Friday, January 16, 2015

Immigrants and Divorce

When determining on how to proceed with divorce proceedings when one or both of the

spouse is an immigrant, the first step is to determine if the marriage is valid.  For a

marriage to be valid, the couple had to be married according to the laws of that state or country

where the wedding took place. For example, if the country where you previously lived stated that

a religious ceremony is sufficient for a marriage to be valid, then your marriage is most likely

valid. As long as you were married according to the laws of that state or country, the marriage is

still valid even if you move from that state or country until divorce proceedings occur.  If you

were previously divorced according to the laws of the country or state where the divorce

occurred, your divorce is still valid.

If no divorce previously occurred and your marriage is valid according to the laws of the

state or country were you got married, there are a couple steps to be taken to obtain a divorce in

Minnesota.  In order to ask for a divorce in Minnesota, you must have lived in Minnesota for at

least 180 days.  Once the residency requirement has been met, you will need to file a Petition for

Divorce with court in the county were you or spouse lives.  In the Petition, you will only need to

state that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. “Irretrievable breakdown”

is defined that there is no hope for you and spouse living together now or in the foreseeable

future. Minnesota is a no fault divorce state meaning you do not have to prove you or your

spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.  Once the Order of Divorce is signed by

the judge, your divorce is official.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Undocumented Immigrants and Marriage

An undocumented immigrant in the United States has the right to marry regardless of immigration status.  However,  marrying a U.S. citizen in the U.S. will not save an undocumented immigrant from the possibility of deportation.

In Minnesota, there are some basic steps to follow in order to ensure the marriage is valid.  The couple wishing to marry must apply for a marriage license which can be done in any county in Minnesota. There is a fee of $115 for the marriage license application. The marriage license application does have a space for couples’ social security numbers; however, you can complete a part on the form swearing that you do not social security number if either you or fiancé does not have a social security number.
Minnesota requires that parties be over 18 years old and capable of making their own decisions in order to obtain a marriage license.  If one or both parties are 16 or 17 years of age, they can still get married with parental consent. They will just need to provide the parents’ names and addresses when filling out the application for the marriage. 

Minnesota does not allow the following people to marry:
  • People who are currently married.  If you were married previously, you must have a valid divorce meaning a divorce that follows the laws of the country or state where the divorce occurred.  For Minnesota, a divorce order needs to be signed by a judge.
  • Parents and their biological or adoptive children cannot marry.
  • Grandparents and their biological or adoptive grandchildren cannot marry.
  • Aunts/Uncles and their nieces/nephews, if they are related by blood, cannot marry.
  • First cousins (Children of your aunt/uncle that you are related to by blood.
Once the marriage license is obtained, your ceremony must be performed by a person authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Power or Attorney

A power of attorney is written document for someone (other than yourself) to take care of property
or money matters for you.  The person who grants authority over their financial affairs is the "principal"

The principal grants the power to make financial and property decisions to an "attorney in fact."
The attorney in fact does not have to be an attorney, just a competent individual over the age of 18.

The principal signifies in the power of attorney, what types of decisions the attorney in fact can make on their behalf. If an attorney-in-fact takes legal action in your name, it is the same as if you had
done it yourself. With a power of attorney, you can still act for yourself when you want to, but the attorney-in-fact can also act for you. You do not lose the right to control property or money matters, and you can revoke (take back) the power of attorney at any time.

Usually, you give a power of attorney so someone else can sign papers about property and money matters. The power can be limited to a certain thing, like selling a property, or it can be very broad, such as handling all property and money matters. It depends on what you write on the power of attorney form.

The attorney-in-fact must keep a record of anything they do for you. Legally, they are supposed to do things only in your best interest.  It is important to pick someone you trust deeply. Remember they will have  control of things like your bank accounts or property.

You can list more than one attorney-in-fact. If you do, it is important to know that each of them can do things in your name without asking permission from the other. But, you can write on the power of attorney form that you do not want it to be that way. You can also name a “successor attorney”. This is someone who takes over if the first one can’t do it anymore.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guardianship - Quick Facts

What is a guardian?

A guardian is an individual, appointed by the court, to make personal decisions on behalf of someone else.  In Minnesota financial decisions are not made by a guardian.  Instead financial decisions are made by a conservator.  Conservators are also appointed on a case by case basis by the court.

Who needs a guardian?

Children under the age of 18, whose parents are dead, legally unfit, or unavailable, and no suitable alternatives exist,

Adults who disabled and unable to make day to day decisions regarding their own care, and due to disability they are unable to provide for their basic needs.

Becoming a guardian

To become a guardian, an individual has to file a petition in probate court. The court will then determine if the the Petitioner is qualified to be a guardian.  The controlling legal standard is whether the selection of the specific guardian is in the best interest of the minor/disabled adult.  

The court will also determine if the parents are available, and launch a background investigation to determine the character of the proposed guardian.  A criminal record, past allegations of abuse of a vulnerable adult, or current substance abuse have been cited as reasons for denying a petition for guardianship.

