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Family Innocence would like to acknowledge these speakers for their participation at Family Innocence events at the Van Dusen Mansion
Life Without Family Court Judge Stephen Aldrich
, ret. practiced law for 25 years, then was a judge for 16 years in civil and family court. He is recognized for his creative approach to resolving family disputes on the bench, including cases where Michelle MacDonald appeared as a lawyer for clients. Judge Aldrich mediates with Gilbert Mediation Center, and makes binding decisions for participants of the Family Innocence. While on the bench, he helped a couple settle a 15 year old spousal maintenance dispute using “baseball “arbitration. Prior to the agreement to arbitrate, the parties had suffered through 12 motions before 5 judges. Judge Aldrich has been married for nearly 50 years, a father and a grandfather. SCAldrich@lawGilbert.com
Families are Innocent Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
It took attorney Michelle MacDonald
25 years to recognize the way attorneys and courts break up families is beyond-a reasonable-doubt objectionable.Michelle and her clients started “Family Innocence”, a non-profit dedicated to eliminating court as an option for families. Michelle believes family cases are private, files should be sealed, and that families should invite court jurisdiction only when absolutely necessary. Michelle practices law for MacDonald Law Firm, LLC, and mediates for Golden Rule Mediation. She is divorced and remarried to Tom Shimota, and has 2 children, 2 step children. Michelle@MacDonaldLawFirm.com
A Heart as Big as the World
Michelle MacDonald appeared before Judge Bruce Peterson
in family court, with one particularly memorable case where her client gave birth to her former husband’s child after their divorce, and both had remarried. After months of litigation, following a court trial, Judge Peterson took parents, step parents, attorneys—and a custody study —into his chambers to ask about work schedules that everyone had omitted, and the case settled with a livable parenting time schedule. It was here, after thousands in legal fees, that Michelle recognized the value of desegregating Judges, attorneys, families —- and custody evaluators with a process of inquiry where everyone is heard. Judge Peterson graduated from Cornell University, and Yale Law School, worked for Hinshaw & Culberston, and Popham, Haik, and was assistant US. Attorney General, (district of Columbia) and Special Assistant to the deputy assistant Attorney General, US Department of Justice. He was a law clerk for the Minnesota Supreme Court, and has been a district court Judge in civil, criminal and family court since 1999. He is married with adult children.
Not a Place for Family Feuds John DeSanto
was the state’s criminal prosecutor in the most notorious family murders ever — and lived to talk about it. Now a Judge, he couldn’t make “Talk for Family Innocence” last year, because of a family court trial. This year Judge DeSanto cleared his calendar to talk about his experiences in the court adversary system. His book “Will to Murder” written with crime scene investigator, Gary Waller, details the Congdon family murders at the historic Gleensheen Mansion, Duluth. Michelle MacDonald met the duo after judging a Mock Trial Competition, and presenting an award to students at New Life Academy on behalf of the Professionalism committee of the Minnesota State Bar. After she introduced the Judge to Family Innocence, Gary Waller commented that family court is the most dangerous court in the courthouse. Judge DeSanto will reflect on the negative impact of family court conflict — mentally, spiritually, financially and oftentimes physically—for all family members— not to mention lawyers, and the court system. Judge DeSanto has been a speaker at numerous continuing legal education, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, and law enforcement training seminars, and he has addressed Duluth school students about the criminal justice system annually for over 30 years. Judge DeSanto has been married for 33 years to Lana, they have three children and are grandparents. He is also active in his church.
