Phone: (507) 663-1211

Q&A: How can I keep the cost of my divorce down?

There’s no getting around it: if you hire a lawyer to handle your divorce, it can be pretty expensive. Many lawyers charge over $200 per hour and require several thousand dollars upfront to get started. Most of the cost is for lawyers’ and legal assistants’ time, and there are out-of-pocket expenses including a $400+ court filing fee.

Of course doing your own divorce without a lawyer can be expensive too. It is often more expensive to fix a mistake later than to do it right in the first place. And sometimes things simply can’t be changed once a court order is entered.

If you do hire a lawyer, there are ways to keep the cost down. Here are some tried and true suggestions:

• Provide all of the information and documents your lawyer asks for, promptly. The longer we have to wait for information, the more often we have to review your file to be sure we have received everything, and the more often we have to contact you to get what we need, the more it costs you.

• Organize your documents chronologically and by subject and be sure it’s clear what they pertain to. If we have to struggle to understand and organize your documents, this will increase your cost.

• Respond to all communications from us as promptly as possible. Again, follow-up takes time and costs money!

• Use your support network (family, friends, counselors) if you need moral support or personal advice or if you just need to vent. Focus your time with us on information that’s relevant to legal objectives. If you don’t know what that is, ask us.

• We will give you a questionnaire to help you understand the information we need from you. Basically, we need to know:

* What property you own and its value

* Whether any property may be “non-marital” (we’ll explain what this means)

* What debt you have

* The children who are involved in the divorce and what kind of custody arrangements you propose

* Any history of abuse (verbal, physical, emotional, chemical, etc.) that may affect your ability to participate in the divorce process (for instance, can you comfortably sit in the same room with your spouse for mediation?), or that may affect the well-being of the children

* Your and your spouse’s incomes and need for spousal support or child support

• Other subjects may or may not be relevant. For instance, a spouse’s affair is probably legally irrelevant (Minnesota is a “no-fault” divorce state), but we do want to know if an affair is affecting your children or if it affects your ability to focus on the legal aspects of your case.

• Be reasonable. Easy to say, hard to do when emotions are high. But judges try to do what’s fair and reasonable regardless of “fault,” so you might as well try to do that too! It is far less expensive to settle your case than to take it to trial, and you may spend thousands of dollars going to trial and then have a judge order something you do not like.

• Think about what outcomes are most important to you; prioritize. And think about what a dispute is worth to you (is it worth paying your lawyer thousands of dollars to fight over used furniture?).

• Fighting over a matter of “principle” can be financially and emotionally draining and may not satisfy either financial or emotional goals!

• You may feel that you were the primary parent and your spouse was barely involved with your children before, so why should he or she get parenting rights now? Be aware that many parents actually do become more involved with their children after divorce, whether because they realize what they were missing or because you aren’t there to carry the load anymore. And judges usually uphold both parents’ rights unless a parent presents a clear risk of harm to children.

• Remember that your view of a situation may not be the same as your spouse’s – and a judge may not know who is right or even who is telling the truth. It’s often better to compromise than to leave important decisions in the hands of a stranger.

• If you can’t reach agreement, be willing to try mediation and give it a good faith effort.

• Be aware that neither party is going to get everything they want, whether by settlement or at trial.

• Be reasonable (did I already say that?).

This is a lot to absorb, right? Feel free to call us and make an appointment for a free half hour initial consultation to discuss these things and more.

2013 Client Distinction Award

Lance was recently notified that his client review scores earned him the Client Distinction Award from Martindale-Hubbell.  According to the rating agency, less than 1% of the 900,000+ attorneys on martindale.com and lawyers.com have received this honor.

You can visit Lance’s  “Recognitions” page for more details on this and past awards.

Congratulations, Lance!

 

 

 

For many people, going to see a lawyer about bankruptcy is a bit like going to see a dentist about  a root canal. They put it off until the pain is almost unbearable. Almost half of my clients cancel their first appointments.

Because I understand this apprehension,  my primary goal in that first conference is to  provide a relaxed atmosphere, and to take all the time necessary to listen to your concerns, gain a thorough understanding of the financial problems you’re facing, and carefully explain the options available to get you relief from the pain of financial distress.

