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Divorce & Family Law

Rinke Noonan’s family law attorneys provide support by listening, offering advice, answering questions thoroughly while keeping clients informed at all times. We work to avoid unnecessary paperwork or lengthy litigation, and strive to achieve prompt, successful results.

Divorce attorneys at Rinke Noonan handle amicable as well as contentious cases, and cases with complex financial issues as well as those with more straightforward financial situations. Our child custody attorneys have experience in representing individuals and families in all custody, child support, and visitation issues. Our custody attorneys are also experienced in the jurisdictional problem of cases in which the parties live in separate states.

Located in St. Cloud, family law attorneys at Rinke Noonan are experienced, compassionate, and responsive professionals here to help guide you.

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Key Concepts

Family Law and Divorce Key Concepts

Divorce

A marital dissolution is the modern name for “divorce.” A divorce terminates a marriage, distributes the property owned by husband and wife between them, decides who will have legal and physical custody of the children, apportions the debts between husband and wife, determines child support, and sets maintenance (formerly called alimony). After you are divorced, the marriage is ended and you can remarry.

Check out our Divorce FAQ

Child Custody

If you have children younger than age 18, the most perplexing issue you face is probably who the children are going to live with and who will make important decisions for them. Custody can be settled almost any way to which the parties are able to agree. At Rinke Noonan, we believe that every effort should be explored to obtain a custody agreement in a harmonious manner. If you cannot agree on your own or through mediation, the court will decide as described in the following paragraphs.

Check out our Child Custody FAQ

Child Support

In almost all cases where there are children younger than 18, one parent pays child support to the other. Once ordered, child support generally continues until the child is 18 and has graduated from high school. If the child is at least 18 and is emancipated, married, in the military, not attending high school, or the child is attending high school but has already reached age 20, support stops.

Check out our Child Custody FAQ

Spousal Maintenance

In Minnesota, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance” or “maintenance.” Quite often, maintenance is only for a set period of time (rehabilitative maintenance) such as for two or three years so as to allow the spouse some time to get back on his or her feet financially. In some cases, a permanent award of maintenance will be made. With a permanent award, maintenance would continue to be paid for an indefinite period, usually until the person receiving it dies or remarries, or perhaps the retirement of the person paying it. Whether a person is entitled to receive maintenance depends on many factors including:  (1) the person’s age and health, (2) length of marriage, (3) education, (4) work history, (5) each party’s income, (6) the amount of child support being paid, and (7) each party’s monthly budget based on their lifestyle prior to the divorce. There are no precise formulas or guidelines dictating the amount of maintenance to be paid. It varies in each situation. In many cases, the parties waive the right to maintenance. This is sometimes referred to as a “Karon Waiver.”  If this is done, maintenance cannot be obtained at a later date. In other cases, the parties reserve maintenance, which means that no maintenance is paid at the time of the divorce, but the court may later award maintenance if circumstances change.

Check out our Spousal Maintenance FAQ

Personal Property and Real Estate

In Minnesota some property is considered to be “marital property” while other property is considered to be “non-marital property.” “Marital property” includes most property which is acquired during the marriage regardless of which party earned the money used to purchase the item. Marital property is usually divided as close to 50/50 in value as possible. Naturally, it is necessary to determine what your assets are worth. This can be done by agreement between the parties or by hiring someone who is qualified to appraise the value of the various items to determine what they are worth. The value of your property is what it could be sold for now rather than its original cost or replacement cost. The basic approach is to determine what all of the property together is worth. Sometimes one party will receive property of a greater value than the other and a cash award is necessary to equalize the division.

Check out our Divorce and Personal Property and Real Estate FAQ

Miscellaneous FAQ

Miscellaneous Questions About Divorce

How long will it take before my divorce is final?

As previously stated, the divorce is not final until the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree (often called decree or divorce decree) has been signed by the judge and signed and filed by the court administrator. In Minnesota, this must be at least 30 days from the date on which you or your spouse receives (is served with) the Summons and Petition. The purpose of this 30-day period is to allow time to respond to the statements and requests made in the Petition. In most cases, however, it takes longer than this for the decree to be finalized.