If a parent of the disabled person files a petition to be a guardian, the parent's background is not scrutinized as heavily.

Responsibilities of a guardian

Guardians are responsible for making sure the minor/disabled person has, food, shelter, and clothing and has their medical and social needs met.  The guardian may protect the minor/ disabled person from entering into a contract that is not for basic needs, and can apply for government assistance on their behalf..

Monday, November 10, 2014

Child Support Enforcement Remedies

  • In Minnesota once you've been ordered to pay child support, your obligation will continue until the child is emancipated or the obligation is modified.  Unless the obligation to pay support ends or is modified,  If child support is not paid, the amount owed is referred to as arrears.    

  • The county child support agency administers many child support orders.  Allowing your child support payments to be processed by the county is helpful for all involved.  The county will keep accurate records of what has and has not been received.  If payments are missed, the county child support office will work with the parent owing support (aka the obligor).  If the obligor misses too many payments, the county will start to take measures to enforce the payment of arrears.

  • The child support agency can take the following measures too enforce arrears:

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014

    Marriage and Debt

    If your spouse had debt before the marriage, you are not required to pay off those debts.  Likewise, if you have debts that you i cured before the marriage, your spouse does not have to pay those debts.

    What is a joint debt?
    If both you and your spouse take out a loan or a credit card.  You will both be responsible for paying the debt back to the creditor.  If your spouse uses the loan or credit card without your knowledge or agreement, you are still liable for any outstanding debt.

    You can get a credit card, sign under one spouses name, allow the other spouse to be  an “authorized user” is different.  If only one spouse signs for the debt, that spouse will be solely liable in the eyes of the creditor.

    Divorce and Debt

    The Minnesota courts require equitable division of marital debt and assets. In many cases equitable means equal.  However, what the court deems equitable may not be equal.  The court assumes that each party contributed to the accumulation of assets and debts during the  marriage.  Accordingly, the court would not award one spouse so many assets/ debt that the other spouse is left with an unfair share.

    Divorce decrees do not change your obligations in the eyes of the creditors.  As long as your name is on a debt you are responsible. If you have  a shared debt with someone and
    they stop paying, you need to keep paying the whole thing to protect your credit. You can try to get
    this money back from an ex-spouse if your final divorce papers from the court say that your spouse
    has some responsibility for the debt. Keep proof that you made the full payments.

    Education for Justice Fact Sheets
    By Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and Legal Services State Support

    Education for Justice  P.O. Box 14246  St. Paul, MN  55114

     F-11 pg. 2

    If there is nothing about the debt in the divorce decree you can try getting some of the money bin conciliation court, but it could be hard to do. See our fact sheet, C-1 Conciliation Court.

    What debts that are only in one spouse’s name are we both responsible for?
    Often you do not have to pay for debts that don’t have your name on them. For example, if your
    spouse gets a loan for a motorcycle in their name only, you
    are not usually responsible. BUT, there are some debts that
    happen after you are married that you are both responsible
    for - even if they are in your spouse’s name only and even if
    you didn’t know about them.

     Family and Household Things
    You are responsible for debts for necessary household
    things that are used by the family. For example, if your
    spouse buys a stove that your family uses, you are both
    responsible for paying that debt.

     Medical Bills
    You are responsible for each other’s medical bills and expenses. If your spouse owes money for
    medical care that happened while you were married, you are also responsible for paying this debt.

     Other Bills
    You are responsible for other debts in your spouse’s name only if you sign a contract agreeing to pay
    them. This is sometimes called co-signing. If you don’t want to be responsible, don’t put your name
    on a debt.

    Am I still responsible for medical and living expenses if we are separated?
    If you are separated or no longer live together, you are not responsible for your spouse’s medical or
    household expenses that come up after you separate.

    You are still responsible for debts that came up while you were living together. For example, if your
    spouse needs medical care twice, once while you were living together and once after you separated,
    you are responsible for the first bill, but not for the second.

    How can I show that we are separated?
    If you have one, you can show a separation order from the court. Otherwise, you can use leases or
    utility bills to show that you and your spouse have different homes.

    What happens to our joint debts if we get a divorce?
    When you get divorced, the court will issue a court order called a “divorce decree.”

      F-11 pg. 3

    Divorce and Debt:
    During the divorce, the judge can decide that it is fair for you to pay all or part of a debt that is only in
    your spouse’s name. The judge may also decide that a debt that is in both of your names will be paid
    by only one of you.

    But remember: the divorce decree only affects the two of you, not the creditor. If your name is on
    a debt, the creditor can sue you even if the divorce decree says your ex has to pay the debt.

    If you end up paying a debt the judge said your spouse was responsible for, go back to the court and
    ask them to enforce the decree. Show the court a copy of your divorce decree and proof that you
    paid the debt. Receipts or cancelled checks are good proof.

