<< Back

Divorce FAQ

What is a 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.

What are the “grounds” for a divorce?

Marriage may be dissolved in Minnesota if either the husband or wife has been a resident of the state for at least 180 days and if the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” It is not necessary for both the husband and wife to agree on this in Minnesota; in other words, the court will grant a divorce if either one of the parties testifies that the marriage cannot be saved.

You need not prove other grounds such as abuse, infidelity, etc.

Are there alternatives to a divorce?

Yes. Under limited circumstances you may be entitled to a civil annulment. (This is not the same as a religious annulment. Questions on religious annulments should be referred to your church.) Also, some clients ask for a legal separation, which does most of the things that a divorce does, except terminate the marriage. There are some differences and you should ask your attorney to explain them if you are interested in this option. Many of our clients have saved their marriages by utilizing a variety of counseling services. We encourage you to speak to your attorney or paralegal if you are interested in seeking outside intervention to save your marriage. In most cases our clients have found personal counseling to be beneficial and we strongly encourage doing so.

Assuming I have decided I want to dissolve the marriage, what happens next?

A.  Collection of Information.  Your attorney and paralegal will collect a variety of information from you which is necessary to properly represent you. This may include information about your property, debts, living expenses, and income and pension plans. It may also include general family information such as information about your health and that of your children. At this time, you should discuss your goals and future plans.

Typically, this information will be collected on our standard office form. The more accurately you can supply this information, the better job we can do for you. If you are aware of special or unusual facts, you should be sure to call them to our attention. Organizing your documents can be time consuming. If you organize these materials before providing them to us it will save us time and it will save you money.

B.  Service of Petition. Next, we prepare a Summons and Petition. These are the legal documents necessary to start a divorce proceeding. When your spouse is “served” with (receives) these papers, the divorce proceeding is commenced. However, you only become divorced when the court administrator signs and enters the final divorce papers after they have been signed by a judge. Most divorce proceedings are started with the service of the Summons and Petition by a process server or a deputy sheriff. It may be that your spouse will save you the service fees by accepting these papers in the mail or coming in to our office to receive them. If you think your spouse will do this, you should mention this to your attorney. If you do not know where your spouse is, there is a process to serve by publication of the Summons in the newspaper. If your spouse is already represented by an attorney, they may accept service on your spouse’s behalf.

C.  Answer. After your spouse has been served with a Summons and Petition, he or she has 30 days to “Answer.” The same is true if you have been served with a Summons and Petition. An Answer is the legal paper by which your spouse responds to the divorce papers and tells us whether he or she agrees or disagrees with the various things you have requested. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to extend this 30 day answering period. Such an extension can be granted by your attorney or by the court for proper cause. If your spouse does not serve an Answer (or obtain an extension of time to answer), you may be eligible for a divorce by default. In a default situation, the court would ordinarily grant the divorce according to the terms requested in your Petition. Your attorney will advise you if this is appropriate in your circumstance.

D.  Restraining Provisions.  Once the Summons and Petition has been “served” you and your spouse are immediately prohibited from leaving the state with the minor children, hiding or disposing of assets, changing any insurance coverage or beneficiaries and harassing one another.

What happens if my spouse responds to the divorce Petition?

In many divorce cases, the two parties can agree on or “stipulate” to the terms of the divorce. They come to an agreement on all the issues of support, property, debt, custody and parenting time (visitation). If this happens, your attorney will prepare a legal document known as a “Marital Termination Agreement” which sets out the terms of your agreement. This document will be provided to you for your careful review. If both parties agree, it will be filed with the court and the court will grant the divorce consistent with the terms of this agreement.

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, then your case is “contested.” It is possible to agree on some issues (for example custody) but to disagree on others (for example support or property disposition). In these cases, it is sometimes possible to have an agreement accepted by the court on the agreed issues and to present the remaining issues for decision by the court. This is referred to as “bifurcation.” At Rinke Noonan, we encourage the parties to explore all possibilities for a reasonable settlement without unnecessary litigation.

Do I need a Temporary Order?

Early in your case, you and your attorney must decide whether you wish to request that the court issue a “Temporary Order.” A temporary order handles immediate problems which cannot wait until the divorce is finalized. For example, if you and your spouse cannot agree on who will take care of the children while the divorce case is going on, either of you may apply to the court for “temporary custody.” Similarly, you may ask the court to provide for temporary support, temporary occupancy of the family home, temporary parenting time (visitation), temporary payment of debts, or to provide rules to help prevent situations which could lead to physical abuse. A request for a Temporary Order entails the drafting of additional legal documents and at least one additional court appearance by your attorney. Therefore, the request for a Temporary Order entails substantial additional legal expense. If you think a Temporary Order may be necessary, you should discuss this with your attorney and weigh the benefit to be gained by a Temporary Order against the additional expense. The husband and wife can often informally agree to these arrangements without a written agreement or, if they wish, they can sign a written agreement allowing the court to sign a Temporary Order.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where you and your spouse meet with an individual trained in family law mediation. The mediator will try to identify concerns and suggest alternatives allowing you to reach an agreement. Sometimes the parties mediating meet in the same room or they may be in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth. Many mediators are attorneys; however, persons with other backgrounds may also serve as mediators. It is advised that the mediator be trained in family law mediation. Mediation is mandatory in most contested cases before going into court, unless domestic abuse is involved.

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.

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.