If you do not have any children, real estate, substantial property or major debts to divide, the whole process might take eight to twelve weeks. In more typical situations, there is at least some property to divide and a period of three to six months would be more likely.

If there is any dispute which arises regarding custody of the children, support, or division of property or debts, the process can take much longer. If it is necessary to go through a trial, you should expect it to take at least six to nine months. Again, there are exceptions where it may take less or more time.

How much will my divorce cost?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions and one of the most difficult to answer. The cost can range from a thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or so depending on numerous factors. We can tell you how much it will cost to prepare the Summons and Petition and to have it served upon your spouse. However, at that point, the cost is going to depend in large part upon how you and your spouse act. There are numerous factors which can affect the cost of your divorce. This includes whether there is a need for a temporary hearing, if there is a custody dispute, and how much property is involved. Another very important factor is the couple’s cooperation with one another and cooperation between you and your attorney. If your spouse attempts to fight you every step of the way, the cost will go up. Also, if you do not promptly respond to your attorney’s requests for information, it requires that extra time be spent getting information from you and your cost will rise accordingly. You can help keep your costs down by providing information to your attorney promptly in an organized fashion rather than say just providing a box full of documents and asking your attorney to sort through them.

At Rinke Noonan, you will be billed at an hourly rate. You will receive monthly billings showing what work was performed and at what cost. Some of the work will be performed by a paralegal under your attorney’s supervision. The paralegal’s work is billed at a lower hourly rate than your attorney’s work. You can help keep the cost of your divorce down by dealing with the paralegal when it is appropriate. However, if you have any questions which involve a legal opinion, you should ask to speak with your attorney. In any event, you should never hesitate to ask to speak with your attorney if you wish to do so.

One common misconception is that a client is not billed for telephone calls or email with their attorney. Attorneys charge for their time, including most telephone calls and reviewing or replying to emails. When your attorney speaks with you, it is usually necessary to take notes and then to put those notes in your file. This requires time beyond that actually time spent on the telephone. You should not be discouraged from talking with your attorney. However, when possible you should consolidate your questions or information so that you do not increase your cost unnecessarily.

If you are comfortable using email, this may be an effective way to communicate with your attorney or paralegal. Using email to ask questions, relay information or send documentation can be quicker and less expensive than telephone calls or mail.

In addition to the hourly rate, you will have to pay for any “costs” that are incurred by Rinke Noonan on your behalf. This includes the cost of having the sheriff or other process server serve papers on your spouse as well as other things such as the fee that the court charges in order to file your divorce papers. In recent years, these costs have increased dramatically. Your attorney or paralegal will explain this to you. There are some lower income situations where your attorney may ask the court to allow you to proceed “in forma pauperis.” This means that you would not have to pay fees for a sheriff’s service or filing fees. Your attorney can tell you whether your income is such where you might be eligible.

In most cases, it will be necessary for you to provide your attorney with a lump sum payment prior to initiating the divorce action. This is called a “retainer” and the amount varies with the complexity of the case. As a general rule, if there are substantial assets or a custody dispute involved, the amount of the retainer will be larger than if it is a fairly simple divorce. Any retainer amount not needed to cover your legal fees and costs will be returned to you. We may choose to hold part of your retainer payment to be applied toward your final bill. If the retainer (except any portion held back) is used up, you will need to pay your bill in full each month unless you have a specific agreement to do otherwise. Remember, a retainer is not an agreement to complete the divorce for that amount. It is more of a down payment toward the total cost.

What information will my attorney require in order to start the divorce action?