And there is no charge for that first conference, no matter how long it takes.

One of the deepest satisfactions of my work is seeing the relief on my client’s faces once they acquire the knowledge that speedy and effective relief from financial hardship is available.  After that first conference, many clients tell me they wish they had come in sooner.  Please contact us and make that first appointment.  You’ll be glad you did.

[Originally published 12/10/09]

“Peak” bankruptcy?

by Lance Heisler

Most of us know that the economic picture over the last four years (at least) has been marked by more clouds than sunshine.  Even if you don’t follow the news,  you can attest to first-hand experience  regarding the state of this difficult economy if you have lost your home to foreclosure;  lost your job and have been unable to find a new one; you have seen your income decrease; or you have paid more to fuel your car or feed your family than ever before.

It will come as no surprise that there has been a huge spike in bankruptcies filed since 2008.  The worst period was between 2008 and 2009, when bankruptcy filings in the US increased by a whopping 35%.  And lest you think that our state was less impacted by this trend, Minnesota experienced a 32% increase in bankruptcy filings during that same time period.   [click to continue…]

Q:  Will I be awarded spousal maintenance (“alimony”) in my divorce?

A:  This is one of the hardest questions to answer. The possibilities are vast. Spousal maintenance can be temporary (“rehabilitative”) or permanent. If it’s temporary, it can be for a year or for several years or for many years. It can be tied to efforts to become more employable and find employment, or not. It can be in a small or large amount per month and the amount can change over time.

There are no mathematical guidelines for spousal maintenance in Minnesota law, as there are for child support. Judges have broad discretion in deciding this issue, and it is notoriously hard to predict what your judge will do. And, as with other issues parties cannot agree on, it can cost a lot of money to take this issue to trial. [click to continue…]

Q: How do I make sure a gift or inheritance I received, or something I owned before I got married, remains MY property if I end up getting divorced?

A: You may have heard of prenuptial agreements, meant to protect each person’s separate property if they get divorced. Prenuptial agreements are signed before the wedding day, and they are a topic for another day. But what can you do, even after the wedding, to protect something that is given to you and not your spouse? Simple advice: Keep it separate. For instance, if your parents give you (and not your spouse) a check for $10,000 and you want to keep it separate: [click to continue…]

You may have noticed a cloud of dust and chaos around the law office recently.

The building is approximately 115 years old, and suffered some damage resulting from the Fifth Street reconstruction a couple of years ago.

Now we’re stabilizing the building, and repairing cracks in the facade and foundation.  [click to continue…]

Lance did a guest post on Locally Grown, talking about our “cradle-to-grave” services and the Lampe Law Group’s mission to be your family lawyer.

Growing up in North Dakota during the 50s and 60s, I was privileged to experience something that’s all too rare now – the old-fashioned family doctor. “Doc” delivered babies, set broken bones, treated pneumonia, and helped Grandpa with his newfangled hearing aid. Doc knew the community, the families, and the individuals whose basic medical needs he treated from birth through the end of life. Some of you who grew up in that time, and perhaps in smaller communities, may remember a Doc of your own.

Just as Doc diagnosed and treated all sorts of ailments, our firm strives to “treat” all of your legal needs, large and small. We value working with our clients and their families, addressing their needs through all stages of life.

Read the rest of the post here.

Debt consolidation

by Lance Heisler

You’ve heard the ads – they’re everywhere. “We will cut your credit card bills in half!” they claim. “You have a right to credit card relief” say others.  “We will reduce your interest rates and your monthly payments,” boast some.

It all sounds so appealing, especially to people who are getting behind on their payments and don’t know where to turn.  But there are some important things you should know about the companies who offer these services.

  1. These companies deal only with your credit card debt. Typically, they offer no help or relief when it comes to home mortgage and car loans, which is often a large part of your debt problem.
  2. [click to continue…]

We’ve all heard it said that there are two things in life that are certain–Death and Taxes.  But wait:  In bankruptcy, there are some taxes that you can avoid.

Taxes first due within three years of the date a bankruptcy petition is filed and taxes assessed within 240 days of the bankruptcy filing, or which are unassessed but assessable when the case is filed, are considered priority claims which are not subject to discharge. [click to continue…]