Practice Areas


Even under the best of circumstances the process of divorce can be emotional and confusing. It is important to understand how the Family Court system works, the terminology used, and what your rights and obligations are during the process. The lawyers at Gapen, Larson, and Johnson understand the challenges posed by the divorce process and pride ourselves on providing a skilled and knowledgeable perspective regarding processes, negotiations, and litigation. We know that divorce is not an easy life event for anyone, and the lawyer you choose should help to guide and empower you rather than contribute to acrimony and gridlock. Our trustworthy attorneys can educate you to make decisions that include child custody, parenting time, complex property, asset and debt division, spousal maintenance (i.e. alimony), and more. Whether you have a simple divorce or a divorce with complex and difficult issues, we are prepared to help.


Paternity refers to the process of establishing a child’s legal parent. The process is not necessarily limited to the father and child relationship nor is it dictated by biology given that modern families come in many different forms. It is crucial to establish the legal parent and child relationship as soon as possible to ensure that future issues of support, custody, and inheritance for a child can be ascertained. Whether you are expecting a child who has not yet been born or have parented a child for years without establishing parentage, the lawyers at Gapen, Johnson & Larson can help you understand your rights and responsibilities during this process.


Sometimes the best way to ensure a healthy and happy marriage is to plan ahead. Whether you are getting married later in life and need to protect assets for the children of a previous marriage, you have an inheritance or family trust to protect, or you need to engage in financial planning after you have gotten married, the attorneys at Gapen, Larson & Johnson understand the importance of careful planning both before and after the marriage date. We can assist you in drafting Pre-Nuptial (often called Antenuptial) or Post-Nuptial Agreements, or we can review and advise such agreements drafted by your soon to be spouse or spouse’s attorney.


At Gapen, Larson & Johnson, if our attorneys have been hired to represent you, they understand that having decisions made for you by a Judge through litigation is expensive, emotionally burdensome, and often detrimental for the family. When children are involved, the parties to the legal process should retain some amount of trust in one another in order to effectively co-parent their children after the custody and parenting time decisions have been made. If the dispute is over money, it frequently does not make sense to spend significant sums on litigation. Mediation, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), are frequently an incredibly effective alternative to litigation. If there is a chance that an agreement can be reached through ADR without litigation, it is worth exploring as the process can be quicker, can be confidential, and both parties can have more control over the outcome. Our attorneys at Gapen, Johnson & Larson are experts at guiding clients to the correct form of ADR, whether it is mediation, Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), arbitration, a Parenting Consultant, or some other alternative. We will make sure you understand the process before you commit to it, and that you walk in to the process comfortable and prepared to negotiate in an educated manner. Since our attorneys have all been trained as mediators, and we understand the process from all sides.

At Gapen, Larson & Johnson, our attorneys can be hired as a mediator, arbitrator, Parenting Consultant, Evaluator for an ENE, or other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Neutrals.


Estate planning may be a difficult concept to think about since no one wants to face her or his own mortality. However, it is vital to have a well thought out plan in place in order to protect the interests of your family should something unexpected happen to you. Taking steps now to prepare an estate plan will give you and your loved ones the peace of mind and security of knowing that there is a plan already in place should the need arise. An estate plan often includes such documents as wills, trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney. The attorneys at Gapen, Larson & Johnson can help you through the preparation and drafting of these important documents.


There are many legitimate reasons that an individual or couple may choose to have a child through utilizing a gestational carrier to carry their child or children to term. While the gestational carrier bears the physical duties of pregnancy, the person or couple who is the intended parent or parents will be legally responsible for the child. While we cannot assist you in finding a gestational carrier or surrogate, the attorneys at Gapen, Johnson & Larson can assist intended parents or their gestational carrier in the drafting and review of Parentage Agreements and Egg Donation Agreements. We can also navigate you through the complex process of ensuring that the intended parents are legally established as the parents of the child and that there are no rights or obligations remaining with the gestational carrier. This is a legal process that can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and judge to judge. It is therefore extremely important to seek out the counsel of an experienced attorney to guide you.


Growing your family through the process of adoption is an immensely gratifying experience, however it can be complex and challenging. There are many legal considerations in the various types and methods of adoption. Whether you have questions about a step-parent adoption, agency adoption, direct placement adoption, relative adoption, interstate adoption, disrupted adoption, or adult adoption, we are here to help. David Gapen has significant experience working in all facets of domestic adoption including litigating contested adoption cases against county child welfare agencies. Whether you are seeking to adopt or you are a birth parent of a child, it is important to thoroughly understand how the process works so you can feel confident you are making the best decisions.


Once the Court has issues a final Order or Judgment in your case and rulings have been made, it is sometimes clear that the Judicial Officer may have erred and an appeal to the Court of Appeals or Minnesota Supreme Court is appropriate. The purpose of an appeal is to review the trial process for errors and to work to correct the decisions of the District Court. If an Appellate Court determines that the Judge made a legal error or abused his/her discretion in some manner that affected the outcome of the trial, the case may be sent back to the initial court with a request to correct the mistake and may result in an entirely new trial. There are complex procedural rules and requirements for perfecting an appeal to an Appellate Court, and once there you must know the standards of review and the content of the past case law on the legal issues at play. Fortunately, the attorneys at Gapen, Larson & Johnson have experience arguing before the Court of Appeals and can advise you as to when, why, and how your appeal should be brought.


Child custody issues can go beyond simply parents and may involve grandparents, family members, or other care-givers for a child. When there is a non-parent care-giver for a child, the legal issues become complex and take on a constitutional dimension due to the substantive due process rights possessed by parents and protected by the Court. Accordingly, any time custody or visitation is granted to someone other than the biological parents of a child, there are complex legal issues at play. Our team of attorneys possess the knowledge and creativity to help you navigate third party and grandparent custody issues in Minnesota and help you through what is often an emotional and confusing process. If you are interested in pursuing third party or grandparent custody of a child you should speak to an attorney who understands the complexities of the law.


Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) matters are handled in Juvenile court in Minnesota and involve children who are often removed from the care of their parent or parents by the County Child Protection Agency. These cases involve serious allegations including child neglect and abuse and can be very overwhelming for parents and relatives. Child protection cases are very complex and there is a lot at stake for all parties involved. Because CHIPS cases are handled in Juvenile Court, it means that there is an entirely different set of laws and rules that apply. It is important to find an attorney who is familiar with the laws, rules, and players in Juvenile Court since parents in CHIPS matters will face an experienced County Attorney with the backing and resources of the government. Whether you are a parent or a relative of a child in a CHIPS proceeding, attorney David Gapen is an experienced Child Protection lawyer and is prepared to counsel you through the process, and work to ensure that your rights are protected.


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