FAMILY LAW REPRESENTATION
Jon G Sarff, P.L.C. is an experienced trial attorney practicing exclusively in family law. His work concentrates in Hennepin, Blue Earth, and Nicollet counties to include the cities of Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Mankato, St. Peter, Minnetrista, Mound, Shorewood, and Excelsior. He provides representation to clients on a flat fee basis in the following family law cases:
Divorce, Legal Separation, and Paternity,
Custody and Parenting Time,
Child Support and Spousal Maintenance,
Division of Marital and Nonmarital Assets and Debt, and
Orders For Protection and Harassment Restraining Orders.
WHY CHOOSE A FLAT FEE ATTORNEY?
Legal fees can escalate quickly when a client is charged on an hourly basis. When a flat fee is charged, the attorney discusses the case with the client at the outset of the case and based on the information provided by the client, the attorney agrees to represent the client to and through a trial for a specific fixed dollar amount which is paid at the start of the work. The fixed flat fee can range between $1,500 to $2,500 for motions depending on the complexity of the motion and between $3,500 and $5,500 for cases which involve either an evidentiary hearing or a trial. The client is also responsible for paying the court filing fee and motion fees which are paid to the court. The court also sometimes encourages the parties to participate in Early Neutral Evaluation and the client is responsible for those costs as well.
Divorce, Legal Separation, and Paternity
A divorce or dissolution of marriage is the termination of the marital relationship. A decree of dissolution completely terminates the marital status of the parties. A legal separation is a court determination of the rights and responsibilities of a husband and wife arising out of the marital relationship. A decree of legal separation does not terminate the martial status. A marital dissolution is granted when the court finds that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship. A decree of legal separation is granted when the court finds that one or both of the parties need a legal separation, e.g. one party is incurring excessive debt or gambling losses and the other party does not want to be liable for such debt; one of the parties has been diagnosed with a serious illness that may require extensive medical care or hospitalization and there is no insurance and the other party does not want to be liable for such uninsured costs; or when one of the parties is exhibiting troublesome behavior such as abuse of alcohol or drugs and the other party wishes to express a warning. A proceeding for dissolution or separation may be brought by either or both spouses and shall be commences by personal service of the Summons and Petition venued in the county where one of the parties resides. The court may change the venue of the case if the facts and circumstances warrant a change in venue.
A paternity action may be commenced when two parties who are not married have conceived a child and one or both of the parties wish to have the court determine custody, parenting time, and support related issues. The court must first determine that the claimed father is the actual biological father of the child. This can be done at a hearing if the parties signed a Recognition of Parentage when the child was born and they both acknowledge the father’s parentage at a hearing or the court may determine the father’s parentage by DNA testing. Once the father is adjudicated to be the biological father of the child, the parties rights and responsibilities with regard to custody,parenting time, and support can be determined under the same factors that would apply to parents who have conceived a child during a marriage.
Custody and Parenting Time
There are two types of custody in Minnesota: Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Legal Custody means the right to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care, education, religious training Joint Legal Custody means that both parties are involved in making such decisions and Sole Legal Custody means that one of the parties will make such decisions. Generally, the court will grant Joint Legal Custody to both parents unless there is a history of domestic abuse by and between the two parents in which case the court may grant Sole Legal Custody to one parent. Domestic abuse is defined to include physical harm, assault, or infliction of fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. Physical Custody means the daily care and control of the child. Physical Custody can be either Joint or Sole. In most cases, the court grants the parties Joint Legal Custody provided there is no history of domestic abuse and the court typically grants Sole Physical Custody to the parent with whom the child will reside most of the time. Parenting Time means the time each parent spends with the child regardless of the custodial designation.
Custody and Parenting Time issues are determined for the most part under the Best Interest Standard which consists of 12 factors which the court considers in detail. See Minn. Stat. Section 518.17 which sets forth the 12 factors which make up the Best Interest Standard.
A party may petition the court for the appointment of the Guardian Ad Litem where custody or parenting time with a minor child is in issue. The Guardian Ad Litem is the “eyes and ears” of the court and the Guardian Ad Litem represents the interests of the child. The Guardian Ad Litem makes recommendations to the court about custody and parenting time issues. See Minn. Stat. Section 518.165.
