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Divorce Process

The following is the basic process of going through a divorce in Minnesota.  At each step, there can be different nuances that will significantly affect the case.

Jurisdiction and Venue.  In order to file for divorce, a party must have resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days.  The divorce is started in the county in which either spouse resides.

Initial Documents.  Once a spouse has determined to start a divorce in Minnesota, the divorce is initiated by personally serving a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on the other spouse.  The Petition identifies the parties, their children, assets, and liabilities.  It also briefly states the relief being requested of the court.  Upon receipt of the Petition, the receiving party has 30 days to serve an Answer back on the initiating party.  The Answer responds to the requests made in the Petition.  If the Answer is not served within 30 days, the receiving party is technically in default and the initiating party has the right to ask the court to grant the divorce upon the initiating party's terms.

Settlement.  Parties are often able to reach a settlement agreement after receipt of the initial documents - especially when the divorce is amicable and there are not many contested issues.  Once the parties reach a settlement agreement, they can submit that agreement to the court for approval in several ways - often by submitting a document called a Marital Termination Agreement.

No Settlement.  If the parties are unable to settle the case quickly, the case will be set for an Initial Case Management Conference.  During this proceeding, the judge will discuss the procedure of the case with the parties, see if any partial settlements have been reached, and encourage the parties to try alternative dispute resolution.  The judge will also set a timeline for the rest of the case.  After this ICMC, the parties may also bring a Motion for Temporary Relief to deal with issues such as temporary custody, child support, alimony, parenting time, occupancy of the home, etc.

Alternative Dispute Resolution.  The two most common methods of alternative dispute resolution in family law cases are (1) Mediation or (2) Early Neutral Evaluation.  If the case does not resolve utilizing these methods, the case will head towards a court trial.

Expert Involvement.  If parties are unable to resolve the contested issues, it will often be necessary to involve outside experts to aid the court in making final decisions - depending on the issues in dispute.  These experts can include Custody Evaluators, business appraisers, pension experts, occupational appraisers, etc. Involvement of these experts can significantly increase the final cost of the divorce.

Discovery.  Parties also have a chance to conduct "discovery."  Discovery is basically gathering the information necessary to either present your case to the judge or to encourage settlement.  Discovery can include the experts mentioned above, or also obtaining relevant financial documents, medical records, school records, taking depositions, etc.  

Pre-Trial and Trial.  If all of the above has failed to produce a settlement, the case will proceed to a court trial in front of the judge (i.e. not a jury trial).  At the trial, the parties present their case through witness testimony, experts, documents, etc.  The parties then generally submit written argument after the trial.  The judge has 90 days to make a decision.  Unless there are extenuating circumstances, it is highly advisable to make a good faith effort at settlement in order to avoid the expense, stress, and time associated with a family law court trial.  

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Disclaimer: No case or client-specific information is discussed on this website. The content provided is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice.