Lunch & Learn Virtual Event – Sept 23rd


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1.25 credits CLE – Approved

The Invisible Party at the Table: Financial Decisions in Dissolutions Involving Poverty Programs

Representing parties in dissolutions who receive Needs Based Government Programs can be fraught with pitfalls. A person who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may have the benefits significantly reduced and lose Medical Assistance if a spousal maintenance award is not handled properly. Will a disabled person’s divorce settlement be swallowed up to pay for long term care supports and services, that could otherwise have been paid by Medical Assistance, thereby squandering assets which could have otherwise improved that person’s quality of life? When is a special needs trust appropriate and possible? As part of the AFCC-MN’s focus on all parts of our community, this presentation will provide insights to how these cases can be prudently handled.

This program will be useful to lawyers who represent low-income and disabled clients as volunteers or programs dedicated to such representation, and attorneys who represent middle class clients who receive or are eligible for Waivers, Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities, and Medical Assistance for Long-term care.

When working with clients experiencing marital dissolution, mental health providers seek to help families through “system thinking” or consider what factors (financial, cultural, relational, historical, etc.) influence the client’s current state of being. Understanding the impact that a client’s financial situation has on their daily life and well-being can significantly impact the mental health provider’s approach to working with a client. Indeed, gaining insight on serving families with disabled members who receive these benefits equips mental health professionals to help as they struggle to meet their most basic physiological and psychological needs as reflected in Maslow’s hierarchy.

Alternative Dispute Resolution providers will gain insights into questions they can ask to help parties work through these issues.

The focus of the Lunch and Learn will be to identify issues confronting families who rely upon these programs and are getting divorced. We know that one of the entry points to poverty is when their family is separating. Disabled parties or children need to maximize their access to government programs to meet their financial needs.

This Lunch and Learn will address these issues by attorneys who are on the front lines of addressing these issues on behalf of low-income individuals.


Russell Squire and Christopher D’Silva are staff attorneys in Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services’ (SMRLS) economic justice unit since 2017 and 2021. During that time Russell and Chris have represented clients who have had their public benefits, such as MFIP, Social Security Disability, or Medicaid, terminated or reduced. They also work on eliminating barriers to employment by helping clients expunge criminal records and appeal disqualifications under the Human Services Background Studies Act. SMRLS is a law firm providing free legal services to indigent clients.

Russell graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2014; he is on the section council for the Minnesota State Bar Association Administrative Law Section.

Chris graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2018; he is a member of the Social Security Disability Law Section.

Laurie Hanson has practiced law since 1984, with a special focus on individuals who are aging or living with disabilities – and their families. She now concentrates her practice exclusively in the areas of Elder Care Law – Government benefits eligibility; including Medical Assistance, SSI, and various veterans benefits; trusts- supplemental needs, special needs and pooled trusts, trust and public benefit litigation; estate planning, planning for incapacity; probate, and surrogate decision-making. She most recently won a significant case involving special needs pooled trusts before the Minnesota Supreme Court, Pfoser v. Harpstead.

Laurie regularly serves as faculty and makes presentations on elder law topics at continuing legal education courses for attorneys nationally and in Minnesota through the Minnesota State Bar Association. In addition, she gives presentations to nursing home family councils, church groups, community groups, and at law schools in the Twin Cities.

Laurie is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Minnesota State Bar Association, and the Hennepin County Bar Association. She is a past Chair of the Elder Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association, and secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Upper Midwest chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She is a member of the Special Needs Alliance, a national invitation-only non-profit organization committed to helping individuals with disabilities, their families, and the professionals who represent them and a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

Laurie Hanson works for Northwoods Law Group.