MN Wild


Family Law Section


Family Law Forum | Vol. 23 No. 2 | Summer 2015

by Jennifer Brask | Jun 30, 2015

Letter From the Editor

At some point during your career as a family law practitioner, you will likely represent a client who is either the victim or the perpetrator of domestic abuse. It is often hard for a person to talk about domestic abuse in her/his relationship, and you may not learn of it on the first meeting with a client. However, in order to ethically represent a client who has been in an abusive situation you need to be able to recognize the dynamics of the parties’ relationship so you are best able to protect your client and the children.

As uncomfortable as it may be to discuss, a family law practitioner has a duty to screen for domestic abuse and address it appropriately when representing a client.  In this edition of the Family Law Forum, you will learn what questions to ask when screening for domestic violence, how to seek civil relief options, and how to help your client extend an existing or previous Order for Protection. You will learn that domestic abuse is much more complex and varied than what you may have initially thought. Further, you will learn what Hennepin County and Stearns County are doing to address domestic abuse in their communities. 

Our next publication will discuss debts related to family law. Possible topics include:

  • Collecting financial judgments;
  • Collecting child support and spousal maintenance arrearages;
  • Collecting past due medical expenses;
  • Underwater mortgages;
  • Bankruptcy;
  • IRS debts.

If you are interested in writing an article on this topic, please contact Krista Schneider at

Comments, questions, suggestions are always welcomed and encouraged. We also welcome your suggestions for future topics! We continue to work toward the goal of making the Family Law Forum a valuable benefit to you in your practice of family law.

Have a happy summer,

Krista Schneider and Larry McGee 
Publication Co-Chairs 


Client Screening to Identify Domestic Violence Victimization

The Domestic Abuse Committee of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association created the following domestic violence screening tool over a period of years.  We worked with attorneys who represented both victims of domestic abuse and perpetrators of domestic abuse, and consulted judges and many other professionals who regularly work with victims and abusers.  The goal of this tool is to make it easier for attorneys to incorporate domestic abuse screening as a routine part of practice and to enhance safety for themselves, their staff and their clients.  The Committee considers the screening tool a work in progress and would greatly appreciate your feedback as you utilize the tool in your practice.  Please direct your feedback via email to Rana Alexander at

Part I.  Screening Protocol for Attorney

Introduction and Preliminary Matters

The Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.1 states: “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.  Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”  The Comment to this Rule states: “Perhaps the most fundamental legal skill consists of determining what kind of legal problems a situation may involve, a skill that necessarily transcends any particular specialized knowledge.” 

The Minnesota courts have recognized the importance of domestic violence and the risks that it may present. The Minnesota Supreme Court provided a Risk Assessment Bench Guide to each judge in the state for use in any kind of case, civil, family or criminal, which involves domestic violence.

Lawyers in most areas of practice have already had or will have a client who is a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence.  Most people experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence are reluctant to share that information with anyone, including their counsel; therefore, lawyers may not realize just how many of their clients are affected by domestic violence.  However, to effectively represent the client, a family law lawyer must be knowledgeable about domestic violence because domestic violence needs to be taken into consideration when determining custody, relocation, parenting time, distribution of assets, whether or not to participate in mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution, and the type of parent education.  Therefore, screening for domestic violence with every client, every time, is crucial to every attorney’s practice. Read more…


By: Judge Pendelton

Transforming Childhood Trauma and Toxic Stress into Hope and Potential

By: Jan Jeske and The Honorable Mary Louise Klas

At the Intersection of Family Law and Domestic Abuse

By: Deena Anders

Women and Children Only: How Rigid Systems of Heterosexism Disenfranchise Survivors

By: Eva Wood

Addressing Felony Level Domestic Violence: The Stearns County Model

By: Ann Cofell and Janelle Kendall

Family Court Enhancement Project

By: Tawnie L. Langenfeld

Civil Relief Options for Domestic Violence Victims

By: Abigail A. Lindekugel

Securing Safety through Subsequent and Extended Orders for Protection

By: Lilo Kaiser

CHIPS: Proceed with Caution

By: Cynthia J. Brown

Annual Report

MSBA Family Law Section
Annual Report

Section Membership
As of June 19, 207, the Section has 997 members.

Financial Status
The Section had an account balance of $52,736.99 as of May 31, 2017.

CLEs & Events
The Section hosted 9 CLE programs in fiscal year 2016-17. 

Program Title


Event Code

CLE Credits

Number of Attendees

Ethical Pitfalls in Family Law



1 Ethics


20 Technology Tips for Making You More Productive



1 Law Office Management


Standards of Practice for Custody Evaluations



1 Standard


Chronic Stress, Trauma, Mental Health and Addiction in the Legal Profession



1 Elimination of Bias



Interstate Child Support and Child Custody Matters



1 Standard


The Impact of Retirement on Spousal Maintenance



1 Standard


Legislative Update



1 Standard


When Your Client is Impaired – Addiction, Mental Health and Other Issues for Attorneys



1 Elimination of Bias



Family Court Enhancement Project – Improving Access to Justice



1 Standard




Annual Meeting and Election Results
The Section’s Annual Meeting was held on May 13, 2017 and 48 people attended.

The following council members were elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council from 2017 to 2018:

Mary Lauhead
Michael Dittberner
Rana Alexander
Tami Peterson
Niecie Strand
Amy Sauter
Victoria Taylor
Michael Boulette
Pete Radosevich
Karen Kugler
Tiffane Wolter
Jill Meyer

The following officers were elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council from 2017 to 2018:

Chair: Sara Runchey
Vice Chair: W. Bradley Frago
Secretary: Shannon Wachter
Treasurer: Ryan Anderson
Past Chair: Margaret Erickson

Diversity and Inclusion 
We continue to discuss inclusion, and we welcome suggestions from members and others to improve our diversity.

Meetings are held in an accessible space. We offer remote participation as an option at monthly meetings, so that distance, disability, or other obstacles are less likely to be barriers.  The CLE offerings are planned so that brand-new attorneys as well as those with years of experience can learn something.

Two Elimination of Bias credits were offered at monthly section meetings. Attendees at the Family Law Institute could earn up to three EOB credits at that event, where the keynote speaker, Justice Anne McKeig, the first Minnesota Supreme Court Justice of Native American heritage, described how her own background shaped her approach to her later work in child protection and Indian Child Welfare Act cases.

Institute attendees were reminded to fill out the demographic data at if they were MSBA members (and encouraged to join if they were not).

Other Section Accomplishments
The Section can be proud of the work of its committees: the Amicus committee monitors appellate decisions and keeps members informed of significant case law. The committee authored one Amicus brief this year. The Domestic Abuse committee meets to discuss protecting victims of violence. Committee members participate in writing and publishing articles and co-presenting CLE events. The Legislation committee keeps members current on pending and proposed legislation, and coordinates with the MSBA’s lobbyists to advance the Section’s position on various bills. The Publications committee publishes the Family Law Forum, covering topics of interest to family law practitioners.

Submitted By:
Margaret Erickson, Section Chair
Date: 30 June 2017