There are three main ways that divorce cases are resolved in Minnesota. Each are rather different and each have varying timeframes and expenses associated with them.
The first approach that we like to take involves simply sitting down and trying to resolve the case without the need to go to court at all. Sit down and have a conversation with your soon-to-be ex and talk about all the issues in your case.
If we’re able to resolve it that way, we can simply draft up an agreement and file it with the court. In some cases, there’s a need for a brief court appearance, but beyond that, the matter will be resolved promptly and efficiently.
The second-best alternative involves filing the case with the district court and then participating in a court-approved program called early neutral evaluation. An early neutral evaluation affords the parties an opportunity to sit down with a court-appointed neutral to present the facts of their case and then to have a conversation about what they would like to see in terms of an outcome.
Once the neutral has heard from everybody, the neutral will take a break and then come back and render an opinion about what they think the range of likely outcomes is. And once we receive that opinion, we’re able to negotiate, and about 80% of the time, we’re able to reach an agreement. So it’s not quite as inexpensive as an uncontested divorce where we’re just meeting initially, but it certainly avoids the time and expense associated with traditional litigation.
And then the third and most complex option involves a trial. A typical timeframe for a litigated case involves a year or more. The cost can be 10 times the cost of a more uncontested case.
The good news though is that about 98% of the cases that we handle, and I’ve run the numbers, resolve short of a trial. And so it is a very rare thing for a matter that we handle to go to trial. We’re prepared to do it, but certainly given the time and expense, we want to try those first less expensive alternatives first.