The court may also interview the child to determine the child’s preference with regard to custody and parenting time. The court is called upon to give “strong consideration” to the wishes of the child when the child reaches a sufficient age. See Minn. Stat. Section 518.166.
Child Support and Spousal Maintenance
In Minnesota, child support is controlled by parenting time. Many child support decisions are now made by Child Support Magistrates, rather than District Court Judges. The Child Support Magistrate or Judge considers each parties’ proportionate share of combined Gross Income and depending on the amount of parenting time each party receives, the amount of child support paid is determined. Google the term “Minnesota Child Support Calculator” to determine the amount of child support. In addition to child support, the parties must also share in the cost of the child’s medical and dental insurance coverage and child care costs. The Child Support Calculation establishes a “presumptive” child support amount. The court may deviate downward from this presumptive amount based on Minn. Stat. Section 518A.43.
Spousal Maintenance (alimony) means an award of future income of one party to the other party for the future support or maintenance of the receiving party. Spousal maintenance can be temporary or permanent. Temporary in the sense that it is awarded for a short period of time to assist one spouse in completing an educational or retraining period of say 2 or 3 years. The appellant courts have said that normally spousal maintenance should be permanent subject to the right to review the award if the financial circumstances of the parties change.
Normally, this analysis begins by determining whether the marriage has been a long-term marriage, e.g. at least 10 years. The party seeking spousal maintenance shows that the moving party’s income is not sufficient to finance reasonable and normal living expenses based on the general standard of living experienced during the marriage. Once a shortfall is determined, the analysis then turns to determining whether the other party has more income than that party needs to meet that party’s reasonable and normal living expenses. If one party have more income than that party needs to meet their reasonable or normal living expenses and the other party has a shortfall, the court may award the party with the shortfall an amount from the other party equal to the excess of that party’s income over monthly expenses. Spousal maintenance is income to the receiving party and a deduction to the paying party. See Minn. Stat. Section 518.552.
Division of Marital and Nonmarital Assets and Debt
Marital Property means any real, personal, or financial asset acquired by a party or either of them during the marriage including the homestead, vehicles, furniture, appliances, tools, equipment, bank accounts, investments, and retirement or pension accounts. Nonmarital Property means any real, personal, or financial asset owned by one party prior to the marriage or acquired by one party during the marriage by gift, bequest, devise or inheritance made by a third party to only one of the parties. See Minn. Stat. Section 518.58.
The court attempts to equalize the allocation of marital assets to the parties and is given broad discretion in how to do this. The court may allocate marital debt in a manner which reflects each party’s proportionate share of combined gross income, but normally, assets are divided equally since each party is presumed to have been involved in the acquisition of marital assets.
A party may seek up to 50% of the other party’s nonmarital property if an undue hardship can be shown. This is sometimes granted in a long-term marriage and where it can be shown that the moving party needs help and the other party has the means to do so through an award of up to 50% of that party’s nonmarital property.
Orders For Protection
The procedure to obtain an Order For Protection (OFP) is described in Minn. Stat. Section 518B.01. An OFP is granted when domestic abuse has occurred. The most common example of domestic abuse occurs when there has been an act of physical harm, assault, or the infliction of fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault by and between family members. A Petition and Affidavit for an OFP is filed with the court. Within a very short period of time, the court determines without a hearing whether sufficient facts have been alleged to warrant the issuance of an OFP on an Ex Party basis (without a hearing). If the court determines that enough has been alleged, the court issues an Ex Parte OFP which is then personally served on the other party. The other party can request an evidentiary hearing.
Jon G Sarff, P.L.C. has represented clients in Minnesota’s District Court, Tax Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. He has also represented clients in the U.S. District Court, Federal Circuit Court, and Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. He has represented clients in arbitration proceedings before the American Arbitration Association.
EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION
Jon G Sarff, PLC has served as a Municipal Prosecutor in Minnesota, General Counsel of Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, Associate General Counsel of the University of Minnesota, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation in Washington D.C. He holds a B.A. degree, M.A. degree in Finance, and a J.D. law degree from the University of Iowa. He has over 30 years of legal experience.
GET IN TOUCH
Serving the cities in Hennepin, Blue Earth, and Nicollet Counties which includes the cities of Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Minnetrista, Mankato, and St. Peter.