In order to do the best job for you, your attorney needs to have a complete listing of all of the things you own, their value, and all of your debts. As much of this information as possible should be brought to your first meeting with your attorney. Again, providing this information in an organized manner may save you attorney fees. You should be prepared to provide your attorney with the following:

  • Tax returns for the past three to five years with all attachments such as W-2’s and 1099’s
  • Five or six recent pay stubs for you and your spouse showing all deductions.
  • Most recent six months statements on checking and savings accounts.
  • Current account statements for 401(k)’s, IRA’s, annuities and other retirement funds.
  • Information about your own and your spouse’s employment benefits, espe­cially details of pensions, retirement or profit sharing plans.
  • Information regarding health insurance coverage and its cost.
  • Personal financial statements provided to banks for the purpose of borrowing.
  • Deeds, contracts for deed, and other documents involving real estate and mortgages. We will need accurate legal descriptions for all of your land. Property tax statements are not a reliable means of getting them. The deed or a copy of the cover page of your title abstract is needed.
  • Documentation showing the value of any major asset which you may own.
  • Corporate or partnership tax returns and financial statements.
  • A list of your existing debts.
  • Most recent six months charge account statements.
  • Copies of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.

In addition, in all cases involving maintenance or child support, your attorney will need to have a detailed breakdown of your monthly expenses. Your attorney or your paralegal can provide you with a form to assist you with this. You may be able to determine your monthly expenses just by using this form or it might be necessary for you to refer to your checkbook and credit card statements to see where your money really goes. If spousal maintenance is involved, we would like copies of documents showing the previous 12 months of all recurring expenses such as utility bills, credit cards and checkbook ledgers or other documents showing money spent in the previous 12 months.

Should I draft a Will or amend my existing Will?

Once your divorce is final, you should consider making a Will or, if you already have one, amending your current Will. Even though your divorce automatically revokes any provisions in your current Will for your ex-spouse, you might wish to remove any references to him or her. Also if you have minor children, your Will should designate either a guardian, custodian, or trustee (presumably other than your ex-spouse) to manage any assets which your child or children might inherit as minors. This work would be separate from your divorce and is generally done for a specific set fee. We will provide you with the name of an attorney at Rinke Noonan to discuss these issues with.
Is this process the same in all counties?

There are some differences in court proceedings depending on what county your divorce is (venued) in. Counties in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area may use referees rather than judges in some court hearings. Your attorney can explain how the process works in your county.

Some final thoughts.

We hope that this information explains the divorce process and answers many of your questions about what is involved in obtaining a divorce. However, your attorney can explain these issues in greater detail or answer any additional questions which you might have, and your attorney would be happy to do so.

At best, going through a divorce is a difficult and trying time. At worst, it can become a nightmare. At Rinke Noonan, we try to help take the worries away from you and assure you that all of the issues are being handled in a thorough and professional manner. One of the worst things that can happen is to go through a divorce and then have problems arise later due to poor choices which were made or questions which went unanswered. We make every attempt to assure that this does not happen by trying to address not only the issues and problems which presently face you, but any that might arise in the future.

Because this is a difficult time, we would be more than happy to provide you with the names of various counselors in the area to help you deal with the personal concerns you may have. It has been our experience that counseling helps the parties cope with this difficult period in their lives. Finally, we will attempt to cooperate, if possible, with your spouse. We have found that even though your spouse is the opposing party, dealing with him or her or their attorney in a professional and realistic manner is the best way to come to a speedy resolution that you will be happy with both now and in the future. We look forward to being of service to you.

Once your divorce is final, you should consider making a Will or, if you already have one, amending your current Will. Even though your divorce automatically revokes any provisions in your current Will for your ex-spouse, you might wish to remove any references to him or her. Also if you have minor children, your Will should designate either a guardian, custodian, or trustee (presumably other than your ex-spouse) to manage any assets which your child or children might inherit as minors. This work would be separate from your divorce and is generally done for a specific set fee. We will provide you with the name of an attorney at Rinke Noonan to discuss these issues with.

Once your divorce is final, you should consider making a Will or, if you already have one, amending your current Will. Even though your divorce automatically revokes any provisions in your current Will for your ex-spouse, you might wish to remove any references to him or her. Also if you have minor children, your Will should designate either a guardian, custodian, or trustee (presumably other than your ex-spouse) to manage any assets which your child or children might inherit as minors. This work would be separate from your divorce and is generally done for a specific set fee. We will provide you with the name of an attorney at Rinke Noonan to discuss these issues with.

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