The Divorce Process
Are you thinking about obtaining a divorce, but have no idea how the process works? A divorce can take several paths. If you and your spouse generally agree to obtain a divorce and agree to the terms of the divorce, the divorce will remain amicable and will proceed through the Court process relatively quickly. If you and your spouse do not get along and/or one of you really does not want the divorce, the proceedings will likely be contested and litigated, which usually means the process will take longer and will likely be more expensive. Regardless of whether the divorce is amicable or contested, there are some basic procedures that normally must be followed and some basic documents that need to be filed with the Court.
Standard to Obtain a Divorce
Minnesota is considered a "no fault" State if a spouse is seeking a divorce. Therefore, if one spouse wishes to obtain a divorce, he or she does not need to establish that the other spouse is at fault for the break-up of the marriage. The actual standard applied by Minnesota Courts, is whether there has been an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship." The Courts sometime refer to this as whether there are "irreconcilable differences" between the spouses. Ultimately, as long as one of the spouses alleges that he or she legitimately wants a divorce, the Court will grant the divorce even if one of the spouses wishes to remain married. In the vast majority of divorce proceedings in Minnesota, the issue of whether there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, is a non-issue.
Commencement of a Divorce Proceeding
A divorce is commenced by one spouse preparing and personally serving on the other spouse a "Summons" and "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage." The spouse who initiates the divorce is considered the "Petitioner;" the other spouse would then be considered the "Respondent." If the Respondent agrees that the divorce may be commenced, he or she is able to sign an "Acknowledgment of Service" in lieu of being personally served with the Summons and Petition.
Once served (or after the Respondent has signed an Acknowledgement of Service), the Respondent has 30 days to formally serve an "Answer" or "Answer and Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" on the Petitioner. It is common practice for the Respondent to simply request, and the Petitioner to grant an indefinite extension of time to formally Answer the Petition. If the parties intend to do this, it must be in writing.
Filing with the Court and the ICMC & ENE Process
The Summons and Petition are usually filed with the Court by the Petitioner. The Court will then schedule an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). The various counties in Minnesota handle the ICMC process differently. But, the ICMC is just that, the initial court hearing in the divorce process. If the parties have reached any agreements at the time of the ICMC, they may read those agreements into the Court record at that time. Frequently at the ICMC, the parties agree to participate a form of alternative dispute resolution/mediation. One form of alternative dispute resolution that many Minnesota counties implement, is Early Neutral Evaluations (ENE). There are both Social Early Neutral Evaluations (SENE) that deal with custody and parenting time, and Financial Early Neutral Evaluations (FENE) that deal with all the financial issues involved in the divorce, including child support and spousal maintenance.
If the divorcing couple is able to reach an agreement as part of the ENE process (or basic mediation), they will incorporate that agreement into a document titled "Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree." This document gets signed by both spouses and their attorneys (if they have attorneys), and then gets submitted to the Court for a Judge to review, sign and file.
Pretrial and Trial
If the divorcing couple is unable to reach an agreement at the ENE or mediation, then the divorce will get scheduled for a pretrial with the Court. The pretrial is another opportunity to try to reach an agreement, but if no agreement can be reached the spouses and their attorneys will schedule a trial and trial deadlines at the pretrial.
If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement at any point during the divorce process, then it must proceed to a trial. At the trial, the spouses will testify before the Judge, present exhibits and request that the Judge issue an Order on all the remaining disputed issues.
The Approach to Divorce Proceedings by Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll
Going through a divorce is never easy. The process involves difficult decisions that have lasting effects on the people closest to you. It is important to have an attorney with whom you are comfortable and who will vigorously work on your behalf to reach an acceptable outcome. Helping people find the best resolution in a divorce is a focus at Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll.
The legal team at Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll is experienced with helping and guiding individuals involved in divorce proceedings and other family law matters. We first seek an amicable resolution through alternative methods that avoid courtroom litigation. When that is not possible, we advocate strongly for our clients at hearings and throughout the trial process. We are experienced with handling complex property division, child custody and support matters.
Sometimes, an amicable stipulated settlement is just not in the cards. In such cases, the legal team at Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll will vigorously advocate for the interests of its clients through contested motion hearings and during the trial process.
When you should contact our law firm
For help with the divorce process, please contact Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll if:
you are simply contemplating divorce and want to know your rights
you have made the decision to move forward with a divorce and need legal representation
you were served with a divorce Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and you need to respond
you have commenced the divorce process on your own and are now needing legal assistance
you currently have an attorney representing you in the Minnesota divorce proceeding, and you are unhappy with his or her representation
Our Minnesota law firm, offers a complimentary initial consultation (either over the telephone or in person) for divorce matters, whether you expect your divorce to be amicable in nature or contested. Our law firm offers competitive retainer (upfront) fees and hourly rates and provides flat fee rates for amicable divorce proceedings. Appointments can be scheduled during the week between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (or later) and during the weekends when necessary. Our law firm accepts all forms of payment, including credit cards, checks and cash.