Our experienced Minnesota divorce lawyers have earned a reputation for success. We’ve successfully represented clients from all walks of life for over 20 years. Whether an uncontested divorce without children or a high conflict dispute involving millions of dollars, we take pride in getting to know our clients and treating them with respect and dignity.
types of divorce cases
A contested divorce in Minnesota can involve any number of distinct segments, many of which may be avoided if a settlement agreement is reached along the way.
In an uncontested divorce, we begin by meeting with our client to discuss the nature of their case, and determine their goals. From there, we inquire as to whether the parties have had an opportunity to discuss an early settlement.
High Net Worth Divorce
One of the most contentious aspects of the divorce process involves dividing property and finances. This can be particularly true in the case of a high net worth divorce. In a high net worth divorce, both sides know that there is a lot at stake. That’s precisely why you should consult with our firm’s experienced high net worth divorce lawyers.
High Conflict Divorce
When divorce leads to serious disagreement, a “high conflict” divorce can result. In a contested divorce, the parties do not agree to the terms of the dissolution. In a high conflict divorce, the disagreement escalates to a whole new level.
When a divorce involves one or more members of the military, special considerations apply. There are laws and rules in place to help protect members of the military during the divorce process. If you are going through a military divorce in Minnesota, our attorneys can help you understand your rights and options.
The focus of a collaborative divorce is on minimizing conflict and creating a situation that benefits everyone involved. Instead of each individual fighting to get what he or she wants, the two sides take an amicable approach in handling everything, including custody, child support, and alimony.
Five Key Issues in Divorce
Custody and Parenting Time
In terms of the custody, decisions will need to be made concerning physical custody, legal custody and a parenting time schedule. Parents can either share custody (joint) or one parent can exercise custody of the children (sole). Parenting time schedules vary widely, from a division of time equally among parents, to a rather traditional non-custodial schedule calling for every-other weekend and one night per week.
Child support is broken down into three broad categories: (1) basic support; (2) medical support; and (3) daycare support. The basic support is the traditional cash payment one party makes to the other for the support of the minor child(ren). Medical support involves a division of medical and dental insurance premiums for the child(ren), along with a division of any uninsured medical or dental expenses.
Insofar as property division is concerned, Minnesota judges typically divide the marital estate equally among the litigants. Non-marital assets (items inherited or brought into the marriage) may be not be subject to division among the parties. The typical approach to property division involves the creation of a balance sheet, itemizing each asset (or debt), valuing each item, and then dividing accordingly.
The issue of alimony is rather complex. Generally speaking, if one spouse has made a career sacrifice of some sort for the sake of the other, or the children, they may be entitled to financial support following the divorce. Spousal maintenance may be awarded on either a temporary or permanent basis, so long as there is a “need,” and an “ability to pay.”
Attorney’s Fees and Costs
There are two ways that a fee award may come about as part of a divorce. The first basis involves a claim made for bad-faith conduct of the other party. The second involves a need-based claim.
Podcast: Types of Divorce Cases in Minnesota
This is Jason Brown. Thanks a lot for listening. I’m one of the founding partners with the Brown Law Offices, a Northwest twin cities law firm handling primarily divorce and family law cases. Today’s show is going to focus on the end. It’s going to focus on the four ways in which the court may go about entering a final judgment and decree in a divorce case. There are a couple of ways to break down cases that find their way in the court system. One is to look at a case as to whether it is contested or uncontested. In other words, if the parties have reached an agreement about the issues or if some issues remain for decision by the court. And then the other way to break it down is to determine whether or not a party has actually made an appearance in the case or whether there’s been no appearance by the other side.
Pure Default Divorce
The first type of case involves a situation that we call a pure default situation. This is a scenario where there is no agreement between the parties. One party has served the other with the initial summons and petition to dissolve the marriage, but that would be responding party fails to provide any sort of answer or counter petition, and that situation in order to make an appearance on the court’s default calendar. In other words, to show up at court and ask the judge to enter an order in favor of yourself, granting the relief that you seek, you need to simply file two affidavits with the court. One is called an affidavit of default judgment which indicates under oath that the other side has failed to file any responsive pleadings. And then the second affidavit is an affidavit of non military service, or a waiver form that indicates that the other party has waived their right to contest the proceeding under what is called the service members relief act.
