseeable issues. Family law is complicated and has extensive statutes and common law set forth in a large scope of cases that a layman will not understand or properly address. Neither the court or the clerk’s office can or will give legal advice.

Once the Decree is accepted and filed many of the terms are not modifiable at a later time. Property settlements become final. Other terms may be modifiable if there is a substantial change in circumstances, but still may be difficult and expensive to attempt to modify.

There are numerous nuances in drafting custody and parenting plans that would benefit the input of an experienced divorce attorney. These agreements are generally not easy to change or modify. Vague or incomplete parenting plans often leads to numerous disputes and issues that can cause the noncustodial parent to lose important parenting time when a dispute arises.

Determining child support under the calculator is not as easy as it seems as there are numerous collateral issues that may not be properly addressed such as imputing income for less than full-time employment, bonus income, or issues and complexities when dealing with self employment, or overtime income. There are also numerous complexities in determining what the actual percentage of parenting time is for each parent is under parenting time schedules. A lawyer can also make sure the issue of the child dependency tax exemptions are properly addressed and drafted in the decree as well as other matters such as security in life insurance is included to make sure there is adequate support in the event of a death.

Spousal maintenance terms have to be dealt with extremely carefully or unintended results can easily happen. If proper waivers are not included with specialized language a party may leave itself open for extended or continuing spousal maintenance or attempted motions to do so. A lawyer should be used in every case dealing with spousal maintenance cases.

If you own a home it is also important to have a lawyer’s assistance. It is essential to make sure the complete legal description is included or you can have expensive future title problems. An agreement to sell the home needs critical detailed information included to properly address possible unforeseen issues such as difficulties in facilitating the sale or default or possible short sale ramifications and other issues, including possession, payment requirements and cooperation terms.

Dividing retirement assets and pensions have many complex issues that can lead to serious unintended consequences if not properly addressed. Survival benefits, valuation and tax issues and other complexities needs the input and advice of an experienced attorney. Often a separate Order (QDRO) needs to be prepared with numerous electives and options that can involve tens of thousands of dollars in differences depending on the electives selected, or more, if there are errors made that generally may not be later modifiable.

Generally when a divorce starts many people are on an emotional roller coaster and often have some temporary depression issues. Many people have feelings of guilt or remorse or even anger and cannot properly evaluate what is fair and equitable or consistent with the law. They may overlook important issues or make unwise concessions that may haunt them for years as they try dig out of a deep financial hole or give up custody or parenting time they cannot later change.  They may find they are entitled to much more than they are aware of if they overlook nonmarital assets or other spousal maintenance issues. A good family law attorney will protect you from making a poor decision without careful thought and evaluation.

The family law rules and rules of civil procedure are very complex and you will be expected to follow them. If you miss deadlines you may lose or waive important rights to make submissions or argue issues.

Do not assume you can easily represent yourself in a divorce and navigate drafting a divorce decree that properly protects you. Retaining an experienced divorce attorney is a wise and prudent investment to make sure all issues are fully evaluated and addressed and your rights are protected.  I have been a lawyer for over 33 years and practice exclusively in family law, custody, divorce and mediation. I will make sure your rights are protected.

Resolving Parenting Disputes With A Parenting Consultant

Many Family Law Lawyers and some Judges are now encouraging parties to stipulate and agree to use a Parenting Consultant to resolve parenting time disputes in divorces, post dissolution issues, parenting time scheduling issues for holidays and vacations as well as to settle joint legal custody issues such as schooling disputes, extra curricular activities, church disputes, transportation and other children’s issues. Generally Parenting Consultants are precluded from modifying actual legal and physical custody designations but their decisions can effectively make major changes that, in effect, come to close to doing so.

Generally Parenting Consultant’s are experienced family law lawyers with some additional training or experienced psychologists, counselors, or other mental health professionals. The powers of a Parenting Consultant are generally defined by contract and stipulated powers set forth in the Decree or separate Court Order. Their powers are not defined by statute or law. There have been efforts to introduce and pass laws and statutes to clarify their roles and powers, but to date a statute has not been passed. It is important to carefully review the Consultant’s Contract and any Proposed Order appointing a Parenting Consultant as you are actually, in effect, giving this individual the powers of a judge to promptly settle and order an outcome on issues presented to the Parenting Consultant concerning your children if they fall within the scope of the powers designated in the Order or contract that has been signed.

