A divorce is the legal process in which the rights and responsibilities of the parties regarding their children, assets, marital property and debts are determined. A divorce can substantially affect your tax status as well as have significant emotional consequences. A divorce can end the marital relationship on amicable terms, or it can involve a contentious process that can last for many months if the parties are unable to resolve issues usually regarding their children and property distribution.
Getting a Divorce
There are two legal alternatives to divorce: legal separation or an annulment in some specific cases. A legal separation is similar in nearly all respects to a divorce except that it does not end the marital relationship. Either side can file for a separation, which does not require that you live apart from each other. It does change your legal status and can have significant ramifications, especially regarding taxes and receipt of governmental benefits.
An annulment essentially eliminates the fact that a marriage ever occurred. These are only granted if you can prove that the marriage was entered under fraud or duress, that one party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, if one of the parties was under the age of 17 unless parental consent was given, or a party was unable to consummate the marriage and that fact was not known to the other party at the time of the ceremony.
Before initiating a divorce, one spouse must have resided in Minnesota for 180 days before filing. Law also requires that you file in the county where either party lives. There is no waiting period to receive a divorce decree after filing. To commence divorce proceedings, you will have to file certain forms:
- Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Financial affidavit
- Parenting education class
- Marital Termination Agreement
A financial affidavit—which lists each spouse’s documentation of earnings and income, tax returns, pay stubs and any other records of earnings—must be filed and exchanged.
A parenting education class is obligatory if custody or visitation issues are disputed. In all contested divorces, the parties are required to indicate to the court that mediation was at least discussed and was either accepted or rejected. In any event, the court may order mediation especially if child custody and/or visitation issues are contested.
Under certain distinct circumstances, you may be eligible to file for a summary divorce. This is an expedited or abridged procedure requiring that your marital affiliation not exceed eight years and that neither you nor your spouse possess any real property. Further, you must have no minor children or be pregnant; both parties meet certain debt, marital and nonmarital asset limitations; and neither party must have been the victim of spousal abuse by the other.
Type of Divorce
Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, whereby you need only allege grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship. You can support this allegation by showing that you and your spouse lived separately for at least 180 days before filing or that serious marital discord existed that adversely affected your relationship.
Litigating a divorce can be considerably expensive. Along with paying an initial retainer fee to your attorney, you will incur hourly fees that can easily exceed $300, and you will have to pay the fees charged by accountants and child psychologists who may be necessary to support your claims. Contested cases may involve prolonged discovery and the expenses incurred in serving subpoenas and in paying the fees of experts who are deposed. In some cases, a contested dissolution may linger for years.
An option to litigation is ADR, or alternative dispute resolution. In many contested cases, the parties may choose to resolve their differences voluntarily by mediation. The parties meet with a neutral third party who assists the parties in achieving a mutually acceptable resolution in a non-adversarial environment.
Speak to a Minnesota Divorce Attorney
Most parties in a divorce matter are too emotionally involved to make rational or reasonable judgments. State laws affecting your property, debts, support obligations and taxes are best explained by an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer.