Q:

What’s the first step to filing for divorce in Minnesota?

A:

In order to start the divorce process in Minnesota, a petition for divorce must be prepared, signed under oath and served on the other partner by an uninvolved third party. The other partner has a limited amount of time to respond, either by agreeing to the terms written out in the petition or by offering alternatives. At least one spouse must have lived in Minnesota for at least 180 days before the couple is eligible to file for divorce.

Q:

How long will a divorce take?

A:

The amount of time it takes to complete a divorce is dependent on the spouses and how well they are able to cooperate and negotiate the terms. The more agreeable they are, the quicker the divorce will be. A case will certainly take much longer if terms have to be settled in court. The best way to settle your case quickly and as painlessly as possible is to do so outside of court, through cooperation and compromise. Understand that rarely will both parties be 100 percent happy with the outcome of a divorce.

Q:

What is uncontested divorce?

A:

An uncontested divorce can be granted to couples who are in complete agreement with the terms of the divorce. This includes spousal support (alimony), child custody, child support, tax exemptions and deductions, the division of assets, debts and other property and any other divorce-related component. There are different types of uncontested divorce, and the type of dissolution depends on the couple’s individual situation. For example, a summary dissolution is best for couples with no children or little property, while dissolution by joint petition is the preferred method for those with children and/or substantial assets

Q:

Are there alternatives to divorce in Minnesota?

A:

Yes. Minnesota courts recognize a few different means of separation from a spouse, including annulments and legal separations. If you’re not quite ready to be fully independent of your spouse, or if you are against divorce for moral or other reasons, you may file for a legal separation. A legal separation is not a divorce but carries the same characteristics, such as living apart and deciding terms of child custody and child support. The only difference with a legal separation is that the couple remains legally married. Annulments can be granted under certain circumstances, such as fraud or misrepresentation, unsound mind at the time of the marriage, or if one party was forced to marry the other. A good family law attorney can help you decide what form of separation is right for you.

Q:

Who gets custody of the children in a divorce?

A:

In Minnesota, the courts try to award custody based on what will suit the children’s best interests. They take into consideration the relationship the child has with each parent, the financial status and situation of each parent and whether or not there is any evidence of violence or abuse in the household. Parents may be granted either joint or sole legal or physical custody. Joint custody is the preferred situation, in which both parents are equally responsible for decisions about how to raise the children and how their day-to-day activities will be laid out. Sole custody is usually only awarded in the case of one parent is unable to care for the children, or when it would be detrimental to the children’s health to be with a parent.

Q:

What if I’m not happy with the terms of custody?

A:

If you are unhappy with the terms of child custody, child support or visitation orders, you may file a Motion for Review or motion for modification with the courts. The time limits and circumstances for making such motions are strictly limited. Therefore, careful and prompt action must be taken upon issuance of an order. Since appeals to the Court of Appeals are rarely granted and modification of orders is difficult, it is important to get matters resolved properly as early in the process as possible with the assistance of a skilled family law attorney.

Q:

What are the child support guidelines in Minnesota?

A:

Many variables are factored into determining who will pay child support and how much will be paid to the other parent. The monthly income of each parent, the potential income for each parent, benefits the children may receive, spousal maintenance, the cost of healthcare and childcare and other variables may be considered. Court-ordered parenting time, better known as visitation, is also considered when calculating basic support. Speak with a family law lawyer about your unique situation so you can know what to expect before you go to court.

Q:

My partner and I have never been married but we have a child together. What are our separation options?

A:

Child custody and child support are determined the same way for unmarried couples as it is for married couples in Minnesota. As long as the father of the child has claimed parentage by signing a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) form at the child’s birth, the same processes apply for determining custody and support. An unmarried father of a child has no legal rights to that child until he legally establishes parenthood with the courts.

Q:

What’s the importance of an estate plan?

A:

Having an estate plan is a step to safeguarding your assets for the future. Preparing a will is one of the most important steps you can take in life and isn’t limited only to the elderly or those with an abundance of assets. Everyone can and should establish an estate plan, because the unexpected is going to happen, and you want to be legally prepared when it does. Your will is going to be the last legal rights you have following your death and ensures that everything will be taken care of according to your wishes. An estate plan can also name someone to make decisions in case of incapacitation or care for children if you are no longer able to. Frank T. Mabley, Attorney at Law has helped clients develop tailored estate plans in Minnesota for more than 40 years.

Q:

How are wills and trusts different?

A:

Wills and trusts are both important estate planning tools. The main difference is that trusts are effective the moment they are created, while a will can only go into effect following the person’s death. Trustees, or the beneficiaries named in a trust, are granted power over the items transferred to the trust once it has been established. A will can dictate how the property will be divided among survivors. However, only property that is in the name of the deceased is covered in a will; joint property is not counted.

Trusts can also be created by the will to come into effect at the time of death to manage assets for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries to whom you might prefer not to give immediate management of the assets to.

Family law is a complicated area of practice. If you have any other questions or would like to speak with a skilled Minnesota family law attorney about your individual situation, call Frank T. Mabley, Attorney at Law at (651) 636-7696 to set up a free initial consultation.