10 Things to Remember in the Zoom Court Era

November 1, 2023  |  Jason C. Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live, shop, and work. It also changed the way we head to court. To its credit, the Minnesota Judicial Branch took just a month or so to adjust following the COVID-19 outbreak. While online communication appeared to be a Band-Aid® at the time, remote court hearings have since become the norm. With the exception of trials, almost all other family court hearings are now handled via Zoom. The fact that we have become amateur broadcasters requires attention to how you appear on camera. Here are 10 things to remember in the Zoom court era. Turn on your camera. Many litigants opt to keep their camera off during hearings. However, part of the judge’s job is to assess credibility, and they can hardly do so looking at a blank screen. Dress appropriately. Appearing in court from your living room does not grant the freedom to dress in your sweats. Business casual is fine. Master the mute button. Stay muted unless and until the judge asks you a question. When asked, remember that you are muted and unmute yourself. Even if you are muted, it’s good practice to assume the microphone is on to avoid saying something that would make a bad impression. Lock up the pets. If…

Read More

How Does the Court Determine Spousal Maintenance?

October 27, 2023  |  Jason C. Brown

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is an emotionally charged issue some divorce litigants may face. The person being asked rarely wants to pay, while the person seeking spousal maintenance believes they need it. So, how does the court determine spousal maintenance? Keep reading to learn more. No Real Blueprint The tricky thing about spousal maintenance is that there is no specific formula set forth in the law. While the issue of child support is addressed by a very specific mathematical equation, alimony is not. However, the following framework may be helpful. The starting point when considering an award of spousal maintenance involves an examination of the needs of the requesting party. That party must put together a summary of anticipated monthly expenses following divorce, and the budget must be reasonable. The reasonableness of a budget is measured against the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage. Next, the requesting party’s income, or potential income, is considered. The law provides that those seeking an award of spousal maintenance must be as meaningfully employed as possible. That usually means full-time employment in line with a litigant’s educational background and work experience. If the party seeking alimony is not so employed, the court may impute income equal to their potential earnings. Determining Need…

Read More

The Legal Framework Surrounding Custody Modification

October 16, 2023  |  Jason C. Brown

Few things in family court are more difficult than modifying custody. Though not impossible, the process can be daunting and require extensive legal legwork. Keep reading to find out more about the legal framework surrounding custody modification. Modifying Custody Custody modification involves multiple hearings and a four-pronged legal framework that has been in place for decades. The party seeking to modify must initially schedule a motion hearing and file the necessary papers with the district court. These factors are crucial: Whether there has been a substantial change in circumstance since the most recent custody order; Whether the best interest of the child is served by modifying custody; Whether the existing custodial parent’s home environment endangers the physical or emotional health of the child; Whether the harm caused by modification is outweighed by the benefit of the change The moving parties’ allegations are to be accepted as true by the court. If those assumed facts rise to the level of endangerment, the court will make a preliminary determination that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to make a final decision on the matter. The court may opt to modify custody or parenting time on a temporary basis, pending the outcome at the final hearing. If the court makes the preliminary finding that modification is appropriate,…

Read More