Default Divorce Following Appearance
The second type of a default case involves a situation where the parties don’t have an agreement. The other side has provided some sort of answer or counter petition and has made some sort of an appearance in the case, but has disappeared for lack of a better word. They basically have elected not to participate in the action as it moves forward, and in that situation the same default hearing can be obtained by the court, but the big difference is the fact that in that situation additional notice must be given to the other side. The specific notice that must be afforded to the other side includes a written notice to the other individual that there is an intent to proceed to default judgment. That must be sent to the opposing litigant at least 10 days prior to the final hearing and then the statutes spell out the fact that there’s some very specific language that must be included within that notice that basically indicates that an application has been made to the court for a final default hearing and that it’s going to take place no sooner than three days from the date of the notice that’s been mailed.
Once that’s been mailed and the petitioning party has put together an affidavit of mailing of that notice to the last known address of the opposing party, the court may then place the matter on its default calendar. So let’s suppose that all of the notice requirements have been satisfied under scenario number one or scenario number two and matter’s put in place on the court’s calendar, what is the court likely to do when you show up? Well, what’s likely to happen is that the court will ask you what it is you want and in all likelihood, the court will grant the relief that you seek. Now, there are some parameters that need to be followed. I mean, you can’t show up and demand that all of the marital estate to be given to you exclusively and that you receive alimony payments of $5,000 a month when your spouse earns a salary of $3,000 per month.
In other words, the court is there to serve as the gatekeeper, but they do tend to be rather flexible and liberal in granting parties who are moving on a pure default basis the relief that they seek without much interference. All that really needs to happen is for the court to make a finding that the proposed agreement is fair and equitable and if there are children involved, that their best interests are protected. All right, so let’s talk about a situation where the parties have basically had an uncontested divorce. In other words they have come to us at the onset or at some point throughout the case have reached an agreement on all of the issues that may have otherwise been in dispute including custody or parenting time or child support or property division or spousal maintenance. In that situation what’s going to happen is that the parties will actually sign off on an agreement called a marital termination agreement and then the terms of that agreement are going to be converted into a final court order.
Now what happens more often than not today is that we will put together one document instead of two. The one document will be entitled a stipulated set of findings and basically those findings are incorporated as such that the document that’s created actually becomes not only the agreement of the parties but then it’s endorsed by the court and actually becomes the judgment and decree in the case. Let’s talk first about a situation where the parties have reached an agreement but don’t have any children together. In that situation, the court is going to simply review the agreement of the parties administrative. In other words, in chambers and not require the parties to make any kind of a court appearance and sign off on the paperwork, mailing a copy of the final order to the parties upon conclusion of the case. Divorced by mail, a lot of people are shocked at the idea that you don’t even have to see a judge in the state of Minnesota in order to get a divorce.
Now, suppose you and your spouse have children but you’ve reached an agreement short of trial. Well, in that situation the court may or may not require the two of you to make an appearance. It really depends upon whether or not both of you are represented by lawyers or whether just one lawyer is involved in the case. If just one lawyer is involved, in other words, if we are brought in initially and we assist our client with information gathering and we put together the agreement and everybody signs off on it, we submit it to the court and the other side doesn’t retain counsel, in that scenario, the court is going to want to have us come in and answer some questions under oath about the nature of the agreement and basically prove up the contents of the divorce petition along with the agreement of the parties.
This hearing is usually rather short and uninteresting. It’s essentially showing up and as a matter of formality, having the lawyer myself ask questions of the client that basically restate the contents of the agreement for purposes of the court record. About half the time the other side will show up, they are curious about what might go on. They want to be there to answer any questions the court might have. The other half of the time, we’ll show up alone with our client, answer those questions for the court, and if the court is satisfied, then the court will go ahead and sign off on the proposed findings and judgment will be entered with the court administrator. Now, let’s suppose that both parties to an agreement have been represented by counsel throughout their case. This is a very common scenario. Perhaps 95% of the cases that we handle were able to settle short of trial.
