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Saint Paul Family Law Blog

Gender shouldn't matter in custody cases

Traditionally, mothers have been given custody of their children after a divorce. This has caused fathers in Minnesota and elsewhere to wonder if they are given a fair shake in their custody cases. Fathers are supposed to be granted joint or sole custody of a child if that would be in the minor's best interests. Of course, it is possible that a judge may have outdated notions about a father's ability to take care of a child.

Therefore, fathers are encouraged to learn more about their rights and to assert them during a child custody hearing. Ideally, parents will work together to create a parenting plan prior to a hearing. Furthermore, both parents should have a reasonable ability to communicate about issues that could impact their child. Finally, parents should show that they have a strong relationship with their children.

Child support dispute between Michael Strahan and ex-wife

Minnesota fans of former football player and current "Fox NFL Sunday" co-host Michael Strahan may have heard that he is currently involved in a dispute with his ex-wife about back child support for their 14-year-old twin daughters. In their initial divorce settlement in 2006, his wife received $15.3 million, and he agreed to pay $18,000 per month in child support. In 2009, the amount was modified to $13,000.

His ex-wife now says that his monthly support payment should be increased to more than $18,000 monthly and that he can afford it based on his salary. Strahan's reply said that their agreement did allow for adjustments based on cost of living, but he said they were not clear about how to determine when such an adjustment should be made.

When parents are unable to pay child support

In Minnesota, child support orders are based on the parents' income. A non-custodial parent or even a parent who shares custody may be ordered to pay child support to the other parent in order to support the child's lifestyle and standard of living. However, those orders are based on a snapshot of a time when the order is put into place. Of course, a parent's lifestyle can change over time. In particular, parents may suffer financial hardship as a result of a job loss, disability or unexpected illness. They may find themselves unable to pay their child support bills and rack up unrepayable debt.

Child support debt can cause serious damage to a parent's life. It often cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, despite the hardship a parent may be experiencing. In addition, parents may face wage garnishment; they may be unable to receive a passport, and some even face jail time. For parents struggling with financial problems and poverty, this can make the situation even more desperate. However, parents who cannot pay are not locked into a child support order issued at a better financial time. They can return to court to seek a modification of the child support assessment.

Recognizing signs of parental alienation

When you split from your romantic partner and your child’s other parent in Minnesota, it makes sense that there might be some bad blood between the two of you. While this is not uncommon, in especially contentious cases, you may begin to develop concerns about your child’s other parent attempting to turn him or her against you. At Huson Law Firm, PLLC, we recognize that, in some cases, one parent’s efforts to turn a shared child against the other can constitute parental alienation, which is a dangerous behavior that can have a substantial and negative effect on your child.

Per Psychology Today, parental alienation can manifest when one parent makes it seem to a shared child that he or she has to “choose sides,” meaning the offending parent actually encourages the shared child’s rejection of the other parent. Parental alienation can also take on many other forms, and it does not always look the same from one family to the next.

Can I keep my children from my ex for not paying child support?

It can be a challenge for many custodial parents to receive child support in Minnesota and elsewhere. Despite a court order for child support being in place, your ex might not be paying what he or she is supposed to pay. This can understandably be frustrating and create a financial hardship. If you are not getting child support, it can be tempting to take matters into your own hands, but what are the repercussions to this?

A common response to not getting child support is to withhold visitation of the children. Many parents justify that if their ex is not paying, he or she should not get to see the children. They may think that by withholding visitation, the noncustodial parent will decide to start paying again. However, as FindLaw cautions, there are legal consequences to withholding visitation. If your parenting arrangements were outlined in your divorce decree, you would be violating a court order by not allowing your ex to see the kids, and you could be held in contempt of court. This may result in unfavorable actions, such as a modification to your custody agreement and even losing custody of your children.

Not all accusations of abuse are true

Nobody can effectively argue that domestic violence is not a problem in Minnesota and the rest of the United States. Abusive spouses and parents threaten the safety of their partners and children every day. However, we at the Huson Law Firm, PLLC, are also aware that some people make false accusations of abuse. You may be interested in learning how a false accusation of abuse can affect you in a family law dispute.

As Verywell Mind explains, those who make false domestic violence accusations against their partners do so for numerous reasons. Often, one spouse wrongfully claims the other has been abusive throughout the marriage, in hopes to gain full custody of the children during a divorce. You may have experienced your partner being angry with you and hoping to get revenge by claiming to law enforcement, your employer or friends and family that you abuse him or her. It is also possible for a spouse to interpret the other’s yelling or blocking during an argument as domestic violence, even if no harm was inflicted or intended.

Study: The benefits of joint custody

Going through a divorce can be an emotional process, especially when there are children involved. Although parents may want to shield their children from experiencing the heartache of divorce, children are often the unwilling participants of a marital separation. Determining child custody may be one of the most difficult duties of the divorce process. While children may be used to living with both parents, it can be hard for children to adjust to a single-parent household. However, studies show the clear benefits of a joint-custody arrangment. 

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at children who were raised in joint-custody, single-parent and traditional family situations. Researchers found that kids who lived in joint-custody households had higher self-esteem, stronger family relationships and exhibited fewer emotional and behavioral problems. Furthermore, the difference of children living in a traditional family scenerio and a joint-custody family were minimal compared to that of a sole-custody situation. 

Alternative dispute resolution can help you resolve conflicts

When a marriage is ending, there are often hurt feelings and regrets. People may feel guilty or be angry. At such a trying time, it's no wonder that there are often disputes.

While disputes can be frustrating and time-consuming, it is possible to resolve them if you and your spouse are in agreement that you want to avoid a trial. Through alternative dispute resolution, it's possible to address problems without having to turn to a judge for help.

How does joint custody benefit your child?

As divorcing parents in Minnesota, you must make a lot of tough decisions about how you will handle parenting after the split. Though some parents are in difficult situations that make sharing joint custody hard or even impossible, it is generally advocated to go with that option if it's reasonable to do so. But why is there so much support for joint custody?

The American Psychological Association published an article in 2002 stating that joint custody may be the best option for the children in a divorce. Studies were conducted that compared the mental and emotional well-being of the children of sole custody situations against the children of joint custody situations. Of those groups, it was the children of joint custody who showed more stability, fewer problems in school, and less difficulty making social adjustments. They were also shown to have higher self-esteem and fewer emotional or behavioral problems.

What happens if I fall behind on my child support payments?

Child support exists to meet children’s physical and emotional needs after their parents split up. However, for many paying parents in Minnesota, meeting their child support obligations can create a financial hardship. You may be concerned about the legal consequences if you do not pay child support.

Contrary to popular belief, not all parents who fall behind on child support payments do not care about their children. In many cases, they simply cannot afford the amount set for them. However, there are serious consequences to falling into arrears with child support, explains the Minnesota Department of Human Services. After several weeks or months of nonpayment, you may experience the following:

  • Being held in contempt of court
  • Receiving a negative impact on your credit report
  • Seizure of financial assets or levies on your properties
  • Suspension of your driver’s, occupational and recreational licenses
  • Getting a hold on your passport or student grants
  • Interception of your state and federal tax refunds
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