Protected: How can some Minnesota Family Courts help families to separate

In my perfect world, ‘other lawyers’ and judges would be required to receive intensive training and ongoing continuing education in the mental health behavior patterns which drive most high-conflict divorce cases.   Many of the high-conflict cases I have handled have involved, on one level or another, personality disorders and/or substance abuse.  And, if one party in a family case suffers from one of these, the family system itself does. With change comes pain, and even in fairly functional families, one or both parents find that the goal of moving the children from an intact to a separated family as softly as possible cannot be met without help.  However, this is especially difficult when personality disorders or substance abuse is involved. Often these cases include domestic violence, verbal abuse, alienation, and even false allegations of child abuse.  Parties are wrapped up in their own hurt and anger and each feels the other is more at fault.  It is often not possible for people in such pain to see that their family as a system continues, albeit in a different form.   The nuclear family, as a closed system, is being changed, not eliminated. This concept can be difficult for any families, and families in the process of separating are no longer an intact family and can no longer be viewed as a closed system.    The family unit, formerly a tight, closed system where secrets and pains are kept silent, becomes a bright star at the center of a much larger solar system.  The bright and shiny private pains act like gravity, and can pull unwary attorneys, evaluators, teachers, relatives, and judges...

Divorce and Dignity

Much like a martial arts master will avoid a physical confrontation if at all possible, a good marital attorney will avoid involving the court if at all possible.  The best trial attorneys in Minnesota still settle the vast majority of their divorce cases prior to trial.   This is because settlements are good.   Although they rarely give the client ‘everything’ they want, the client is still able to move forward with dignity and knowing that the concessions made, painful as they were, were still their choice rather than a judge’s order. Both clients and attorneys should remind themselves that the parties cannot simply take a court’s order and move on without ever seeing their ex again.   Perhaps they are still raising their young (or not so young) children.  Perhaps they share the same social group and extended family.  Much if not all of the dirty laundry which is inevitable in contested family matters comes out in a trial and remains. Attorneys want their clients to receive the best outcome possible, but  most of the time this outcome can be achieved within a cooperative framework and without name calling or ‘dirty tricks’.  Good attorneys will separate the issues that appear to be resolved short of trial from ‘trialable’ issues.  They will settle the easy issues and then do their best to settle the hard issues too. Of course, sometimes a trial of all or most issues is necessary.  Some cases are so contentious (and may involve  active chemical dependency and/or certain personality disorders) that it is impossible to reach a reasonable timely agreement short of court intervention.  If this is the...

Family Mediation and Confidentiality in Minnesota

Mediators and other Rule 114 professionals often note that ‘everything said’ in a mediation or ENE session is confidential unless agreed to in writing.  This is especially important for Minnesota Family Law attorneys.  They generally encourage their clients to be honest and to propose and consider creative solutions to resolve their cases.  These offers of compromise are subject to confidentiality provisions of Rule 408 but there are pitfalls and issues to consider. While Rule 408 of the Minnesota Rules of Evidence, regarding Compromise and Offers of Compromise, states : Evidence of (1) furnishing or offering or promising to furnish, or (2) accepting or offering or promising to accept, a valuable consideration in compromising or attempting to compromise a claim which was disputed as to either validity or amount, is not admissible to prove liability for or invalidity of the claim or its amount.  Evidence of conduct or statements made in compromise negotiations is likewise not admissible.  This rule does not require the exclusion of any evidence otherwise discoverable merely because it is presented in the course of compromise negotiations.  This rule also does not require exclusion when the evidence is offered for another purpose, such as proving bias or prejudice of a witness, negativing a contention of undue delay, or proving an effort to obstruct a criminal investigation or prosecution. The Minnesota Court of Appeals, in an unpublished decision, (see http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/archive/cau12dkt.html, opinion A12-390) has noted that Rule 408 has previously been narrowly construed so as to prohibit admission of evidence only when (1) the evidence pertains to a compromise on “a claim which was disputed as to either validity...
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