If they’re both represented by counsel, typically the court is not going to require those individuals to come in and make any kind of an appearance. There is an exception, however, in some counties when you have an award of joint physical custody, the court wants to meet with the parties and make sure that they are capable of exercising that sort of 50/50 split of parenting time, or if there’s some other situation or issue that’s come up that the court believes justifies a little more investigation or a little more questioning of the litigants. We’ve had situations where the court wants clarification about the basis for a deviation in child support or wants to make sure that one of the parties fully understands the fact that they may have been entitled to spousal maintenance yet have agreed to waive it. Again, once the court is satisfied and all of the potential revisions have been made to the agreement of the parties, the court will eventually sign off on the final stipulated findings of fact, conclusions of law, order for judgment and judgment and decree, and usually about a day or two later it’ll be entered by the court administrator and then sent out to the parties with a notice of entry.
All right, so we’ve talked about situations where there’s a pure to fall judgment. In other words, the other side doesn’t make an appearance or kind of disappears after the case is initiated. We’ve talked about cases where the parties resolve their disputes by agreement. The last type of case is a situation where the litigants are not able to resolve their differences. Both have continued to litigate and a trial is necessary. Just to give you a little perspective, about 95% of the cases that we handle are going to settle. Short of trial, only about one in 20 are actually going to have to be tried to the court. Now, my perspective on that is that I think that’s a good thing. I think that a good lawyer knows that a case … Almost every case is capable of being settled on a full and final basis in a fair and equitable manner, and it’s only if absolutely necessary that we want to take your case to trial.
Trials are expensive. Trials are time consuming. Trials are emotionally tolling on a client. Trials are intense and they’re kind of fun. It’s sort of the culmination of a lawyer’s craft, but the end of the day, most people do not walk away from a trial saying, wow, that was a great experience. And so for that reason, we do have our eye on settlement more often than not. If we have to take your case to trial, it’s not like you might be expecting it to be. In other words, it’s not like a television show or a movie. You’re not going to see a judge pounding a gavel. You’re not going to see a jury. You’re not going to see surprise witnesses coming in or you’re going to see an audience full of people who gasp at the wild cross examination that your lawyer has subjected your soon to be ex spouse to.
It’s quite different. In fact a trial is a very orchestrated process. In family court cases are tried to a judge. They’re not tried to a jury and for that reason trials tend to be more condensed. In addition, trials tend to occur with witnesses frequently taken out of order, because a judge has the ability to sort of piece meal information and shuffle things around. Quite often we will have witnesses schedules accommodated and have certain witnesses go out of order then you might, if the case were actually a jury trial. In addition, because the judge is the one who’s actually trying the case and making those fact findings, there’s no need for us to do lengthy opening statements, no need to do lengthy closing statements. What’ll basically happen is we’ll let the court know what the issues are in the case and the other side will do the same thing.
The petitioning party will go first and present their witnesses. Our witnesses will be cross-examined and then once we’ve called all of our witnesses, the other side will call their witnesses. We’ll cross-examine them and then testimony is concluded. At the conclusion of testimony, in the close of evidence we will then submit written findings to the court. In other words, we will submit to the judge a proposal for what we want the final judgment and decree to look like. In addition to those proposed findings, we will often submit a rather short letter argument outlining the relevant case law that supports our position and so forth. Once the court receives that and we’ve had an opportunity to respond to the other parties argument, the court will have 90 days in which to render a written decision. This is yet another example of how distinct a court trial is from what you see on television or in the movies.
The judge is not going to make a decision right from the bench and the litigants are going to have to wait usually several months before we get any sort of opinion from the court and that opinion will be issued in writing. Now the reason for that is because if either party were to appeal the decision of the court, the judge wants to issue very specific findings that support the opinion of the court to prevent the opinion from being reversed. In other words, the judge has the very difficult task of making a decision, but then they also have to go through the steps to show their work and show how they arrived at that decision.
Well, there you go, about 13 or so minutes on how cases are concluded in family court. I hope you found this podcast to be informative and interesting. If you have any questions about your situation, we do always offer a free consultation. You can call our firm, our telephone number is listed on our website, or you can email me and I’d be happy to get back to you as quickly as I can.