Q:        Should I hire an attorney to represent me in my divorce?

A: A contested divorce is a complicated process. By hiring an attorney, you will have someone that is looking out for your best interest and who has a thorough understanding of the law and all of its complexities.

Q:        What does “no-fault” divorce mean?

A: Minnesota is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that the Court is not concerned about who causes a marriage to break up. In other words, the Court is not all that concerned about infidelity, addiction or abuse – unless the children are impacted.

Q:        What is the divorce process like?

A: Some divorces are simple and can be handled with minimal court involvement. However, most are complex. In those cases, the divorce process is as follows:

Step 1: One spouse contacts a lawyer, who prepares a Summons and Petition, which is the legal document that starts the divorce.

Step 2: The Summons and Petition is served on the other spouse and filed with the Court.

Step 3: The served spouse must respond within thirty days or it will be assumed that he or she does not contest the Petition, in which case the Petitioner will be granted the requested relief. The response, or answer, from the served spouse must express the relief that the answering spouse requests.

Step 4: The parties, through their attorneys, engage in discovery in which the parties will exchange all documents and other information relevant to deciding the issues in the divorce such as property division, spousal maintenance, child support, etc.

Step 5: Generally, the parties will be required to submit the matter to mediation in an attempt to reach a settlement. If a settlement is reached, the agreement is submitted to the Court and the Court will issue a divorce decree.

Step 6: If a settlement is not reached, the case will go to trial where the attorneys present evidence and arguments and the judge decides the issues and grants the divorce.

Step 7: Either or both parties can appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court.

Q:        What kinds of assets are divided in a divorce?

A: The divorce will result in a division of all marital property owned by the parties. Marital property generally includes most of the property the couple acquired during the marriage. For example, the marital home, furnishings, artwork, vehicles, financial assets, retirement accounts, etc.

Q:        How will the Court divide assets?

A: The Court has broad power to divide marital property equitably. The court considers many factors in distributing property and determining liability for debt repayment.

Q:        Do I still have a legal obligation to creditors if my spouse assumed the debt as part of the divorce?

A: If you are jointly liable to the creditor, your contract with the creditor exists notwithstanding any provisions of the divorce decree and you are still responsible if your spouse fails to pay the debt.

Q:        What if the house or car is titled in my spouse’s name?

A: As a general rule, it does not matter who holds title to a piece of property. Rather, it is the nature of the acquisition that matters. Generally, property purchased or paid for during the marriage will have a marital component subject to an equitable division. The exception to this rule involves non-marital property – property that is acquired by one spouse, alone, as a gift or inheritance during the marriage, or property they brought into the marriage.

Q:        Under what circumstances will the Court award spousal maintenance (alimony)?

A: Whether maintenance is awarded depends on a number of factors, such as, the length of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the relative incomes of the parties and their respective needs, and the emotional and physical health of the parties. The payments may be made for a period of time or may be paid indefinitely.