Connecting the Hearts of People Jerry Schommer
celebrates 20 years as the Senior Pastor of Woodcrest Church, in Eagan, where Michelle and her family attend. Prior to planting Woodcrest in 1992, Jerry ministered at Bethany Baptist Church (now Eagle Heights Church) in Omaha, Nebraska. During his college and seminary studies he served on ministry staff in churches in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, San Diego, California and Wooddale church in Minneapolis-St Paul. He is a graduate of Crown College. Jerry received his Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree from Bethel Seminary. He believes that marriages should be viewed as a covenant, and that forgiveness is neccessary. His favorite verse is: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He has was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” 1 Peter 3:18. He is married to Deb, referred to as a “prayer warrior”, for 33 years, and they have three adult children, Jason, Jessica, and Jennifer, and two grandchildren, Calvin and Sadie. Jerry.Schommer@woodcrestchurch.com
The Big Bad Wolf is in Family Court Sara “Olson” Andrews
goes public for the first time as a member of Family Innocence. Sara is the grandchild in the infamous Grandparent Visitation case, Olson v. Olson, cited thousands of times by lawyers since published by the Supreme Court in 1995. After her adoptive parents divorce, Sara was a child in the middle again, when her grandmother sued for visits, sending Sara’s mother to jail for contempt. Sara is married to Joe, a tattoo artist, who designed with Michelle the “Separate Together” logo for Family Innocence. They have 3 small children together, and Joe has a fourth child he has not seen since that child’s mother moved out of state, leaving no forwarding address, and Joe, barely 20, with a child support order. Sara’s family doesn’t believe in divorce and hopes to break the cycle as a family advocate. firstname.lastname@example.org
Heart Attack in Family Court Benedictus Ombuna
is to Family Innocence like Mahatma Ghandi is to the India. “Be the Change You Want to See in the World.” Benedictus’ tragic custody case inspired his attorney, Michelle MacDonald in a prayer for almost-saint Pope John Paul II to intercede for a miracle family court. And when Benedictus testified he was confirmed by Pope John Paul II, MacDonald’s conviction to eliminate court for families was sealed. Originally from Kenya Africa, Benedictus’ mother was going to be a nun, and his father was going to be a priest, until they met, married, and had 16 children. Benedictus believes family court must have originally developed for good purpose, now corrupted. Benedictus, a nurses aid, walks to work, and lived a simple life with his family, having no idea about of the court’s control until a wrongful custody order took his son from him after his ex-wife died. The order was reversed, and the Judge removed himself, but the family court “win” left his family in ruins. email@example.com
Enjoy the Ride – Breaking the Cycle of Divorce.
It’s a separated family reunion as Joshua Hare
and his father, Ran, team up with Jeff James to play for Family Innocence, as Joshua’s mother, and extended family, including aunt Theresa and grandparents, proudly watch. Joshua Hare was in grade school when his parents divorced, commuting between two states. Michelle remembered Joshua’s song bird voice in the high school choir, when he asked her to represent him in court, which she did pro bono, inviting the Judge and prosecutor to hear him sing for The Family Innocence in February, and again today. Joshua’s songs, including “Enjoy The Ride” have been recorded for Family Innocence by Elliot Johnston of Tone-Farm.com, along with plans for a music video production. Joshua, homeless when he met Michelle, has found a home with FIP. www.JeffJamesMusic.com
No Swearing in Court. Pastor Pete Parker
leads adult ministries as executive pastor at Woodcrest Church in Eagan. He believes family members should always strive to tell the truth — not just in court. Pete says “God never wastes a Hurt.” His favorite verse:”Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4-5. He is married to Dawn for 24 years, with 3 children. Pete.Parker@woodcrestchurch.org
Divorce is Everybody’s Fault
Attorney Greg Solum
spent 3 decades helping families through the uncertainties of family court, and knows each person’s matter is unique. He worked in the days of “at fault” divorce, where proof of desertion, cruelty, alcohol abuse, and adultery was required. Greg knows each person’s matter is unique, and offers realistic and practical answers. GregorySolum@SolumLaw.com
The Gap Between Faith and Everyday Life. Glen Lewerenz
enjoys the best time of his 30-year radio career on Relevant Radio. Glen can be heard daily on “Morning Air” and “Glen’s Story Corner.” Glen plays the accordion (very little), and enjoys sports, music and hanging out with his family. firstname.lastname@example.org
A Child over 50 Barb Zorn
grew up in the foster care system, and married at age 18. After her divorce, Barb spent 20 years as a pediatric nurse, before selling real estate for the last 12 years. Barb received the rotary club “Service Above Self Award.” She has helped multiple families in crisis, and is a member of Family Innocence. Barb is active is active in philanthropy, she is married to her husband, Adrian for 20 years. email@example.com
’Inn’ and out of Family Court Faith Amdahl, Esq.
