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Minneapolis Family Law Blog

Court rules Facebook posts can be used in custody battle

In a case that may be of interest to Minnesota parents, a New York judge has ruled that a Facebook profile may be used to determine the outcome of a child custody case. It is the first time social media profiles have been allowed as proof in such situations.

In the case, a Westchester County Supreme Court judge ruled that a father can use his ex-wife's Facebook posts to prove she does not spend as much time with the couple's 4-year-old son as she claims. The father, who is a social worker, says that he is the child's primary caregiver and alleges the posts will show his ex-wife frequently vacations in cities like Boston and Milan, Italy. In an attempt to keep the posts from being used as evidence, the ex-wife argued that she had "unfriended" her former husband and that her posts were private. However, the judge found that the contents of her profile and her posts could be material to the case and ordered her to turn over her Facebook login credentials by Sept. 14.

Child support jurisdiction when parents move

As Minnesota residents may know, child support is an obligation that often transcends geography. Sometimes, one parent may decide to move to a different state or the parent with physical custody of the child may move. In addition, the amount of child support initially ordered by the the court may need to be modified due to a change in circumstances for either parent. A question may arise as to what state has jurisdictional control over the modification of support.

This was illustrated in a New Jersey case. The parents and child initially lived in the state. In 1987, the parents separated and the father moved to Nevada where he filed for divorce. In December of 1987, the New Jersey court granted the initial child support order. The following year, the mother petitioned the court with a request for modification.

Divorce disability insurance now available for support payments

Minnesota residents who are facing divorce may wonder what will happen if the ex-spouse who is making support payments becomes disabled. While it's common for divorce courts to order that a life insurance policy be placed on a person who is paying spousal or child support to ensure that payments continue in the event of that person's death, little has been available to ensure payments will be made if a payor suffers an injury or disease that leaves them disabled.

Some white and gray collar jobs provide disability insurance, but these policies typically only cover 40 to 60 percent of an employee's salary. Further, blue collar jobs rarely offer access to any disability insurance, meaning that a disabled person must depend on Social Security to get by. Such a situation could make it difficult or impossible for an ex-spouse to maintain their court-ordered support payments.

Property division during a divorce

A couple married in Minnesota that later moves to a state with community property laws might experience some financial surprises in the event of a divorce. Unless a prenuptial agreement has already been executed, the court would divide the couple's marital assets equally. This equal division can be avoided if the parties agree to their own formula for separating assets, but, if one person has much to gain or lose, negotiations could stall and then a court would impose community property laws.

In general, community property applies to a person's business as well. A person could arrange to specifically exclude a business from community property with a post-nuptial agreement that excludes the spouse, but the spouse would have to sign the contract to make it valid. Retirement accounts also fall within the reach of community property laws, and they would be divided between spouses in a divorce even if only one person funded the account.

Actress Kelly Rutherford's child custody dispute continues

Minnesota residents might have heard about the lengthy child custody dispute between 'Gossip Girl" actress Kelly Rutherford and her ex-husband Daniel Giersch. The 46-year-old actress has been trying to get a judge to order her two children returned to the United States for the past few years. In 2012, a judge in California ruled that Rutherford's 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter should remain in Europe with their father until his visa problems were resolved.

Before the judge's order in 2012, Rutherford and Giersch were sharing joint custody. However, things changed when Giersch was denied entry to the United States, and a judge made the decision to award him physical custody. Although Rutherford has fought to regain custody, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on July 23 that the state of California no longer has jurisdiction in the case.

How Minnesota’s best interests factors are changing

Tomorrow is the first day of August, and it is also the day Minnesota’s new “best interests of the child” factors go into effect. If you are at all familiar with child custody laws, then you know that all child custody decisions are made based on what is in the best interests of the child.

In order to determine what is in the child’s best interests, state lawmakers have established 13 factors that are found in Minn. Stat. Section 518.17, subd. 1. Many of the factors have been in place since the late 1970s. Of course, the times have changed greatly since then, so it was decided that the 13 factors needed a facelift.

Prioritizing finances over hurt feelings during a divorce

While the end of a marriage is understandably difficult and painful for many people in Minnesota, a divorce often means one needs to make important financial decisions and reevaluate priorities. This means individuals must attempt to think without the emotions that often surrounds the divorce process.

It is important to consider one's financial situation before signing a divorce decree to figure out what the future will look like after the separation process is complete. Figuring out a post-divorce budget is crucial to avoid being overextended. Many people forget two parties contributed to a married lifestyle, and changes may be necessary after a divorce.

For safety's sake, Hennepin County sets up custody swap spots

Security is a big issue for everyone on a lot of different fronts. It doesn't matter if you live in the suburbs of the Twin Cities or in one of the safest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. The days when you could simply leave the front door open are gone.

Issues don't get any easier when matters related to child custody are concerned. Indeed, very often safety concerns become even more important. If the parents involved aren't on good terms, they can be afraid for themselves and their children. Even where child custody details appear to be worked out and settled, the moments of required parental interaction can be laced with tension.

Do you know the key questions to ask about property division?

The decision to divorce is typically not an easy one to reach. Very likely, the motive for it is an emotional one. Only after the process has started might the parties involved begin to appreciate what's needed to make sure everyone understands and is prepared to address the intricate details, especially in cases of high asset divorce.

Because of the nuances of the process and the often complicated structures related to asset ownership in high-profile marriages it tends to be a good idea to work with an experienced group of professionals that includes not just your attorney, but also other professionals with expertise in making sure all assets are accounted for and properly valued.

It's hard to know what paternity confirmation will bring

The courts giveth and the courts taketh away. That's not intended to put the legal system on a par with some higher power, but it does reflect the influence that a judge can wield in some cases, and why it's so important to be working with an attorney with depth of experience in family law.

What can happen on one hand is what we described in a post a little over a year ago. It involved a case in which a Minnesota man was ordered by the state of Nebraska to pay a steep increase in child support for a son that was not his.