Divorce is not only difficult, it’s stressful. Court proceedings tend to amplify that stress, making reaching a divorce settlement agreement all the more challenging. No one wants a drawn-out case. Your lawyer can prevent lengthy, often costly, proceedings by making sure that you have the correct paperwork with all the relevant information the first time you meet with the judge.
While it takes two to marry, it only takes one to file a divorce petition. If there’s no legal response from the person named in the petition within 30 days, it is considered an uncontested divorce. If the divorce is contested and no agreement is made between you, then you should probably consult with an attorney.
Speak With a Divorce Lawyer
A divorce lawyer will advise you of the steps you need to take to initiate divorce proceedings. First, the legal term for a divorce in the State of Minnesota is “Dissolution of Marriage.” Initiating a dissolution of a marriage between two spouses requires that one spouse must have Minnesota residency for at least 180 consecutive days. Military personnel who are members of the armed forces must still hold Minnesota residency even though stationed elsewhere.
When filing your paperwork, a variety of information must be included, such as:
- Details about your marriage, yourself, and your spouse
- Your children (if applicable)
- Your assets, debts, insurance and all other financials
Your lawyer will help you decide what kind of dissolution of marriage forms need to be filed to begin proceedings:
- Divorce with children
- Divorce without children
- Joint divorce with children
- Joint divorce without children
You must file your paperwork with the district court in your county of residence. The number of court hearings will depend on whether you and your spouse reach a settlement agreement. If you cannot agree, then the process continues until an agreement is reached or you both decide to settle out of court.
You are not required to have an attorney to represent your case. You can, by law, represent yourself. However, you must follow all the same rules that your attorney would have to follow. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can alleviate the often intense stress that comes from representing yourself in court. CJB Law compassionately works for you to protect your interests so that you spend less time and money in court.
The Details of Your Marriage
Some of the basic information that will be included in your divorce settlement agreement will include:
- The date you were married and the date you separated
- Minor children’s names and ages
- The reason why you are getting divorced
- Where you are living, including addresses
Make sure that you have documentation to back up any details that you include in the draft of your divorce settlement agreement. Next, you will include any assets acquired before and after you were married.
Minnesota is an equitable distribution state. Keep in mind that equitable means fair, not equal. You will need to determine which assets were acquired during your marriage and separation. These assets are called marital property. Anything acquired prior to your marriage is separate, or personal, property.
All states, except Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, follow the rules for equitable distribution. Those states are community property states. Alaska, South Dakota, and Tennessee allow you the option of choosing equitable distribution or community property to divide up assets.
If you begin your marriage in a community property state, then divorce in an equitable distribution state or visa-versa, you may need an attorney to help you sort out your assets. It is the state where you reside that dictates equitable distribution or community property.
Marital property is property acquired during your marriage, including times you were separated, such as:
- Real estate
Personal property is a property you owned before you were married, received as a gift, or inheritance. This can include items in a prenuptial agreement, non-tangibles like increases in the value of the non-marital property. If you are unclear as to what constitutes marital and personal property, your lawyer can help clarify for you.
Sometimes personal property is used to buy marital property. This is called commingled property, which can make dividing assets problematic. Marital debt is treated the same way for purposes of division. Debt incurred while married will be considered marital property. Debt incurred before marriage falls under personal property. Personal debt that becomes marital debt is commingled debt.
Custody, Child Support, and Visitation
Courts will step in when parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation. This can be the most challenging part of a divorce since judges prefer the parents to decide these issues. The bottom line is the well-being of all minor children.
Courts determine custody, child support, and visitation issues by taking into account many factors:
- Age of minor children
- Health needs
- Emotional needs
- Practical needs such as childcare and school
The court will also look at safety issues such as substance abuse and domestic violence.
Judges look at thirteen factors in determining child custody. No court can cherry-pick which factors to use, they must use all thirteen to make a decision. Child custody is defined as:
- Legal custody: the right to make decisions for such things as your child’s health and education.
- Physical custody: the right to make decisions regarding where your child lives, daily routine, extracurricular activities, etc.
- Sole custody: means one parent has total custody of minor children.
- Joint custody: means shared custody but not necessarily equal.
Once the judge determines child custody, visitation will be addressed.
Each state has its own formula for determining child support. Child support is court-ordered basic, medical, and child care support for minor children. Minnesota guidelines are based upon parental income and the number of minor children that need support. Circumstances such as special needs, financial debt, and the parent’s ability to pay are also considered.
The court will address twelve factors in determining “parenting time” or visitation rights. Many of these factors overlap with the thirteen custody factors that a judge will consider in awarding custody. In Minnesota, often the non-custodial parent will get 25 percent visitation.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Alimony is often considered when one spouse doesn’t have the financial means to meet life’s reasonable needs. Some of the factors that the court will take into consideration are:
- Financial resources of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance (including loss of earnings or retirement benefits)
- If the spouse is self-supporting or needs further education to become self-supporting (including homemakers out of the workforce for a time)
- Marriage length and the lifestyle supported during the marriage
- Age, physical, and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony
- The ability of the spouse to pay alimony
Discuss Your Divorce Settlement Agreement With Your Lawyer
Creating legal agreements on your own carries risk. You may miss an important element that needs to be included that only your attorney would know to include. Emotions can cloud facts. Get professional oversight and legal assistance from our experienced lawyers at CJB. We can help you not only save time and money but perhaps a bit of your sanity in already challenging times.