is everybody’s favorite lawyer. Faith has her own law practice, including family law. Accomplished, compassionate lawyers run in Faith’s family. She is the daughter of the late Chief Justice Douglas Amdahl, who established Appellate Court. Faith encouraged her father into mediation when he retired. Faith is past president and senior member of the Douglas lence, civility, professionalism and ethics. Faith.Amdahl@att.net
Veteran of Family Court Wars Dr. Azber Ansar
is the medical director for the Veteran’s Hospital, Minneapolis. He is divorce with a son, Arbaz, age 10. His involvement in family court has been ongoing since 2004, through today, due to involvement of a parenting consultant to which he objected. Dr. Ansar is Indian, and had an arranged marriage in the year 2000, and divorce is frowned upon in his culture. If court was not an option, he and his ex-wife would have saved nearly $1Million in attorney fees and costs. Dr Ansar wants to stop the war on families in family court. firstname.lastname@example.org
(misspelled on purpose)
Post Dramatic Stress in Family Court Dr. Carrie Ryan Gustafson
is a psychologist who feels that victims of domestic violence are victimized again in Family Court, and that most families use family court to air issues more appropriate in family counseling. As a member of Family Innocence, Dr. Ryan is dedicated to counseling individuals and families, particularly those in abusive relationships, to stay as far away from the family court system as legally possible. She believes that victims of domestic violence are often victimized again in divorce proceedings. Her vision for Family Innocence is to provide a safe, supportive and non-judgmental place that provides education, support, and enrichment for couples and families in all stages of their life; from pre-marital to post-divorce. She believes that keeping families out of court begins before they say “I Do”. Carrie hasfirst husband, and a son with her second. email@example.com
No Court For Kids Steve Latham
is a special needs teacher, and member of Family Innocence. He was a stay-at-home dad when his wife of 17 years divorced him, even though she could not testify to irreconcilable differences, proceeded to endlessly litigate, when all Steve wanted was peace for his family. His wife’s attorney took $25,000 retainer fee to divide a house, pension and, of course, the kids. Steve is challenging the constitutionality of the Minnesota’s harassment statute, noting harassment is not a crime, yet violation of a harassment restraining order subjects you to arrest. Steve has joint legal and joint physical custody of his three children, and is committed that litigating in family court will not be an option for the next generation. firstname.lastname@example.org
Endless Love of Litigation Teri McNabb
is a Certified Public Accountant, and spokesperson and treasurer for Family Innocence, having been subject to a protection order to include a court order that she share a home with her abusive husband, who continues to abuse the legal process with frivolous motions. Teri wants to transform the system which she says enables spouses to become bitter rivals, allowing disgruntled parents to repeatedly engaged the other parent in court battles, with the court seeming powerless to stop it, and no relief from attorney fees. Teri is divorced with two children. email@example.com
My Last Divorce Jon and Maila Ellfson
went through their own divorces in the 80s, and again in 2008 when Maila’s adult daughter went through divorce. They joined Family Innocence as advocates, with a view toward seeing to it that others never endure what happened to their daughter. Jon and Maila have been married to each other for 20 years. Jon is a retired pastor, and Maila is a pre-school teacher who ran for city council. They provide a spiritual and political pulse, and supported a law that prevents courts from ordering domestic abuse victims to reside together.
Making Court Unthinkable for Families”
is what mediators Steve Erickson and Marilyn McKnight
have been doing since 1977 with the Erickson Mediation Institute. Steve, also an attorney, knew court was not for families when in 1977 he lost a client due to an angry homicidal husband. Since then Steve practices only mediation, and believes that it is unethical for one attorney to represent and turn a family member against the rest of the family. The two have trained thousands of mediators throughout the country and the world, including Michelle MacDonald. Steve and Marilyn pioneered the training of Family Innocence Advocates, the first of its kind, designed to assist families through Family Innocence mediation and decision-making process. Married since 1968, they have 2 children and 3 grandchildren. Contact Steve or Marilyn at (952) 835-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Devil Made Me Do It. Were Eve and Adam Not Guilty?