I have served as a Parenting Consultant and been involved with many Parenting Consultants in my cases. They can be very helpful, but can also create another layer of expense if the Parenting Consultant appointed is not experienced or fails to promptly make clear complete unequivocal decisions that are fair, impartial and based on the best interests of the children. They are designed to save attorney fees and court expenses by allowing an expedited resolution of parenting time issues. It allows parties to minimize attorney fees by not requiring the formal preparation of motions, affidavits and memorandums of law by your lawyer and paying the court filing fees and requiring a court hearing that may take months and instead allow parties to submit emails and letters addressing disputes involving the children that in theory can be quickly ruled upon by the Parenting Consultant.

Generally the form Orders and Contracts of Parenting Consultants provide their decisions are subject to review by promptly filing a motion with the trial court within the time period set forth in the Order. Courts and Judges love to appoint Parenting Consultants as it can in many cases cut down on the family law motions filed with court and clear the court’s calendar to address its other pressing assigned cases.

It is critical to discuss with your lawyer all ramifications of stipulating and agreeing to a Parenting Consultant before doing so. There are some Parenting Consultants who like any other profession are not the best in promptly and properly determining parenting issues. Their experience and skills vary greatly. Choose the Parenting Consultant with great care. Once appointed it can be very difficult to have one removed and it will be impossible to by-pass the Parenting Consultant unless the Consultant resigns or you obtain an Order removing the Consultant.

It is critical the Consultant lay out clear ground rules for submissions so people are not overwhelmed with lengthy last minute submissions. There are no rules or procedures in the law addressing how or the timing of submissions for Parenting Consultants. If you have a controlling or difficult ex spouse or opposing parent it can lead to more disputes and expense as it can encourage parents to raise every minor or trivial parenting issue with the Consultant as it is as easy as sending an email without the expense of scheduling and preparing a motion or affidavit for a court hearing. Sometimes parents do not as easily compromise because they can simply have  the Consultant rule on it. Sometimes Parenting Consultants fail to make clear comprehensive rulings addressing all issues as they receive numerous length emails raising many issues and counter issues and sometimes they are reluctant to reconsider or expand the scope of their decisions.

It is true that you generally have the right to appeal or seek to challenge a Parenting Consultant’s decisions in court, but many judges will give the Parenting Consultant’s decision deference although they may not be required to do so. Appealing the decision can be expensive and you have doubled the fees and expense as you have also paid the Consultant substantial fees to review and rule on the issue previously. In many cases I have observed the fees paid to a Parenting Consultant can be very substantial as it can lead to voluminous emails and multiple submissions and frequent involvement with the Consultant if a parent is controlling and difficult and has the financial means to do so.

It is important you have a family law attorney to discuss and help you through the process and decisions involving Parenting Consultants. Unless you appoint an experienced competent Parenting Consultant who carefully details the procedures and have an Order defining the scope and authority of the Consultant there can be many unexpected pitfalls and fees as well as other difficulties that you may be bound to follow that may end up being more expensive than other alternatives.

Lack Of Employment Increases Probability of Divorce

In Fusion on August 1, 2016 Author, Taryn Hillin, noted that an extensive Harvard Study confirms that men who are not able to find employment or play the role of “breadwinner” are more likely to get divorced. It is noted that gender expectations on men and women influences relationships.

There are many issues that impact the stability of relationships and marriages. But a man’s failure to financially contribute or substantially assist with economic necessities of marital expenses has now taken a larger influence on the issues leading to divorce or relationship instability.

It appears obvious financial distress, lack of employment, or inability to pay marital expenses will cause stress and resentment in a spouse. With the slow growth of our economy and the increasing costs of housing, food, and healthcare it appears critical for men to substantially contribute to the financial obligations in the marriage.

If parties find themselves unable to overcome their financial difficulties or marital unhappiness through marital counseling or other religious or family support it is wise to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer or family law attorney before taking any rash action.

Divorce Can Have Some Positive Benefits For Children

I have seen many ugly divorces and custody battles. It is without doubt an ugly divorce where children are used as pawns or placed in the middle of conflict will cause serious emotional harm to children. It has been a pleasant change that the procedures and family law rules have now been changed to encourage amicable resolution of custody disputes without ugly litigation through Mediation or Social Early Neutral Evaluation and to minimize Temporary Hearings until amicable Alternative Dispute Resolution is attempted.

Some experts are also now confirming that divorce can have some positive benefits to children.  Jackie Middleton has stated in Canadian Living that many divorce children can experience these five benefits:

1. Divorced children often learn to be Resilient and Adaptable.

2. Divorced Children often learn to be more Self-Sufficient.

3. Divorced Children often have an increased sense of Empathy towards others.

4. Divorced Children will often not take their own marriage for granted.

5. Divorced Children often learn more about each parent based on the quality time they spend alone with each parent individually rather than in a family setting.

