Are you thinking about obtaining a divorce, but have no idea how the process works? A divorce can take several paths. If you and your spouse generally agree to obtain a divorce and agree to the terms of the divorce, the divorce will remain amicable and will proceed through the Court process relatively quickly. If you and your spouse do not get along and/or one of you really does not the divorce, the proceedings will likely be contested and litigated, which usually means the process will take longer and will likely be more expensive. Regardless of whether the divorce is amicable or contested, there are some basic procedures that normally must be followed and some basic documents that need to be filed with the Court.
The divorce is commenced by one spouse preparing and personally serving on the other spouse a "Summons" and "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage." The spouse who initiates the divorce is considered the "Petitioner;" the other spouse would then be considered the "Respondent." If the Respondent agrees that the divorce may be commenced, he or she is able to sign an "Acknowledgment of Service" in lieu of being personally served with the Summons and Petition.
Once served (or after the Respondent has signed an Acknowledgement of Service), the Respondent has 30 days to formally serve an "Answer" or "Answer and Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" on the Petitioner. It is common practice for the Respondent to simply request, and the Petitioner to grant an indefinite extension of time to formally Answer the Petition. If the parties intend to do this, it must be in writing.
The Summons and Petition are then usually filed with the Court by the Petitioner. The Court will then schedule an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). The various counties in Minnesota handle the ICMC process differently. But, the ICMC is just that, the initial court hearing in the divorce process. If the parties have reached any agreements at the time of the ICMC, they may read those agreements into the Court record at that time. Frequently at the ICMC, the parties agree to participate a form of alternative dispute resolution/mediation. One form of alternative dispute resolution that many Minnesota counties implement, is Early Neutral Evaluations (ENE). There are both Social Early Neutral Evaluations (SENE) that deal with custody and parenting time, and Financial Early Neutral Evaluations (FENE) that deal with all the financial issues involved in the divorce, including child support and spousal maintenance.
If the parties are able to reach and agreement as part of the ENE process (or basic mediation), the parties will incorporate that agreement into a document titled "Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree." This document gets signed by both spouses and their attorneys (if they have attorneys), and then gets submitted to the Court for a Judge to review, sign and file.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement at the ENE or mediation, then the divorce will get scheduled for a pretrial with the Court. The pretrial is another opportunity to try to reach an agreement, but if no agreement can be reached the spouses and their attorneys will schedule a trial and trial deadlines at the pretrial.
If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement at any point during the divorce process, then it must proceed to a trial. At the trial, the spouses will testify before the Judge, present exhibits and request that the Judge issue an Order on all the remaining disputed issues.
Other areas of this website go into further details on many of the specific processes and documents referenced above. If you have any additional questions regarding the divorce process, or whether you are contemplating a divorce, contact Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll, PLLC for a confidential no-cost consultation.