Pastor Brent Hall
serves as the Director of Community Life at Woodcrest in Eagan where Michelle and her family attend church. Brent is passionate about the Gospel and leads the small group ministries. His favorite verse is “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” Philippians 4:6. Brent and his wife, Danielle, have fun-loving twins, Logan and Makayla email@example.com
Wishing For a Child’s Checkbook. Katie Gonzolez
is the mother of four, and a stay-at-home mom before her divorce. Her ex-husband, who earned six figures, stopped paying child support, after she agreed to waive alimony, bringing her — and her attorney Michelle MacDonald —back to court, even though their divorce decree prohibited it. Katie believes the child support system is no help to either parent. As a supporter of Family Innocence, Katie advocates the “Children’s Checkbook” idea, where parents contribute money to a shared bank account to use for their children’s budgeted and extraordinary expenses. Katie, who works in the mortgage industry, is well-suited separated families support their children together.
Professional Aspirations of Family Lawyers Mickey Bebeau, PhD
is a nationally recognized scholar on ethics. Her work focus on moral issues in the context of professions, including lawyers. Dr. Bebeau a non-lawyer that serves on the Professionalism Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association with attorneys Michelle MacDonald, Paul Darsow and Kim Hanlon. firstname.lastname@example.org
Where is the Love? Steve Olson
oversees the Worship Arts Ministry for Woodcrest Church in Eagan. Steve is married to Lese, with three step-sons; and two daughters who were adopted, biological siblings. He can be heard Ashes for Ashley, a band in Eagan. Eric Olson is Steve’s twin brother, whose regular job is graphics design. email@example.com
Settlement Opportunities – Step Back and Evaluate Dax Stoner, CPA/ABV, CFF has an office at the Collaborative Law Institute. He has made it his full time job to keep families out of court by helping couples come to their own decisions on financial matters in divorce, after he evaluates their property, debts and income, so that they avoid court.
Like Michelle, he is originally from Massachusetts. He is the father of three children. Dax@DaxStoner.com. 952-405-2080
Attorneys are Guilty in Family Court. Amanda Mason
was sworn in as a witness in her own divorce, around the same time she was sworn in as an attorney for the state of Minnesota. This remarkable young woman became Michelle MacDonald’s client after representing herself in obtaining an order for protection for herself and her daughter. As a law student, Amanda was shocked at the family court’s lack of due process, and the cavalier attitude that protection orders are irrelevant in divorce proceedings. Amanda plead “not guilty” to countless frivolous issues raised by her husband’s attorney, who was guilty of micro-managing the divorce process, and increasing Amanda’s legal fees.
Phantom Disputes in Phamily Court. Kim Nelson
is the mother of a teenage son, and completed Family Innocence Advocate Training. Kim and her husband paid attorneys over $80,000.00 for their divorce in 2003. Years later, her child’s father took her back to court, even though they successfully mediated modified parenting time, paying his attorney another $30,000. The attorney insisted on a court order for “sole” custody of their teenage son, involving Kim and her attorney, Michelle MacDonald, in the phantom dispute — to include a court trial. Kim is lead volunteer for Family Innocence, and oversees “FIP Fridays” at FIP headquarters. 651-368-0023.
Mediating Your Divorced Parents – Breaking the Cycle.
Attorney Michelle MacDonald almost ran over a jogger when she stopped to ask for directions, on her way to a mediation session with her client, The jogger, Michael Mulcahy,
apologized for not being able to help, telling her he was student taking mediation classes. That’s when Michelle told him about Family Innocence, which Mike, a law student, wholeheartedly supports. Since his parents divorced, Mike, from New Mexico, and the oldest of 3 children, has been mediating his parents’ issues, like dividing holidays. Mike is a qualified neutrals under Rule 114 and, if Michelle has her way, will spread the bird around the country to break the cycle of dividing families, who are still “family,” despite a separation. firstname.lastname@example.org
Daisy Camp – For Your Ever-Expanding Life. Jennifer Morris
is the founder of Daisy Camp, a non-profit organization helping women face divorce by providing financial, legal and practical information from professionals in our community. At Daisy Camp women can step away from busy lives to reflect on the next steps in their journey. www.DaisyCamp.org
. Contact Maryls Ousky at 952-405-2060. daisy@DaisyCamp.org
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