Articles Posted in Family Law

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In 2012, Wife filed a petition to dissolve her marriage to Husband. The court approved the parties’ stipulation and entered partial final judgment dissolving the marriage. The stipulation, however, did not address Wife’s request for spousal maintenance. After a trial on the issue, the district court declined to award maintenance to Wife, determining that Wife could reallocate the investment assets equitably distributed to her in the property settlement to produce sufficient income to meet her reasonable monthly expenses. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in taking into account the income-earning potential of the assets that Wife received in the equitable distribution of marital property; but (2) under the circumstances, the district court’s obligation to consider the tax consequences of the reallocation required remand. View "Curtis v. Curtis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The district court ordered Father to pay monthly child support. Dakota County was a party to the proceeding because Mother had applied for non-public assistance child support services. Father later retired due to disability and began receiving Social Security benefits. As a result, Mother began receiving derivative Social Security benefits on behalf of the children. Father moved to modify his child support obligation. The child support magistrate granted Father’s motion in part and offset his prospective child support obligation by the derivative Social Security benefits received by Mother. Both parties sought review. The district court concluded Father was entitled to credit for the derivative Social Security benefits received by Mother at the time Mother began receiving derivative Social Security benefits but before Father served notice of the motion to modify. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a modification of a child support order is retroactive to the date of service of the notice of motion to modify. View "In re Dakota County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Prior to his death and after consulting a lawyer about divorcing Wife, Husband changed the beneficiary on his term life insurance policy from Wife to Respondents, his parents and sister. Less than four months before Husband’s death, Wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage to Husband. Following Husband’s death, the district court dismissed the dissolution proceeding. Wife subsequently filed suit against Respondents, alleging that Husband’s transfer violated Minn. Stat. 518.58(1)(a), which prohibits the transfer of “marital assets” by a party who contemplates commencing a marriage dissolution. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that section 518.58(1)(a) did not apply to Wife’s claim because her dissolution proceeding abated upon Husband’s death and the statute applies only in current dissolution proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the language of section 518.58(1)(a) limits the statute’s application to pending dissolution proceedings, the statute did not provide Wife, who was no longer a party to a marital dissolution proceeding, a remedy in this case. View "Nelson v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Minn. Stat. 260C.301(1)(b)(4) provides that parents who previously have had their parental rights to children involuntarily terminated are presumed to be palpably unfit to parent other children. In this case, a few weeks after Hennepin County filed a petition to terminate Parents’ rights to their four children, Mother gave birth to a fifth child. The juvenile court terminated Parents’ rights to their four older children. The County subsequently filed a petition to terminate Parents’ rights to the newborn pursuant to section 260C.301(1)(b)(4). The juvenile court found that both parents failed to overcome the presumption of unfitness and that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate their parental rights. The court of appeals affirmed. Mother filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the presumption of palpable unfitness found in section 260C.301(1)(b)(4) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Minnesota and United States Constitutions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 260C.301(1)(b)(4) is narrowly tailored to serve the government’s compelling interest, and therefore, the statute does not violate the equal protection provisions of the State or Federal Constitutions. View "In re Welfare of the Child of R.D.L. & J.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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After Gordon Brown’s debt to Citizens State Bank Norwood Young America (Bank) became delinquent, Gordon petitioned to dissolve his twenty-three-year marriage to Judy Brown. The Browns executed a marital termination agreement that was incorporated into the marital dissolution decree. Pursuant to the dissolution judgment and decree, Gordon transferred to Judy several assets. When it was unable to collect from Gordon on the original judgment, the Bank brought this action under Minnesota’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (MUFTA) to levy execution on the assets Gordon transferred to Judy, alleging that the transfers were made with the intent to defraud the Bank. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Bank, determining that the transfers were voidable under MUFTA. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment granting the Bank authority to levy execution on assets fraudulently transferred to the extent necessary to satisfy the Bank’s claim, holding that MUFTA applies to transfers made pursuant to an uncontested marital dissolution decree. View "Citizens State Bank Norwood Young Am. v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Family Law