There is far from consensus opinion on how divorces affect children. But based on my observations and experience it is very important to keep the children out of the conflict. Children do far better when they have both parents in their lives and are not subject to a parent constantly bad-mouthing the other.

Your children will be much better off, as will you, if you find a way to settle your Parenting Disputes and avoid Custody Litigation and a Custody Trial. Sometimes this is not possible, but do your children a favor and do your best to keep them out of the conflict.

A good divorce lawyer can litigate when necessary, but also can guide you through more amicable options and procedures that can lead to an amicable settlement. It is critical to promptly retain an experienced divorce attorney at the beginning of any divorce or custody dispute.




Cohabitation May Now be Grounds to Modify Spousal Maintenance

The legislature recently passed an amendment and new law to be effective August 1, 2016, to allow a court to consider Cohabitation as grounds to modify, reduce or terminate spousal maintenance. Minnesota Statute 518.552 was amended to add a subdivision 6 to allow for the reduction or termination of spousal maintenance in some limited circumstances when there is cohabitation by an ex-spouse.

Having dealt with this issue in several past cases and encountering the difficulties in successfully proving grounds to reduce maintenance when there is cohabitation by an ex-spouse, an amendment to the statute was long overdue. There have been many abuses where a party has moved in an employed new significant other and continues to receive spousal maintenance forcing an unfair situation and allowing parties to double dip or, in effect, have a former spouse subsidize a comfortable standard of living for a significant other even though that individual has the financial resources or income to contribute to household expenses.

Unfortunately the amendment is watered down and still makes it difficult to prove  up a case for reduction or termination of maintenance. There are many states that create a presumption that cohabitation leads to a rebuttable presumption that grounds have been met to terminate spousal maintenance.  In this amendment the law now provides that in determining whether spousal maintenance should be reduced, suspended or reserved the court should consider: (1) whether an obligee would marry a cohabitant but for the maintenance award; (2) the economic benefit the obligee derives from the cohabitation; (3) the length of the cohabitation and the likely future duration of the cohabitation; and (4) the economic impact on the obligee if maintenance is modified and cohabitation ends.

In my opinion the new law falls far short of what was needed and invites new speculation and continuing litigation by allowing the suspension or reservation of spousal maintenance. The key will be how courts going forward interpret the new amendment.

Due to the myriad of factors to be analyzed in a cohabitation modification case it is essential you immediately obtain an experienced divorce attorney when confronted with this issue.

Gray Divorces Are Increasing!

A recent development is that in the last several years I have represented many individuals in their fifties and even sixties who are commencing divorces after many years of marriage. Twenty years ago I rarely ever represented fifty plus aged people in divorces.

Many experts are writing about the reasons for this reality. I wish to share an interesting article from the Huffington Post:

The 5 Big Reasons Why Couples Divorce After Decades Of Marriage
Here’s what to do before it’s too late.
Mar 20, 2016
Linda Melone Next Avenue
By Linda Melone
If you or someone you know recently divorced after 20 or more years together, you’re not alone. Splitting up later in life, sometimes called “gray divorce,” is on the upswing. In 2010, one in four divorces occurred among people age 50 and above and the 50-plus set was more than twice as likely to be divorced than in 1990, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

But why do couples split up after so much time together? And how can you prevent this from happening in your marriage?

There are five big reasons why couples divorce after decades of marriage:
1. They Grow Apart
The process that leads to gray divorce isn’t typically a sudden event or trigger, says Stan Tatkin, author of Wired For Love. Rather, it often happens slowly over time. “It’s like an unbreakable plate you drop repeatedly,” he says. “The relationship develops microcracks inside the structure you can’t see. Then it finally reaches a critical mass and shatters.”

Hormonal changes that arise with age can cause significant shifts in sex drive.

— Jessica O’Reilly, author of ‘The New Sex Bible’

It’s a reason many couples that split late in life say they’ve simply grown apart. This usually comes as a shock to close friends and family, such as when Al and Tipper Gore separated in 2010 after 40 years of marriage.

An undercurrent of dissatisfaction can happen for a number of reasons, but several dominant themes crop up regularly, says Tatkin. “Often one person — usually the woman — feels she’s given up too much. She may have put aside her career as she raised the children. She feels the wear and tear of the relationship because it wasn’t collaborative.”

