Sara Swanson provides legal advice and/or representation in the following areas:
Antenuptial (Pre-marital) and Post-nuptial Agreements – Ante-nuptial Agreements are simply contracts between couples (entered into prior to marriage) that primarily address how the parties’ assets and debts would be divided in the event of either party’s death or a divorce. Post-nuptial Agreements address the same issues, but are executed after the date of marriage.
Legal Advice and/or Representation in Divorce – Minnesota Courts refer to divorces as a “dissolution of marriage.” This is the legal proceeding to end a couple’s marital status. Depending on the length of the marriage and the particular facts of each case, a divorce can be relatively straightforward or extremely complex. When children are involved in a divorce action, the most significant issues are custody (physical and legal), a parenting schedule, and child support (basic support, childcare support, medical and dental support, and dependency exemptions). In all divorce cases, there are numerous other issues that either have to be resolved by the parties or left up to the Court to decide. Some of these issues include: division of marital and non-marital assets (real estate, personal property, businesses, bank/investment/retirement accounts, life insurance policies, vehicles, etc.), division of debts, spousal support (alimony), medical and dental insurance, legal fees/costs, etc.
Legal Separation – Legal Separation involves the same issues as a Dissolution of Marriage; however, at the end of the case, the marriage is not dissolved (so the parties remain married). However, if one party commences a legal separation action, and the other party wishes to convert the case to a divorce, the case is converted to a divorce.
Child Custody – Legal and physical custody is determined either by agreement of the parties or by determination of the Court. In simple terms, legal custody refers to making significant decisions for the minor children, and physical custody pertains to the residence of the minor children. When child custody is initially determined by the Court, the Court examines the “best interests” of the child (13 factors) - Minn. Stat. § 518.17. If custody has already been established by a Court Order, there are very limited circumstances where it can be modified (endangerment of a child, stipulation/agreement of the parties, or consent & integration) - (Minn. Stat. § 518.18).
Visitation/Parenting Time Issues – Minnesota law gives parents the right to see and spend time with their children barring very unusual circumstances. This can be one of the most difficult issues to resolve (primarily because there is no “perfect” parenting schedule because each child is different and a child’s needs change over time).
Child Support – Child support is divided into three categories under Minnesota Law (Minn. Stat. § 518A). Basic support is paid from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent based upon both of the parties’ gross incomes (or in some cases by imputed incomes). Secondly, a child support Order addresses daycare/childcare expenses (requiring each parent to pay a portion of that expense). Finally, medical/dental support addresses which parent will provide medical and/or dental insurance and what portion of the uncovered expenses each parent should pay. Child support can be modified based upon a significant change in circumstances (as defined by statute).
Paternity – An adjudication of paternity is a Court Order that legally recognizes the father-child relationship. In Minnesota, if a child is born to parents that are not married, mothers have sole legal and physical custody until the father takes affirmative steps to establish paternity. As part of a paternity action, both parties have the right to request custody, parenting time, and/or support.
Post-Decree Issues – Even after a divorce is finalized, there are still times when family law issues arise based upon changes in client’s circumstances (enforcement issues, changes to custody, parenting time, child support, etc.).
Orders for Protection – Minnesota Statutes § 518B addresses the procedures involved with filing for and obtaining an Order for Protection (OFP). An OFP prevents a specific person from having contact with the person filing the OFP based upon issues of domestic violence (including physical harm, bodily injury or assault, terroristic threats, criminal sexual conduct, interference with an emergency call, or something that created fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault). As a part of the OFP process, Judges have the ability to make determinations as to temporary legal and physical custody, child support, alimony, and temporary property issues.
Harassment Restraining Orders – A Harassment Restraining Order (HRO) prevents a specific person from contacting the party filing the HRO. A person seeking the HRO must prove a pattern of harassing and unwanted contact, such as repeated telephone calls over several days, unwanted visits, etc.
Third-Party Custody – There may be special circumstances where parents may be unable or unwilling to properly care for their child(ren). Sometimes grandparent or other relatives step in to provide care. Other times, non-relatives have provided care for children for an extended period of time (thereby becoming De Facto Custodians or Interested Third Parties).