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Lake Elmo Minnesota Legal Blog

Modifications and other child support considerations

When parents in Minnesota get divorced, the noncustodial parent might be ordered to pay child support. This obligation is calculated using factors such as income and child care expenses. However, there are several other considerations parents should keep in mind regarding child support.

With the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, child support will no longer affect taxes. However, the custodial parent is generally allowed to claim the child as a dependent on taxes. Parents who share custody could make other arrangements. Some might agree to take turns claiming the child on their taxes in alternating years. Parents who have two or more children could split their claims.

Facial recognition technology for shoplifters raises concerns

Many retailers in Minnesota and around the country are using facial recognition software to identify and ban people who have shoplifted from their stores in the past. However, privacy rights advocates fear the technology could be easily misused.

The use of facial recognition technology is rapidly increasing, and total revenue from the industry is predicted to hit $10 billion by 2025, a two-fold jump over 2018's total. Unfortunately, state and federal regulations are failing to keep up with the industry's growth, creating the potential for abuse of the technology. For example, some retailers using facial recognition cameras are already sharing digital records with other retailers in their network. This means that people who are banned from one store for shoplifting could be banned from all stores, making it impossible for them to shop.

Approaches to removing a name from a mortgage in a divorce

Minnesota couples who are divorcing do not always choose to sell their marital home and divide the proceeds. When one party plans to keep a home that has a mortgage, the loan needs to be refinanced in that person's name or assumed by the person when possible. Few people choose to leave both names on a mortgage after a divorce because liability for payments would remain the obligation of both people, including the one who is no longer living there.

Refinancing a loan could help a single party gain a lower home loan payment after the balance is amortized again for a 30-year period. Refinancing might be completed in 30 days, but the process includes all of the expected costs, such as loan origination and appraisal fees and title insurance.

Age and the likelihood of arrest

People in Minnesota and the rest of the United States who are younger than 26 years of age have a higher chance of being arrested than people who belong to older generations. This is according to a study that was done by researchers from a nonprofit research corporation that conducts public policy investigations. The researchers also state that the rates of arrests for women and white Americans are growing the fastest.

The study identifies links between the increasing rates of arrests and lower hourly wages, fewer weeks employed, lower family incomes and lower chances of being married. However, age was found to be another important factor in the findings. The arrest rates for adults whose ages ranged from 26 to 35 years were astounding as adults within that age range were 3.6 times more likely than adults over the age of 66 to have been arrested.

Uncovering financial secrets during a divorce

When Minnesota couples consider divorcing, at many times the trust has long since been broken. Tensions involving finances often help impel a couple toward ending their marriage. In some instances, spending patterns or excessive debt are issues, while in other cases, infidelity can also lead to financial decisions that prioritize another person.

In other cases, people want to hide assets in order to avoid dividing them in the divorce. In all of these types of incidents, however, people could learn a great deal by scrutinizing income tax returns. One person voluntarily overpaid the IRS by hundreds of thousands of dollars, planning to recoup the benefits later after the divorce. However, when his soon-to-be ex-wife reviewed their records with the IRS, she learned of the deception before the divorce was finalized. There are a number of tax documents that can shed light on a couple's finances, especially when a divorce is looming ahead. For example, W-2 forms not only contain each spouse's income but also withholdings for retirement savings, health savings accounts or other deferred compensation plans.

Estate planning is important with or without kids

Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all proposition for Minnesota residents. There are a number of factors that make the process unique for each individual, and one of them is whether or not the person has children. In cases where a person is making an estate plan and has children, he or she will commonly make a number of bequests to the children and in some cases will name one of the kids as executor of the will. In cases where the person does not have children, the decisions might be more difficult, but the estate planning process is just as important.

An important point in any estate plan is incapacity. Many people choose to establish durable powers of attorney or advanced health care directives to take care of financial, medical and legal decision-making in the event they become incapacitated. These instruments allow people to decide who will make important choices on their behalf. Without them, not even their spouses are entitled to make certain decisions on their behalf.

Paying for a child's college education after divorce

The College Board reports that college costs have been rising at least 3 percent each year, but many families in Minnesota may still lack a financial plan in case of divorce or the death of one spouse. Divorce can make paying for college even harder, but there are steps parents can take to protect their children's education.

Unfortunately, the more immediate expenses of spousal and child support often must take precedence over saving for college. Parents' responsibility for a child's college expenses in divorce differs from state to state, but in Minnesota, a parent cannot be compelled to pay for a child's college education. However, this does not mean that as part of a divorce agreement, parents cannot address the issue of how much each will pay toward the child's education. Divorce agreements often include a time limit of five years on how long parents will contribute toward college.

Misdemeanor cases clog courts and burden poor defendants

Misdemeanor charges in Minnesota may not impose harsh penalties like felonies, but they still carry serious consequences for many people, such as imprisonment for up to one year and fines. A legal scholar and author who has researched the effects of misdemeanor convictions said that court fees, fines and short-term incarceration often lead to job loss as well as restrictions on housing, student loans, welfare benefits and professional licensing.

After studying crime statistics from the FBI and other sources, she estimated that 80 percent of criminal dockets involve misdemeanor cases. This amounts to roughly 13 million cases annually nationwide. The huge volume overwhelms public defenders with limited resources and forces them to avoid litigating constitutional violations. She concluded that the system often makes the accuracy of misdemeanor convictions questionable and punishes innocent people.

Is divorce mediation the right choice for my situation?

A typical litigation process for divorce can be stressful and expensive. While it is a necessary part in dissolving some marriages, many couples may benefit from an alternative type of dispute resolution. Mediation is one litigation alternative that is available.

In mediation, a neutral person, called a mediator, will help facilitate you and your spouse reaching an agreement on the parts of your divorce that you do not already agree on. The mediator will likely meet with each spouse independently before meeting with you both together. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on a particular issue, you will not be forced to agree, and you can still take that issue to court to be resolved.

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