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Minnesota Divorce Overview

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The Minnesota divorce proceeding is usually started with the serving and filing of a Summons and Petition. The Summons is a statutory document that contains specific restraining orders designed to prevent the parties from disposing of family assets before there is a formal hearing, or canceling existing health insurance. The Petition, on the other hand, is a very fact-specific document, which includes the "vital statistics" on any particular marriage. At the end of this document, the Petitioner makes a specific request from the court. It is important to remember that this is only a request, not necessarily what the court will ultimately do.

Once a spouse has received the Summons and Petition he or she has the right to respond with an Answer and Counter-Petition.

The person who commences the dissolution is called the Petitioner. The person who responds to the initiation of the dissolution is called the Respondent. Generally speaking, there is no advantage to commencing the action or responding to the dissolution.

Immediately following the filing of the Summons and Petition and the Answer and Counter-Petition, there may be a need for a temporary hearing. The temporary hearing is used to establish "ground rules" to be followed during the divorce process. The Court can make decisions regarding the temporary custody of the children, occupancy of the house, child support and spousal maintenance. The parties can resolve the temporary issues by agreement. However, if the parties cannot agree, then it may be necessary to have the court decide what will happen while the case is proceeding to a conclusion.

It is not always necessary to have a temporary hearing, especially if the parties agree to follow a course of behavior that is designed to maintain the status quo financially and which protects the best interests of the children, if any.

Once a temporary order is in place, or an agreement is reached, the parties will begin the process of gathering information about the issues of the case. This is more commonly known as "discovery." The parties will not be able to move forward in the litigation until all assets are disclosed and all claims are made known.

Once full disclosure is made, the parties, with the assistance of their attorneys, will try to negotiate a resolution of the issues. If the case can be settled, either entirely or partially, a document, usually called a Marital Termination Agreement, or Stipulated Judgment and Decree, will be drafted. This document is a contract setting forth the terms on which the spouses agree to end their marriage. All issues, including the division of assets and liabilities should be set forth in the agreement. This document is then presented to the judge for his/her approval.

If the parties cannot settle the issues of the case then they will have a contested dissolution, which must be resolved by appearing before a judge for a trial.

At the trial, each spouse will be given the opportunity to present their facts to the court and the judge decides who gets what and how much. The judge's decision is set forth in a final Judgment and Decree. There are no jury trials in the state of Minnesota in a dissolution action. The cost of a trial is very expensive not only financially, but also emotionally. It is not very often that a judge will be in a better position than you to make a decision for what is best for you and your family.

Contact our Minneapolis divorce attorneys to schedule a consultation.


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Jonathan Fogel
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Phone: (612) 822-6244


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