Family Law

A. Adoption

Adoption is usually a long drawn process in which the natural parents give up all their rights as parents and the adopted person or couple becomes the parents of a child. Adoptions can be done through the state, through private agencies, or through an agreement with a person or couple. In cases of unmarried people, the natural father, if he had previous rights, is given notice of the pending adoption, and has the option of assuming full responsibility of a child. State agencies and social workers are always involved in the preparation for adoption. Such preparations include but are not limited to an interview and a home inspection. Once the social worker and the agency are satisfied, the court will finalize the adoption. There is a waiting period, in which the mother/parents can change her mind, but it is not a very long period. It is only ten days. Because the decision to adopt is final, both sets of parents should make sure they are sure about their decisions. Once the adoption is final, the records are sealed and not available to the public for 100 years. The social and medical histories of the birth parents are given to the adopted parents during the adoption process. Once a child reaches adulthood, the person can obtain his or her birth certificate with the consent of both birth parents. If the child being adopted is a baby, the adoptive parents would pay the appropriate medical, legal and other expenses incurred and adoption related of the birth mother. Some parents because of the long delay for adoption in the U.S. prefer to adopt foreign children. This process, while feasible, is more expensive and does involve an incredible amount of paperwork. Only attorneys licensed in Minnesota can handle adoptions.

B. Child Support, Custody, Paternity, Visitations, and Modification

Legal custody is the right to make decisions for the child and residential custody deals with the place in which the child lives. They can be awarded to either party or shared by both. Courts usually award custody, based on the best interest of the child. This usually means giving preference to the primary caretaker, irrespective of sex, and leaving the child in the earlier marital residence. This also means that parental agreements are not binding on the court. Most often joint legal if not physical custody is given to both parents. Absent a compelling reason, the non custodial parent has visitation rights.

C. Marriage, Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements, Cohabitation Contracts

Marriage is a contract that allows a man and a woman to become husband and wife. Minnesota does not recognize same sex marriages. Prenuptial agreements are a means for individuals who are planning to marry to alter their rights during the marriage, upon death or divorce. These agreements require that each party be represented by an independent attorney and must be in writing. Such agreement is only enforceable if the parties do get married. Annulment or dissolution will not cancel the agreement. Agreements that are entered into under fraud, duress, or which are found by the court to be unconscionable, can be annulled.

D. Divorce, Separations, Alimony and Modifications

Divorce terminates a marriage. Separation, and annulment, both foreign and domestic also constitute matrimonial actions. Separation entitles the parties to the rights of a divorce, and can further be converted into a legal divorce. Marriages are void on grounds of duress, fraud, mental defect, nonage, multiple marriages, and physical incapacity. For divorces, at least one party has to be a resident of the state, or have sufficient connection with the state, to file in Minnesota. There are many grounds for divorce. The no fault divorces often involve incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. The fault divorces involve adultery, abandonment, imprisonment, incurable mental diseases, cruelty, and drug or other addictions. There are defenses to both fault and non-fault divorces. Divorce entitles the parties to alimony, child support, and property division. Both alimony and child support depend on needs and the ability to pay. Property acquired during marriage is marital property and is divided upon dissolution. Incidentally, property acquired before the marriage, or acquired by gift, or inheritance are not marital property. Minnesota is a no fault state and nothing is required to have a marriage dissolved.

E. Grandparent’s Rights

It used to be that grandparents did not have rights but those allocated by the parents by now grandparents have their own rights. Certainly grandparents do not have rights similar to those of parents but and those who want to adopt their grandchildren or have visitation rights etc... can bring their issue to court just like parents would.

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