Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Family Law Attorney

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Beckman of Beckman, Steen & Lungstrom. 

Getting a divorce may feel like an overwhelming process, as if you’re drowning in a sudden wave of decisions. You might not know where to start, especially when you are also trying to take care of yourself emotionally. Keep in mind that you don’t have to walk through this process alone and your attorney will help you through your divorce process.

These five questions will help you make sure the attorney fits you and your needs.

1. How often do you mediate cases and how often do you take them to trial?

Asking this question will give you an idea of how the proceedings will go, and if they will go in a way you want. Whichever method you think will work better for your case, you will want to make sure the attorney is well versed in that method.

2. What good and bad points do you see with my case?

This might be a tough question to ask, but it is a great way to test how forthright the attorney is. You want to feel like you can trust the attorney to give details plainly to you.

3. How do my opinions and input factor into the decision-making process?

You might want your opinions to have a high input in the decisions, or you might want someone else to take more control in order to help lift some of the burden from you. Either way, you will want to make sure the attorney matches what you want.

4. How/what will you charge me?

This questions is important, especially since you’ll need to evaluate what your financial situation will be after the divorce. It might be hard to think about this post-divorce future, but it’s important to make sure the attorney’s price fits your needs and won’t put you in a hole afterwards.

5. How will you communicate with me?

This questions will give you a clear picture of whether or not the attorney will communicate in a way that works best for you. It will also show you how flexible they are. Phone calls and emails are pretty standard means of communication, but maybe those don’t work best for you. Do they text? Do they make Skype calls? It’s important to feel like your attorney will work with your preferences to make sure you stay well-informed.

Budgeting Do’s and Don’ts for the Newly Separated

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Beckman of Beckman, Steen & Lungstrom.

For many newly separated individuals, learning to develop a budget on a single income is one of the biggest challenges of moving forward with a new life. Your standard of living may need to decrease in order to meet your new financial position. In some cases, you may need to make significant changes to your lifestyle as you move forward. A basic understanding of the do’s and don’ts of budgeting for newly separated individuals, however, will help make that process easier.


As you develop a new budget for yourself, the first thing you should do is take a look at where you are. What are your fixed expenses: car payments, rent, utilities and other payments that you know that you’ll have to make each month? What does your income look like? Understanding how your expenses match up to your income will help you make smarter choices about your variable income.

Following your separation, you should make a serious effort to pay down debt. Divorce can create a hit to your credit score, especially as you close lines of credit that you and your spouse had opened together and have a change in major expenses. Make sure that you make payments on time every month.

Make sure that you update any important financial documents following your divorce. Close joint accounts that you had together. Write out a new will that explains how your assets will be distributed in the event of your death. These simple actions could save you or your dependents a lot of heartache down the road.


Try not to dive straight in with major expenses. What you think you can afford now may turn out to be very different from what you can live with for the next several years. Avoid a pricey new car, an expensive new residence or anything else that could cause you to sink into heavy debt immediately following your separation.

During this difficult period of your life, you should also be careful not to lose track of the distinction between wants and needs. Things that you have been accustomed to having may no longer be necessities. You may have to make some serious cuts to expenses in order to meet your new budget requirements. Dropping your phone plan to the minimum level, getting rid of cable and eating at home more often–even if you hate cooking for one–can all help reduce your expenses and make your budget easier to live with.

Going through a divorce or separation is a challenge. By avoiding new debt and learning to manage your new financial situation appropriately, you can help reduce your stress levels and make your situation more bearable.

Uncover the Secret to Successful Divorce Negotiations

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Beckman of Beckman, Steen & Lungstrom, P.A. 

Couples do not normally look forward to divorce negotiations, but arriving at a settlement is a necessary part of the process. However, the process does not have to bring out ugliness that permeates and negatively affects the entire family.

Learn how to compromise and cordially settle and you will soon find the secret to successful divorce negotiations.

