Minnesota Contested Divorce Attorney & Lawyer
The majority of divorce proceedings are contested, meaning that both sides participate in the process. The fact that they are contested does not mean that they will be dragged out and end in trial. Very few cases continue to trial, and of those cases, the trial is only on the issues that the parties cannot agree on. For example, you could have a two-hour trial on child support. A very small percentage of cases would continue to a full-blown, multi-day trial on all of the issues.
Minnesota Contested Divorce Process
A divorce is commenced by serving two legal documents: the Summons and the Petition. The Summons has “restraining provisions” that basically tell the parties that everything must stay as it is—the party paying insurance must continue paying it, neither party can squander the marital assets, etc. The Petition sets out what the party that drafted the paperwork is asking for in the divorce process.
Both of these documents must be personally handed to the other party. The spouse initiating the action (the “Petitioner”) cannot serve them. The spouse must have a third party over the age of 18 complete and serve the summons and petition upon the Respondent. The act of serving the paperwork starts the clock ticking, and the other party (the “Respondent”) has only 30 days to respond to the petition.
Discovery In The Divorce Process
Normally at this point, the Respondent will call the Petitioner’s attorney or an attorney of their own to handle the process. The parties exchange important financial information and other documents through a process called “discovery”. Discovery allows each side to have a complete understanding of what issues have to be resolved in the divorce, and allows each side to determine what they believe is reasonable for a settlement.
Another part of the discovery process is the involvement of professionals to value property and accounts. If there is a home owned by the parties, generally an appraisal will be done to find the current fair market value. If the property were owned by a party prior to the marriage, the professional figures out what portion of the equity is marital or nonmarital.
Professionals are also involved in determining what portion of retirement assets and other investment accounts is marital and what amount is nonmarital. The professional performs a marital tracing to determine these values.
Divorce Mediation In MN
Mediation has become an important part of the process in facilitating settlement. This can be agreed upon by both parties or ordered by the court. The parties and their attorneys sit down with a neutral third party to go through all of the issues and see if they are able to reach an agreement. The parties may also choose to use the ENE process to reach an agreement.
Handling Contested Divorce Settlements In Minnesota
If the parties are able to reach agreement on all of the issues, then the attorney will draft a legal document that everyone signs called a “Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree.” This document is given to the court to sign as well, and finalizes the terms of the divorce that both parties agree upon.
A stipulation may be reached at any time in the proceedings prior to the court issuing a final divorce decree, and it can address anywhere from one issue in the proceeding to settling all issues. A stipulation is the preferred way to finalize a case. This way, both parties play an active role in what the outcome is, and they are generally happier with the results and more willing to follow what they are required to do.
Twin Cities Divorce Lawyers & Attorneys
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, then a trial is scheduled with the court. Generally, both of the parties will testify, as well as any professionals that were involved in the process. For example, if the value of the home is at issue, any professional that appraised the home would be examined. Also, if any issues of custody are at trial, generally a Guardian Ad Litem and/or a custody evaluator will testify, and any other individuals that will help to give the court a clear view of the situation.
The family law attorneys at Heimerl & Lammers are here to help you through this process. Contact our Minnesota family law firm today to see how we can help you. It often can become overwhelming and difficult to handle without the assistance of professionals. We are here to help guide you through the process, and we will make sure that you understand every step of the way. Call today for a free consultation in either of our twin cities locations, Maplewood or Edina. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Minneapolis, Minnesota divorce lawyer or attorney at (612) 294-2200 or in St. Paul at (651) 777-1811.