Divorce in Minnesota is a legal proceeding in family court that finalizes the end of a marriage. The result is a court-ordered distribution of marital assets and debts as well as any needed spousal support, child support, and child custody arrangements. To divorce in Minnesota, one spouse must believe there is “an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”
To file for a divorce in Minnesota, at least one of the spouses needs to live in Minnesota for at least 180 days (6 months) before the start of the case. If there are child custody issues involved, generally, the child must have lived with the Minnesota parent or a person acting as a parent for at least 180 days prior to the court filing. There are some emergency exceptions.
Couples are encouraged to try to resolve their disputes and settle the divorce out-of-court. Minnesota offers divorcing couples many options for “alternative dispute resolution” also known as ADR.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
There are a number of avenues for dispute resolution besides arguing in court, three of which we discuss here: Early Neutral Evaluation, collaborative divorce, or mediation.
Early Neutral Evaluation
Early Neutral Evaluation is a voluntary, confidential program, chosen by divorcing couples once divorce paperwork is filed. The parties pick a pair of professionals from a court-selected list who listen to and review their case. It is typically a male and female team, one person is an attorney and the other person is a mental health professional. The team makeup gives the best backgrounds and viewpoints to give feedback on both the legal and psychological aspects of the situation.
There are two types of Early Neutral Evaluation, social and financial. Social Early Neutral Evaluation pertains to all custody and parenting time issues. Financial Early Neutral Evaluation deals with the division of property and debts, child support, and spousal support.
The process of Early Neutral Evaluation takes place in an informal setting. After speaking with the parties, and one another, the evaluators give the parties their opinion as to what may happen if the case were to go before the court. The parties are then given the opportunity to reach an agreement on all or as many of the issues as possible, with the assistance of the evaluators to help them find agreements.
If an agreement is reached, in whole or in part, the evaluators inform the court of the agreement. If only a partial agreement is reached, the court must then decide any remaining issues. Should no agreements be reached, the evaluators will inform the court, and the case will move closer to a trial, where the court will decide all disputed matters.
Collaborative divorce is another court alternative. The collaborative divorce process requires the couple and their attorneys to sign a participation agreement at the beginning of the process. It is the participation agreement that defines the collaborative process.
The collaborative divorce participation agreement requires the couples and their attorneys to act cooperatively, openly, and honestly to disclose all relevant and pertinent information about assets and debts. No one may threaten litigation. The agreement also requires that in the event of non-settlement, which is very rare, the attorneys withdraw as counsel.
The attorneys and couples work as a team to identify and meet the individualized goals, interests, needs, and concerns of the parties. Once an agreement on all divorce issues is reached, the attorneys draft the necessary paperwork required by the court to finalize the matter. No court appearance is required of the parties or their attorneys in a collaborative divorce.
The parties often include professionals such as neutral financial specialists, neutral child specialists, and divorce coaches to bring their expertise to help the parties reach an agreement that works best for the family.
Divorce mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where couples and their attorneys come together in an informal environment with a mediator to reach a satisfactory agreement to their issues. While the parties may sign a binding agreement at the end of a mediation, it is important to keep in mind that mediation alone does not finalize a divorce. Any agreement needs to be in writing and signed by both attorneys, the divorcing couple, and ultimately approved by the court before it is legal and binding on the parties.
In order for mediation, or any of the alternative dispute resolution processes to work well in a divorce case, it is crucial a couple be willing to work together and compromise. Where there is a history of violent behavior or an abusive spouse, mediation may not be the right process. Getting assistance from the court is often the best route.
Settling matters without litigation can save clients money and time and keeps the case private. The attorneys at Perusse Nixon, PLLC will always keep their client’s best interests in mind when deciding which path to take in a divorce.
How an Experienced Minnesota Family Law Attorney Help You
Choosing the right divorce process for your situation from the beginning can determine the length and expense of your divorce. Divorce decisions are complicated enough; do not let this one rest on your shoulders. Let the experienced Minnesota divorce attorneys at Perusse Nixon, PLLC, help guide your decisions. Your children and your financial future depend on sound advice in divorce. Contact Perusse Nixon, PLLC, today to schedule your appointment.