Contested Divorce Attorneys in Minnesota
There are four main issues that may be involved in a divorce: custody and parenting time, child support, asset and debt division and spousal maintenance. Each, however, has its own nuances that can open up complex disputes as part of a marital dissolution action – such as the tracing of non-marital claims, the tax consequences associated with an alimony award, or whether a need for supervised parenting time exists.
Podcast: The Contested Divorce Process in Minnesota
In terms of the process, 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:
The first segment of work in a divorce involves the case workup. Our clients complete an initial questionnaire, and provide documentation to us, so that we can adequately move forward and understand exactly what is sought.
Following our initial information gathering, we put together the initial pleadings in the case, and serve them upon the opposing litigant. Once service of process is complete, we file the matter with the district court.
Initial Case Management Conference
Following the service of the Summons and Petition, we will participate in an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). This is a first meeting with the judge, on an informal basis, to talk about the issues that are in controversy. It provides the Court with an opportunity to size things up.
Early Neutral Evaluation
The Court, at that point, will refer the matter for an Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), so long as the parties agree. ENE is a process in which the parties meet with a court-appointed expert and try to settle the case relatively early. The expert is given the authority to offer evaluative opinions about the likely outcome in the event that the matter was tried to a judge.
During contested divorce in Minnesota, if matters are unresolved following an Early Neutral Evaluation, the parties conduct “discovery.” Discovery involves the gathering of information from the opposing litigant. At this stage of things, discovery is usually done in a formal way, through written Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission, or, in limited circumstances, a Deposition.
Motion For Temporary Relief
In addition to Discovery, it sometimes makes sense to pursue a Motion for Temporary Relief. Temporary Motions involve a hearing that takes place in which the Court makes a determination, on a temporary basis, for example, of who is going to temporarily reside in the marital residence, who is going to have temporary custody of the children, and what sort of temporary alimony or child support awards are appropriate.
Temporary Motions cannot be scheduled until after the parties have completed the Early Neutral Evaluation process. If a Temporary Motion is necessary at the onset of a case, the litigants can opt out of ENE.
Quite often cases will settle following the entry of a Temporary Order, because the parties have a sneak peek into how the Court views the facts of the case.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
If matters do not settle following a Motion for Temporary Relief, the litigants will continue to try to work things out through various forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, arbitration or a moderated settlement conference. Our contested divorce attorneys in Minnesota aim to avoid the need for a trial, which can be rather expensive.
If all settlement efforts have been exhausted without agreement, the Court will schedule a Pre-Trial Conference. At that Conference, the judge will assist the parties in trying, one final time, to resolve their differences. If no settlement is reached, trial is scheduled.
The length of a trial is directly tied to the number of issues in controversy, along with the complexity of those issues. A trial on just the financial issues typically takes no more than one day. A trial involving custody and parenting time issues, however, may take a week, or more.
The judge has 90 days to issue a written decision following the end of the trial.
If either party is dissatisfied with the outcome of their contested divorce, under Minnesota law, they have an additional 60 days in which to file an appeal. The appellate process can take a year, or more, to reach conclusion. A three-judge panel will review the record and take written and oral argument from the litigants to determine whether the district court should be affirmed (upheld), reversed (overturned) or whether the matter should be remanded (returned) to the district court judge for further hearings or findings.