    Divorce and Real Estate:
    The judge also decides what happens to “real property” you
    or your spouse bought during your marriage. Real property is
    land and buildings, like a house. You both have a right to at
    least part of any real property purchased during the marriage,
    even if it is only in one name. If you want to keep the
    property the judge might make you responsible for the
    mortgage, taxes and repairs for the home.

    Before you sign divorce papers, make sure you understand
    what money is owed on any real property that is in your
    spouse’s name only. You and your spouse can agree about
    who will keep all of the rights to the property in the divorce.
    If you don’t agree, the judge will make the final decision.

    If you don’t want to be responsible for the money owed on the property, you might not want to
    claim your share of the property. Tell the judge. You and your spouse can agree that he or she will
    keep all of the rights to the property in the divorce. If you don’t agree, the judge will make the final

    What if a creditor says I have to pay my spouse’s debts?
    If a creditor contacts you saying you have to pay a bill that is in your spouse’s name, and it is not a
    household debt or a medical debt that happened during the marriage, tell the creditor that
    Minnesota law says you do not have to pay these kinds of debts.

    Watch Out: if you make payment on a bill that is not yours at the time, you might be held
    responsible for the whole debt later on.

    Different states have different laws. A bill collector in another state may not know Minnesota law.
    Ask the creditor or bill collector to send proof that you are responsible for the debt. Proof has to be
    that the bill was for a medical or necessary household item or your signature on a document
    agreeing to pay the debt.
      F-11 pg. 4

    If a lawsuit is brought against you, make sure to answer the court papers. See our fact sheet C-2
    What To Do If You Are Sued.

    Ignoring papers could lead to a court order saying you have to pay the debt. Tell the court about the
    Minnesota law and explain that your spouse’s debts are not related to medical or household
    expenses or that you were not living with your spouse when the debts happened.

    You can create an “Answer” online here or go to
     Click on Debts, Fees, Deposits
     Answer a "Summons and Complaint" - Debt Lawsuits

    If you lived in another state, Minnesota law does not decide who is
    responsible for debts that happened some

    Friday, October 10, 2014

    The Developmental Stages of Children

    Children and their Developmental Stage

    While Minnesota Courts consider the nine (9) best interest of the child factors, non-married parents should also consider the Developmental Stages of their Children, when making a parenting plan.   The courts place importance a high level of importance on the developmental stages of children, in making parenting time decisions.

    Infants and Toddlers (0 – 2.5 years)
    During this stage, infants are learning to trust, and communicate their needs.  It is important during this time that infants get frequent contact with both parents, and prompt attention to their needs.   Infants and toddlers do best with consistent schedules.
    At six months, children start to distinguish primary care takers from other people.   Around this time, some children develop separation anxiety.

    Co-Parenting  for this Stage
    As mentioned above, both parents should have frequent contact with the child.  However, since the child is building trust and does best with consistent short (one to three hour) visits , multiple times a week are best.  Parents who live far away from the home of the minor child, should consider visiting the child at the custodial parent’s home
    Overnight and visits of more than three (3) hours may not be appropriate at this stage.  However, some infants/toddlers can and are able to adjust.   When beginning overnights, it helps if older sibling are along for the visit, pictures of the other parent, familiar toys, and blankets help young children feel  comfortable, too.

    Preschoolers (2.5 - 5)
    At the preschool stage, children develop a sense of individuality, become more inquisitive, and are better able to express their feelings using words.  Children also become imaginative, and creative during this stage.  Preschool children may wonder why their parents don’t live together.

    Co-Parenting for this Stage
    To maintain consistency, increasing time with the non-custodial parent should be done gradually.   If your preschool child needs some reassurance during visits with the non-custodial parent, send familiar objects along during the visit.  Children are very impressionable, so it is important to not make negative remarks about the other parent when the children are with you.

    Elementary School (5-12)
    During this stage, elementary school age children are developing academic and athletic skills, learning to develop relationships and work with others.   At the elementary school age, children begin to see their parents as individuals.   It is not uncommon for children of this age to be sad, or angry that their parents are not together.
    Co-Parenting  for this Stage
    At this developmental stage most children are comfortable spending extended amounts of time with the non-custodial parent.  Children at this stage are, generally, comfortable spending up to three days away from the custodial parent, or longer for Winter and Summer breaks.   Longer visits with fewer transitions are encouraged at this stage.  Parents should still maintain consistency by following a schedule; refrain from making disparaging remarks about the other parent, assist with phone calls and letters between parent and child; encourage child’s involvement with friends extracurricular, and the community.

    Adolescents (12 - 18)
    During the early adolescent stage children are still finding their identity and building their self worth.  Adolescents also start the separation process from their parents. It is important for parents to support children of this age range as they build skills athletically and academically. Adolescents tend to deepen friendships, and begin to explore intimate relationships.  Parents need to guide children of this age range, to make healthy choices and decisions.

                Co-Parenting for this Stage
    During this stage, many children are involved in extracurricular activities, and value time with friends.  Parents should consider involving the child in putting the parenting plan together.  The schedule should be as predictable as possible, while still allowing for flexibility.  Each parent should maintain consistent house rules.