[column type=”one-half” last=”false”]When you arrive at the decision to file for divorce or you have been asked for a divorce, life can change abruptly. It can be a shock if you didn’t expect to hear from your spouse of the decision to end the marriage. Whether you are the petitioner asking for the divorce or the respondent being served divorce papers, it’s a wise decision to seek legal advice from a skilled attorney who is deeply knowledgeable about the ever-changing divorce law in Minnesota and can advise you on the best course of action depending on your circumstances.
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Minnesota Divorce Laws
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Alternatives to Divorce
Divorce And Custody Of Your Children
Child Support and Visitation
Division of Assets and Debts In Divorce
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- ADR Available: Yes
- Fault or No Fault: No Fault
- Parenting Plan Required: No
- Property Distribution: Equitable
Grounds For Divorce
Minnesota has a no-fault law for divorce. This means it is not necessary to prove a spouse’s behavior is the reason for the demise of the partnership. Most commonly couples that dissolve a marriage in Minnesota cite irreconcilable differences.
The Divorce Types
Filing for divorce is officially called a Decree of Dissolution. On August 1, 2013, all legal unions became known as “civil marriages,” including same-sex partnerships.
There are two types of divorce in the Minnesota court system:
- Uncontested Dissolution of Marriage in which the petitioner and the respondent agree to all the issues surrounding child support, visitation, marital property and alimony, among other areas.
- Contested Dissolution of Marriage in which there are disagreements on one or many issues between the petitioner and respondent.
In some cases a couple can use another official divorce format called a Summary Dissolution of Marriage. In order to use this streamlined approach to divorce, however, the marital debt can’t be in excess of $8,000 and there can be no children or family business involved. Also, the value of the combined marital property is required to be under the total market value of $25,000.
Divorce Waiting Period
In the state of Minnesota as long as you have fulfilled the residency requirement of six months or 180 days, there is no waiting period for divorce.
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In Minnesota the courts recognize the benefits of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) when spouses are going through the difficult event of ending a marriage. In ADR the goal is to lessen conflict and speed up the process, which will save money. In this somewhat informal method, a mediator can help to promote effective communication between the spouses, explore options to resolve differences and facilitate solutions that work for the family involved. In Minnesota, ADR can include either of these types:
- Arbitration. A neutral third party will listen to both sides and then decide on the outcome. Often this person is a lawyer or judge and trained in the issues surrounding divorce. This process can be binding (legal) or nonbinding and may still result in a trial.
- Mediation. A neutral third party will work with the couple to resolve the issues in ending the marriage, but the decisions remain with the spouses.
It will depend on the type of relationship between the spouses as to whether this method is a fit for the situation. For instance, if either person is unwilling to compromise or anyone in the relationship is physically or emotionally abusive, ADR may not be an ideal option to resolve the issues. During ADR, it is a wise decision to have the final agreement reviewed by a consulting attorney before it’s signed by a judge.
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When a partnership is over, there are alternatives to divorce such as legal separation and annulment. Annulments are rarely granted in Minnesota and the courts deem the union “voidable.” It’s important to know the different ways to end a marriage in order to select the right option.
A legal separation will deal with the issues of custody, child support, alimony and division of property, just like a divorce; however, you remain married. This might be a good option for those not wanting to end the marriage for religious or financial reasons. Not a quick or simple process, this action can take as long as a divorce.
Being legally separated means you can’t marry anyone else until you go through further steps to end the union.
An annulment is a possible way to way to end a marriage; however, specific grounds need to be met. Essentially an annulment treats the marriage as though it didn’t legally happen. Some of the conditions that meet the grounds for an annulment include:
- A person was mentally incapacitated at the time of being married due to, for instance, drugs or alcohol.
- A person was forced into marriage.
- A person committed fraud, for example, by lying about the ability to have children and then entering into marriage.
- A person was under the age of 18 or age 16 and 17 and without parental consult
There are some instances when marriages are never legal, such as those involving bigamy and incest. When filing an annulment there are time limits involved and for that reason it is advised to speak with a divorce lawyer.
