Family Innocence is a nonprofit dedicated to keeping families out of court, founded by attorney Michelle Lowney MacDonald, a member of the MacDonald Law Firm, LLC. Michelle was inspired by her client, Benedictus Ombuna, a black man originally from Kenya Africa, who was confirmed by Pope John Paul II, and Benedictus’ tragic family court case.
Michelle practiced family law for 25 years before realizing that the adversarial court system for families has to go. Within a year of the first gathering at Michelle’s home, with Benedictus Ombuna and her husband Tom Shimota, and alongside her clients, colleagues, professionals and others, the Family Innocence Process was created.
“FIP” is a new model where separating or separated family members can choose to participate at any time by pledging not to sue each other in court (or to suspend an existing lawsuit), inviting court jurisdiction only when necessary. The process starts with a phone call, and often involves an orientation to Restorative & Family Circles, and the “FIP” program. A Family Innocence Advocate collects data and walks you through personalized sessions with a mediator, who helps you reach agreements, and decide on your own. If needed, a friendly decision-maker, learned in Family Law, can provide a binding decision upon impasse. The Family Innocence organization is on the Minnesota Supreme Court Rule 114 roster for alternative dispute resolution.
Family Innocence is made up of a dedicated group of attorneys, mediators, circle facilitators, parents, individuals, Family Innocence Advocates and volunteers, many of which have been through family court, and are dedicated to keeping others out. The Family Innocence Advisory Board consists of Barb Zorn, Kimberly Hanlon, Michael Moran, Teri MacNabb and Michelle MacDonald.
About it’s volunteer president. Michelle MacDonald has a passion for justice, and strives to make the process as clear and straightforward as possible. Michelle’s knowledge of the law and experience in the courtroom give her credibility. Her easy-going style establishes trust – a great combination to assist parties in resolving disputes..
Michelle is recognized as one of the most skilled and knowledgeable attorneys, concentrating in the areas of Family Law, Divorce, Paternity, Adoption, Estate Planning, and Probate, including Civil Litigation and Appeals. Michelle’s Divorce and Estate Planning clients have benefited by her general knowledge of a broad range of legal areas including Business, Real Estate, and Criminal Defense. Michelle graduated cum laude from Boston College, receiving her BA degree in Communications and English. She earned her law degree from Suffolk University, and completed the program of Instruction for Lawyers at Harvard Law School. Michelle applies the same zeal, whether handling a Divorce, Estate Plan, or Probate involving a modest estate, or millions in assets.
Michelle has served as a Conciliation Court Judge in Hennepin County (1999-2014) , and as an Adjunct Referee, Family Court (1992 -2012). Michelle is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Family Law, Children and ADR sections, Hennepin County and Dakota County Bar Associations. Michelle is a certified parenting time expediter, parenting consultant, a Rule 114 qualified Mediator, and Restorative Circle Facilitator. She is a graduate of the Citizen’s Police Academy. She is a member of the Amdahl Inn of Court, Juris Divas, custody/parenting time dialogue, and Cooperative Private Divorce Project, formerly Divorce without Courts. Michelle aspires to be a United States Supreme Court Justice.
About it’s volunteer vice President. Barb Zorn graduated from nursing school in 1981. After working as a pediatric nurse over 20 years, she obtained her real estate license and worked as a realtor for more than 10 years before jointing Family Innocence, and obtaining her training in Restorative Justice Circles and Mediation. Barb has been involved in Rotary in Burnsville, as their secretary, receiving twice the Service Above Self Award. Barb has been the chair of the auction committee for rotary fundraising. Barb has been involved in trainings for nursing, real estate, advocacy and alternative dispute resolution. Barb is a member of the Cooperative Private Divorce Project, formerly Divorce without Courts.