Do's and Don't's in Minnesota Family Court Proceedings

Concerned with how to behave during a Minnesota Family Court case? Below are the do's and do not's of the Minnesota Family Court:

  • RECORDED STATEMENTS. In a contested divorce or custody proceeding always assume that any statement you make is recorded. This includes telephone calls and answering machine messages. Do not say or do anything that you would not want a court to know about. If you plan on recording your spouse, be sure to speak with your attorney prior to making any recording. In general, judges do not appreciate parties recording the other and in some situations, recording the other party can backfire on the party making the recording.
  • SPEAKING WITH OPPOSING COUNSEL. Once you are represented by an attorney, opposing attorneys may not speak with you regarding the case. If they call you, refer them to your attorney. Do not call them, even if your lawyer is unavailable and you consider it an emergency.
  • SPEAKING WITH JUDGES. Parties may not speak with or provide letters to a judge unless it is part of a scheduled hearing. Contact without the other party present is called ex-parte contact and is prohibited.
  • PARENTING NOTEBOOKS. In a custody proceeding it is important to maintain a notebook including dates that events occur relating to the care of your child(ren). What is the daily routine? Who takes them to the doctor? Who takes them to school activities? List any concerns regarding the other party’s parenting, including: the method of discipline, drug use, alcohol use, disabilities, or neglect. Keep a calendar with you and mark the dates and times you and the other parent spend time with the children. This is important, and a calendar makes it much easier for you and your attorney to prepare for a hearing regarding your children.
  • INDEPENDENT DOCUMENTATION. In Minnesota family court custody proceedings,  courts are often faced with conflicting “he said and she said” testimony. It is very important to find independent documentation to verify any statements. For example, if you contend that you are the primary caretaker, reports from doctors, daycare provider or teachers may document your attendance at parent-teacher conferences, signing off on homework, or taking the child to the doctor. It is very important that you acquire this documentation early on in the legal proceeding. If domestic abuse is an issue, you may wish to document incidents with police calls to the homestead, police reports or orders related to domestic abuse. If drug or alcohol use is an issue, a driving record showing DWI arrests or drug charges may prove valuable.
  • INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN. Avoid involving minor children in the Minnesota Family Court proceeding. This may harm the child emotionally and damage your case. Avoid blaming or vilifying the other parent in the child’s presence. Remind the child that the divorce is not their fault and is a parental dispute. Tell your child (no matter how you truly feel) that both parents love them.
  • PHOTOGRAPH PROPERTY. To prepare for divorce, in addition to acquiring necessary documentation, you may wish to photograph or videotape your furnishings, personal property, and real estate. By photographing the contents of your home, you will create a comprehensive log of your possessions and the condition of your home. It may be difficult at a later date to recall all items or necessary repairs.
  • DON’T LOSE YOUR TEMPER. Domestic violence is a serious issue and can ruin a spouse's chance for custody. Do not put yourself in a situation where it is likely an argument with your spouse will ensue. A finding of domestic abuse by one spouse against the other makes any custody battle very difficult since there is a presumption under Minnesota law that an abuser should not have custody.  Read more about domestic abuse and its affect on divorce and child custody proceedings.

If you would like to have a consultation with a Minnesota divorce lawyer, please contact Chris Banas at  651-361-8109.

Categories: Family Law