Attorney Melissa Nilsson grew up in a small town in northeastern North Dakota, looking up to her uncle who was a District Court Judge in the area.
After earning both her undergraduate degree in sociology and her law degree at the University of North Dakota, an opportunity to work as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable James T. Swenson, former Chief Judge of Hennepin County and former Presiding Judge of Hennepin County Family Court, defined her legal path.
“Judge Swenson was a wonderful mentor,” Nilsson recalls, “and I quickly recognized that family law was the perfect place for me. I am a helper and nurturer by nature and deeply care for my clients and their futures, yet I am able to objectively analyze the issues and advise my clients accordingly. These attributes are extremely important when practicing family law. As a clerk, I was able to observe great leaders in the family law community and identify a few firms where I would want to grow as a lawyer. Henson Efron was at the top of that list.”
Nilsson joined the family law practice group at Henson Efron in 2006 and during her 13-year tenure has earned numerous honors and achieved shareholder rank. With a focus on high-net-worth and financially complex cases, Nilsson is known for her calm and empathetic poise in the face of conflict. Her knowledge spans matters including business and property valuation and division; tax analysis; retirement benefits valuation and division; analysis and preservation of non-marital interests; spousal maintenance; child custody, parenting time, and child support; post-decree proceedings; and appeals.
Nilsson says that her colleagues in each of Henson Efron’s practice groups lend authoritative support to composite family law questions. “It is of significant value to our family law group. We have attorneys practicing in the areas of trusts, probate and estates, tax, real estate, and business law and various areas of litigation. Family law cases often include one or more issues from varying areas of the law. The ability to seek advice from within our own firm, as opposed to spending considerable time researching the issue and/or seeking advice from outside counsel, is a substantial asset to our clients.”
Recently, Nilsson has expanded her practice to include services as a mediator. She is a qualified neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice.
“I certainly enjoy being an advocate and arguing in court, when need be, but I most enjoy the negotiation and mediation processes. Developing creative solutions that can meet both parties’ objectives brings me satisfaction. I want to foster that same success in the role as a neutral.”
Nilsson also has experience drafting Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), or judicial orders that divide retirement or pension plans among divorcing couples.
“Our firm has served as the plan administrator for corporations in the past, so we have a large wealth of knowledge when it comes to the drafting and implementation of QDROs. In addition, we historically have drafted QDROs for our own clients when such orders have been needed as part of the dissolution process.” Nilsson is now providing this service as a neutral, based on a flat fee arrangement to be shared between parties.
A wife and mother of 4-year-old triplets, Melissa Nilsson says she appreciates the practice culture at Henson Efron, where she has the support to expand as a professional coupled with the flexibility to be an involved parent. As a firm leader and mentor to other women professionals, Nilsson strives to perpetuate this cycle of goodwill.
“This is a special place to grow as an attorney, and there is great support among the attorneys here. Our clients benefit from working with collegial professionals who are also fulfilled human beings.”