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James Bergstrom and Vanessa Rew dissolved their marriage in 2008. In 2002, 2007, and 2008, Rew obtained a series of one-year orders for protection (OFPs) against Bergstrom. In 2010, before the extended expiration date of the 2008 OFP, Rew filed an application under Minn. Stat. 518B.01(6)(a) to extend the terms of the 2008 OFP. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court extended the OFP for up to fifty years in favor of Rew and the couple’s minor children. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) section 518B.01(6)(a) does not require a finding of domestic abuse before a district court may extend the duration of an OFP; (2) the extension of an OFP under section 518B.01(6)(a) does not facially violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Minn. Const. art. I, 3; (3) the record was insufficient to conclude that the extended OFP was constitutional with respect to Bergstrom’s children; and (4) the extension of an OFP for up to fifty years does not implicate the prohibition against double jeopardy or the Ex Post Facto Clause of either the United States of Minnesota Constitutions. Remanded. View "In re Rew" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of felony-level failure to provide care and support to his children due to his omission and failure to pay court-ordered child support. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction, concluding (1) the phrase “care and support” in Minn. Stat. 609.375(1) refers exclusively to a person’s financial obligations to a spouse or child; and (2) the district court did not err when it excluded Appellant’s evidence that he had provided nonmonetary care to his children. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) to obtain a conviction under section 609.375(1) the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant knowingly omitted and failed to provide both care and support to a spouse or child; and (2) the State did not present any evidence that Appellant knowingly omitted and failed to provide care to his children, and therefore, insufficient evidence supported Appellant’s conviction under the care-and-support statute. View "State v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The grandparent visitation statute allows a court to award visitation as part of several different kinds of proceedings, including a proceeding for parentage. The district court awarded grandparent visitation to the paternal grandmother (Grandmother) of T.H. after concluding that the recognition of parentage executed by T.H.'s parents pursuant to Minn. Stat. 257.75 was a "proceeding" for parentage under the grandparent visitation statute. The court of appeals affirmed. T.H.'s mother appealed, contending that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award visitation to Grandmother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a recognition of parentage executed and filed with the appropriate state agency under section 257.75 is a "proceeding" for purposes of the grandparent visitation statute; and (2) therefore, a "proceeding" occurred in this case, and the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to award visitation to Grandmother. View "Christianson v. Henke" on Justia Law

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Father and Mother were divorced pursuant to a judgment and decree which provided that Father pay child support to Mother. Father later moved to modify his child-support obligation, arguing that certain distributions paid to Mother as a shareholder of a closely-held subchapter S corporation should be included in her gross income, as defined by Minn. Stat. 518A.29(a) and 518A.30 for the purpose of calculating the child-support amount. The district court granted the motion. The court of appeals reversed, determining that because the distributions either were not available to Mother or were designated to pay her income tax obligation, the distributions did not constitute gross income within the meaning of the statutes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that gross income from a shareholder's interest in a closely-held subchapter S corporation must be calculated using the statutory formula in section 518A.30 and does not depend on the amount actually distributed or available to the parent shareholder. Remanded. View "Haefele v. Haefele" on Justia Law

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At the time of his divorce from Wife, Husband was a participant in a pension fund (Fund). To enforce the interest awarded to her under the decree, Wife needed to serve a domestic relations order (DRO) on the Fund and its administrators (collectively, the Plan) for qualification. Before Wife served any DRO on the Plan, Husband remarried. At the time of Husband's retirement, he made a survivor annuity payable to his current spouse upon his death. Wife eventually served a DRO on the Plan in 2005, but the Plan refused to qualify the DRO. After Husband died, Wife brought a motion to enforce the 2005 DRO. The district court ruled in favor of Wife, concluding (1) surviving spouse benefits do not vest in a plan participant's current spouse at the time of the plan participant's retirement; and (2) therefore, the 2005 DRO served on the Plan was a qualified domestic relations order. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under ERISA, surviving spouse benefits vest in a plan participant's current spouse at the time of the plan participant's retirement; and (2) accordingly, the 2005 DRO in this case could not be qualified. View "Langston v. Wilson McShane Corp." on Justia Law