2. Their Age
Other times age is a factor. A big age difference that was not an issue at the beginning of a relationship may become a problem later in life, Tatkin says. Or people may hit middle-age and crave a reboot.

Tatkin explains that people go through physiological and biological “brain upgrades” at certain times in their lives, including at age 15 and again at 40. “Every time you experience one you want to go back [in time],” he says. Starting a relationship with a younger person satisfies this urge for some people.

3. They’re Bored
Steve Siebold, a psychological performance and mental toughness coach and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class, cites boredom as a factor. “Being around the same person 24/7, depending on the relationship, can lead to boredom,” he says. In other cases, people stop trying. “You work hard, play hard and take care of business, but you’ve stopped being the attentive, attractive spouse. You’ve allowed yourself to become complacent.”

4. Their Money Issues
Differences in spending habits and financial difficulties may finally come to a head cause a break-up. One spouse may be a big spender while the other likes to save, Siebold says. “The kids’ activities, expenses and college funds eat the family’s discretionary cash and you’re deep in debt,” he notes.

5. Sex
Sexual incompatibility can become more pronounced, says Jessica O’Reilly, author of The New Sex Bible and Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “Hormonal changes that arise with age can cause significant shifts in sex drive. And though every couple of every age experiences differentials in desire, these can become more pronounced with age.”

Couples who may be heading down the path to divorce can take steps to pull themselves back with these five tips:

1. Put the Relationship First
You should be about protecting each other in harsh environments and have each other’s back, says Tatkin. “You must become experts for each other and protect each other in private and public — and never threaten the relationship.” In addition, Tatkin says, couples should have a strong sense of why they’re together. “Know the purpose that you serve as a couple,” he says.

2. Take Care of Yourself
Gaining weight, not exercising and dressing slovenly sends a message to your spouse that you don’t care anymore, says Siebold. “Try cutting the carbs, trimming the fat and heading to the gym,” he advises.

3. Assess Your Role in the Problem
Before you give up on your marriage, look in the mirror, says Siebold. “If there’s a boring person staring back at you, you may be the problem,” he notes.

And if that is the case, Siebold suggests making a decision to create some excitement in your life. Plan a new adventure together, start a new business, learn a language or develop a new skill together. These activities create new stories and may reignite your passion.

4. Talk About Sex
Couples who talk about their sexual expectations, changing needs and vulnerabilities can manage their differences, O’Reilly says. “Communication is essential. As your body changes you need to discuss what feels good both physically and emotionally to cultivate intimacy,” she adds.

5. Talk About Everything Else, Too
Lastly, Tatkin says you both need to tell each other everything. That’s the only way to work out your problems.


My experience is that a reality is that people change and often grow apart and have different interests after their children are grown and move on with their individual new lives. It appears people also often have less patience and are unwilling to live under the control of a bossy financially or emotionally controlling spouse realizing they are not going to live forever and want to pursue what they deem satisfying and rewarding. They no longer focus on the children’s needs, but their own, which now have changed.

The reality is it is important to retain an experienced divorce attorney in a grey divorce as often times your best earning years are behind you and it is important to obtain a fair and equitable property settlement and sometimes spousal maintenance to secure your financial future. Dividing pensions, retirement assets, or businesses and real estate can often be complicated. Promptly seek an experienced divorce attorney if you find yourself in this now common scenario.

Jeff from Arrigoni Law has 33 years experience as an attorney and has been practicing exclusively in family law, divorce, and mediation for over 27 years and will work hard to protect your rights and secure an equitable fair settlement.

Significant Other’s Can Impact Custody Decisions

In an unpublished opinion in Newman vs. Newman, A15-0561 (Minn.Ct. App. Dec.21, 2015) the court of appeals reviewed an appeal from a divorce involving a 16 year marriage involving three minor children with a mother who had been a full-time homemaker since 2003 and a father who recently retired early. The trial court granted joint legal custody, but granted the father sole physical custody.

Mother appealed and claimed the trial court erred in not granting her joint physical custody or sole physical custody.  The appellate court noted there had been acrimony and a lot of personal attacks in the case and that a current harassment restraining order precluded father from harassing the mother. It was noted this conflict did not support their ability to cooperate under a joint physical custody arrangement.

The court also found that although there was not evidence of domestic abuse, the court had deep concern about the safety of the parties’ daughters around the mother’s live in boyfriend who had been convicted of felony invasion of privacy of a minor for hiding a video camera in his 17 year-old, step-daughter’s bathroom. It was specifically ordered the mother’s parenting time not include her boyfriend and that the mother’s boyfriend directing impacted the physical and emotional safety of the children.