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A divorce is a painful time that affects the whole family, particularly the children. The court system works to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children. Although in Minnesota a parenting plan is not required, if a couple can agree on visitation and both spouses are suitable parents, a judge will more than likely grant the custody agreement as it has been presented to him or her.
There are two types of child custody:
- Legal custody. In this custody a spouse is granted the right to make decisions on, for instance, the educational or medical needs of the children.
- Physical custody. This type of custody encompasses all areas of caregiving, like providing food, shelter and emotional support, among other aspects.
Custody rulings depend on the situation in which the children are involved. Reasons to not grant child custody include domestic abuse, sexual violence, neglect and abandonment.
A judge, acting in the best interests of the children, will award either joint or sole custody. If a parent, for example, is awarded sole custody, the other person may receive visitation, which is essentially defined as the time spent with the children by the noncustodial spouse. In Minnesota, visitation and custody, once determined, can be different for each child in the marriage.
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Each parent is assumed to be responsible for the financial support of the children. The court uses the combined gross income of both parents and factors in the amount of parenting time that has been granted to each spouse as a starting point to calculate child support.
If the parents share equal time with the children, the person with the higher income may pay support to the other spouse. Other factors may be used as well, such as the debt of each parent.
Child Support Enforcement
Once a child support ruling is final, the court will enact certain measures to enforce the payment schedule. If a spouse falls behind or stops paying child support, the court has the authority to garnish wages, put a lien against a vehicle or suspend a driver’s license, among other methods to receive payment.
Establishing paternity of children is important for several reasons, primarily though in the area of receiving child support. Additionally, this information is beneficial for medical history and for obtaining life insurance benefits from either parent. Determining paternity can give the parent the opportunity for visitation and influence certain legal decisions regarding the children.
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Regardless of the duration of the marriage, in Minnesota the definition of a marital asset and a separate asset remains the same. Debts and assets acquired in the marriage belong to both parties. There are some exceptions to this rule, including:
- If a prenuptial agreement is in place
- If the property was owned before the marriage
- If the property was a gift or an inheritance
Because Minnesota is an equitable state, the division of property is not split in equal halves; instead, a reasonable and fair amount of the assets and debts are given to each spouse. Sometimes the court may factor in the individual needs of a spouse in the determination. Some of the assets and debts that are divided include:
- Real estate
- Household items including furniture and clothing
- Retirement assets
- Stocks, bonds, 401(k)s and similar accounts
- Collectibles such as a stamp collection
- Frequent flier miles
It’s important to seek the advice of a divorce lawyer before starting the process to end the marriage. Debts acquired in the marriage typically fall under the rule of being a joint liability; however, student loans are a special case. Additionally, gambling and illegal drug debts are both often viewed by the court as unreasonable liabilities and therefore not shared by both parties; however, the court has the discretion to rule otherwise.
Alimony, or spousal support, refers to providing income to the other after the partnership is ended or the couple has legally separated. Spousal support is often awarded when one spouse will have a hard time being financially stable after the divorce. For example, if one spouse was the sole income provider and the other person remained home to care for the children, alimony is typically granted.
The court has a great deal of discretion in the outcome of rulings on alimony and for this reason, getting sound legal information from a divorce lawyer can be invaluable.
Life can abruptly change at any point, making it sometimes necessary to alter previous agreements determined in the divorce proceeding. Post-divorce modifications are changes that can happen to a spouse such as:
- Loss of employment
- A debilitating injury
- Job relocation
These changes can happen without notice and as such, might change the child support and alimony payment amounts, the residency of the children and the parenting time.
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Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
With divorce a possibility, both a prenuptial and postnuptial agreement can be protective measures to each spouse in the event the marriage doesn’t work out. A prenuptial agreement is constructed before the marriage is legal and can help determine ownership of certain property in the event of divorce or death. Both agreements are planning tools for those with property or children from other relationships.
When a marriage ends, the court’s position is that the grandparents will be able to see the grandchildren when their own child has parenting time. This might not be the case, however, if the spouse (the child of the grandparents) has died or is absent from the situation. In order to seek visitation, a judge will want to see that time spent with the grandparents is in the best interests of the children.
To learn more about the legal issues that will affect your family to speak to a Minnesota divorce lawyer today.
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