  • Prepare: Avoid having to endure lengthy meetings and negotiations that can further infuriate you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Instead, walk into all meetings armed with the information you need to speed up the process and justify your claims. Provide your attorney with financial documents such as tax returns and pay stubs. Gather information about pensions, retirement funds and child support modifications that are critical during negotiations. When both parties are prepared, it is easier to sort through the facts with a clear mind.
  • Know the Law: Before entering a negotiation meeting for your divorce, ask your attorney to explain the range of possible outcomes. Outline the worst– and best–case scenarios. Tempers often run high when couples are unprepared for what could happen if the case goes to court. You can remain cool, calm and collected if you are armed with the restrictions of the laws and your rights as a spouse.
  • Prioritize Your Needs: Meet with your attorney before divorce negotiations to determine what you need versus what you want from the settlement. Think about the well-being of any dependents, as well as yourself. Put emotion aside when outlining what you need and treat the process as if it was a business deal. If you make decisions based on anger or resentment, it may not be the most logical or beneficial choice for your future.

Divorce negotiations are difficult, but they don’t have to be devastating. With a reputable lawyer, you will have someone on your side who is protecting your interests.

Jennifer Beckman
Phone: 952-938-3411

The Importance of Consulting Minnesota Divorce Attorneys in Mediation Often Overlooked

Written by Jennifer Beckman,

For many couples, the traditional adversarial divorce may not be the one-size-fits all divorce solution that is appropriate for their personal situation.

Often thought of as a traditional divorce, an adversarial divorce is one in which the two sides hire attorneys and settle their differences in a courtroom with a judge presiding over the process.

As the term implies, the spouses in an adversarial divorce view each other as adversaries. Often one spouse feels wronged by the other, and the couple is taking part in this legal action due to the fact that the two sides can’t come to an equitable agreement over such things as asset division without judicial intervention.

However, for couples who have no major issues of contention regarding ending their marriage and are simply looking for a simple, fair, and equitable way to divide their assets there is a much easier form of divorce available known as a mediation divorce.

In a mediation, the couple meets with a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator is normally not a lawyer but simply a neutral individual that both sides has accepted to mediate their divorce settlement.

The mediator sole role is to help the divorcing couple to find common ground and to reach a divorce settlement than both sides can agree is fair. The mediator’s job is not to provide legal advice, nor are most mediators knowledgeable enough in legal matters to do so.

The mediation model is perfect for couples with no major disputes who wish to dissolve their marriage in a civil, private proceeding outside of the court.

One of the great attractions of a mediation divorce – neither side is represented by attorneys and neither side involves attorneys in the process of creating a fair settlement – is also one of mediation’s greatest weaknesses.

A divorce is minefield of potential legal matters that may not surface for years after the divorce, legal matters which the mediator will be ill-equipped both to recognize and to advise the divorcing couple on.

Having an experienced divorce attorney take part in mediation to guide you through the process and avoid potential pitfalls is critical to a truly fair mediation.

Consulting attorneys can help explain the ramifications of any potential settlement and help guide you to making the best decision for your future.

Legal representation can also spare the couple future ill will that may occur if one spouse later decides that the mediation agreement was not as fair to them as they originally thought.

Representation can also prevent a situation where the two sides have spent considerable time putting together a mediation, only to have it fall apart when one spouse or the other decides to consult with an attorney before finalizing the agreement.

Consulting attorneys in a mediation divorce understand that the very nature of a mediation is that both sides want to work collaboratively to reach a settlement that both sides will accept as fair and equitable.

Consulting attorneys will also strive to keep the process on-track, equitable and fair, and free of any of the drama and rancor normally found in an adversarial divorce.

Divorce is a complicated, painful legal process that should never be undertaken without the advice of an experienced divorce attorney.