In addressing the best interest factors the court noted nine were neutral, one inapplicable, two favored the father and one favored the mother. The deciding factor was the interaction and interrelationship of a person who may significantly affect the children’s best interests.  In this case the mother’s decision to live with a convicted felon who had harmed his step-daughter lead to her losing physical custody.

If custody is an issue in a divorce or paternity action it is crucial to immediately consult with an experienced divorce lawyer or knowledgeable family law attorney. Decisions about living arrangements, significant others, and high conflict disputes with your spouse can preclude sharing joint physical custody or even lead to a longtime homemaker to lose physical custody.




Preparing For Divorce

The Divorce Process has been made more civil and informal with numerous recent rule and law changes to require or strongly encourage mediation or other alternative dispute resolution and to limit time-consuming and expensive formal discovery. Often times it still will be stressful and emotionally difficult and it still can turn into prolonged litigation if your spouse is angry or determined to go down that path.

There are some steps you can take to make the process easier, less expensive and to protect yourself. A few recommendations were recently summarized in an article published in Huffpost Divorce by Lisa Helfend Meyer on February 2, 2016 titled “6 Things to Do Before Filing for Divorce.” These are the recommendations:

1. KNOW YOUR FINANCES. Make sure you try to copy or obtain access to financial records, account statements, tax returns, financial statements and any lists of assets, debts or purchase documents for real estate. At a minimum you should try to locate the last 3 years of tax returns and if necessary contact your accountant or investment advisor or investment account representative and obtain several years of records or statements. If homes or real estate has been refinanced or recently purchased you should obtain from the mortgage broker a copy of financial statements or loan applications completed and any appraisals completed in the process. This can provide a general overview of your income, debts, and assets to assist your divorce attorney to plan a strategy for the best way to proceed. If a spouse is angry it is important to obtain these records early to avoid expense to duplicate them or in some cases avoiding a spouse from losing them or worse destroying them.

2. GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER. Take care of financial transactions before the divorce starts. If you have joint credit lines or home equity lines you may want to contact the bank or mortgage company and freeze the credit line or have your named removed from joint credit cards for future charges or contact the credit card company and advise them you do agree to be liable for future charges and ask your name be removed if you are concerned about spouse going on a spending spree and damaging your credit or charging attorney fees on a joint credit card. You cannot change life insurance beneficiaries after divorce starts and generally you are restrained from liquidating assets except for necessary living expenses or for attorney fees. You may also wish to video tape or take pictures or inventory valuable personal property such as jewelry, guns, tools or equipment or consider having items informally appraised.

3. SET MONEY ASIDE. It often times is wise to have an emergency fund set aside to hire a lawyer or if possible to pay necessary living and debt expenses for 60 to 90 days or longer because a spouse can close down accounts or close out credit quickly and leave you vulnerable until mediation or court action is taken, which now can take 60 days or longer before you can schedule a temporary hearing if mediation is unsuccessful.

4. KEEP A JOURNAL. When custody or parenting time is in dispute it is important to document your involvement with the children. It often is helpful to keep a daily journal of all your involvement with the children, their activities and schooling and all communications and conversely your spouse’s lack of involvement. You want to make sure you are active at school events and conferences as well as day care selection and pick up and drop off as well as doctor or counselor appointments. Do not allow your spouse to control or limit your involvement. Do not work voluntary overtime and minimize weekend work or travel commitments.

5. AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA. Pictures, posts and internet activity is commonly being used as evidence in custody and parenting time disputes. Things you to do through social media is often discoverable and venting about your spouse on social media will be met with restraining orders, sanctions or worse. Stay away from social media for your own protection.

6. SEE A THERAPIST. A divorce can be very stressful and situational anxiety or depression can often happen. It is important to protect your emotional health and obtain help or support through a therapist , pastor or strong family network. Family  support is helpful, but they may not always give you the best advice or be able to appropriately address the feelings or problems you are experiencing. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed or depressed it is important to seek professional help.

These are important first steps, but it remains critical to promptly seek advice from a divorce lawyer or experienced divorce attorney before you take any rash action such as moving out, changing jobs or work schedules or refinancing properties, purchasing new residences or taking out joint credit lines or loans, when divorce is on the horizon. Do not agree to temporary parenting schedules, custody or temporary financial arrangements until you consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney. Temporary agreements can limit your future options or turn into permanent binding terms that may not be in your best interests.