The Importance of Consulting Attorneys in Mediation for Asset Protection

Written by Jennifer Beckman, Beckman Steen & Lungstrom

There is quite a bit of truth to the saying “It’s cheaper to get married than it is to get divorced.”  The costs associated with divorce send many couples to mediation to help them negotiate the end of their marriage presumably at less cost than a litigated divorce.

Mediation is an excellent alternative for couples who are able to communicate their position and civilly negotiate an agreement with a third-party.  Mediation works quite well for couples who are clear about what they want in their agreement and have already worked out how they want most of their assets divided.

Divorce agreements must be fair and equitable.

Complications can arise when one or both of the parties are in a rush to dissolve the marriage.  Either or both parties may assume that simply dividing the assets acquired in a marriage is the fairest way to divide them.  This is not always true.

Valuing assets is often challenging.  The true value of an asset is not always what it is worth at present.  Some assets, such as retirement plans, are designed to be an investment and are valued much differently than a car.  A mediator cannot value your assets.  An attorney can have your agreement reviewed and validate that your assets are properly valued to prevent future surprises.

It is recommended that each party have their agreement reviewed by their own attorney prior to filing.  A divorce agreement, whether mediated or litigated, should be solid and cover all anticipated challenges to avoid returning to court for modifications.  An attorney review of an agreement is recommended to insure this.

A mediated divorce agreement may be an acceptable document.  Having an attorney review your agreement will insure that you have a true fair and equitable document and that your marital assets have been fairly valued and divided.  Contact our office to review your agreement and protect your assets.

An Order of Protection is a Powerful Weapon Against Domestic Abuse

Written by Jennifer Beckman, Beckman Steen & Lungstrom

Spousal abuse is an all too common side-effect of a failing marriage. When a marriages begin to spiral out of control, one spouse will often result to physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing the other in a last-ditch attempt to antagonize, intimidate and control them.

According to the National Abuse Hotline, an average of 24 people in the United States, both men and women, are the victim of physical assault, stalking, or rape by an intimate partner – such as a spouse or significant other – every minute.

This is a national epidemic, and Minnesota is not immune. Minnesota courts ruled in 27,288 cases of domestic violence in the state in 2011, according to statistics from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

Unfortunately, domestic violence carries considerable emotional baggage. Far too many victims feel a deep sense of shame, or the mistaken assumption that they somehow ‘deserve’ the abuse. The hard reality, however, is that no one deserves to be abused, and no one – husband, wife, lover, or family member – has the right to abuse another person at any time, in any form. No one deserves to be abused.

This stigma is so great that an estimated 80% of domestic violence incidents in Minnesota in 2011 are believed to have gone unreported, according to the NCADV.

In Minnesota, you can protect yourself against your abuser by appearing before a judge and requesting a special restraining order known as an order for protection.

What is an order of protection? Basically, it is a court order that demands under penalty of law that the alleged abuser will cease all abusive actions; will remove themselves from the home or property of the person seeking the protective order and not approach them at any time or at any place a distance closer than what is set by the restraining order; and that the alleged abuser refrain from any and all contact or attempted contact of the alleged victim in any form, directly or through a third-party.

Minnesota law requires for two types of order for protection: an ex parte temporary order of protection or a full order of protection.

Ex parte orders of protection are considered an emergency order that is granted due to the immediate risk of harm in the form of continued domestic abuse to the person requesting the order. It is called ex parte because the person you are seeking the order against is normally not notified of or present at the hearing in which the order is considered. The process simply moves too fast, and the order is granted solely on evidence and testimony submitted by the person requesting the order. Such orders generally last for two years.

A full order of protection is one which requires a full court hearing in which both parties – the accused and the accuser – are allowed to present testimony and evidence. These orders normally last for two years but are frequently issued for four. In addition, if the accused abuser has a record of domestic abuse, particularly one involving the same alleged victim, the order may be extended to as long as 50 years.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, it is vitally important that you take all possible steps to protect yourself.

If you think a domestic restraining order is right for you, contact us today to put our experienced legal team to work for you.