Getting divorced is one of the most stressful events a person can experience. It’s been found to be more stressful than the death of a close family member, being fired, or going to prison. But then you already knew that, didn’t you? You’re dealing with the emotions caused by the end of one of the most significant relationships in your life, plus you’re worried about all the consequences: how will it affect your children? Will you get custody of them? Will you receive enough child support or have to pay a crippling amount of child support? Will you have to move? Will you be able to sustain your current lifestyle? Will you end up spending money you don’t have just to get the divorce?
Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. You’re not the first person to be in this situation. Not by a long shot. 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce (called a “dissolution of marriage” in Minnesota). And not all divorces are ugly, expensive, life-destroying events. They certainly don’t have to be. In fact, your life may even improve after the divorce as you’ll have the opportunity to begin an entirely new phase of your life. A phase KMH wants to make sure you’re prepared for in every possible way.
KMH believes that no one (besides lawyers) benefits from expensive, protracted divorce proceedings. KMH strives to settle all divorce issues as efficiently, amicably and inexpensively as possible while still advocating passionately on your behalf, keeping you out of an expensive courtroom battle if at all possible. Of course, it takes both parties cooperating to proceed amicably and if out of court negotiations fail, KMH is prepared to zealously defend your interests in the courtroom. In fact, with years of litigation experience under our belt, we flourish in a courtroom arena.
When you walk into our office for your free initial consultation, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and anxious. We’ll sit down and listen while you describe the unique facts of your case and explain which issues matter most to you. We’ll review any documents you’ve received so you’ll have a clear understanding of their legal implications. We’ll explain all of the options for addressing the issues in your case and the pros and cons of each option. With your input, we’ll formulate a strategy tailored to addressing the issues in the most effective and efficient way so that when you walk out the door, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you have a solid game plan for moving forward and an advocate firmly in your corner.
You will also have the assurance that regardless of whether your case is straightforward and uncontested or complicated and contentious, you will not be prey to out of control expenses. In addition to providing flexible fee options tailored to what works best for you (See Fee Options), KMH has many tools in its toolbox to keep costs down and make sure that you remain in control of your case.
Overview of Minnesota Marriage Dissolution Law
The simplest and least expensive type of divorce is an uncontested divorce. A divorce is “uncontested” if you and your spouse can agree on all the issues related to your divorce, such as who will have custody of the kids, how much time the other parent will spend with them, how your debts and assets will be divided, and how much support will be paid.
In Minnesota, there are two ways you can obtain a divorce if its uncontested: through a “summary dissolution” procedure or by filing a “joint petition.”
Summary Dissolution Process
One way to control divorce costs is to use a stream-lined process called a “Summary Dissolution.” Under Minnesota law, if you’ve been married fewer than 8 years, didn’t have any children during the marriage, don’t own a house and don’t have a lot of other property to divide, you can dissolve your marriage by preparing and filing divorce papers with the court and having the judge sign them.
You may qualify for a summary dissolution if:
- You didn’t have or adopt any children during the marriage (and the wife isn’t pregnant);
- You’ve been married fewer than 8 years;
- Neither you nor your spouse own any real estate;
- You and your spouse haven’t incurred more than $8,000 of debt during the marriage (not including car loans);
- You and your spouse don’t own assets worth more than $25,000, including any net equity in your cars;
- Neither you nor your spouse owned assets worth more than $25,000 before the marriage; and
- Neither you nor your spouse has domestically abused the other.
If all of these conditions are met, dissolving your marriage should be simple and straightforward. In fact, if you meet the requirements for a Summary Dissolution, KMH may handle your entire divorce from start to finish for as little as $500. See Fee Options for more information about fees.
If you don’t meet all of these conditions, but agree on all divorce issues, you may still be able to use the second Minnesota uncontested divorce process, a joint petition for divorce. To you use this procedure, you must agree about who will have joint and physical custody and how much parenting time each parent will have, whether and how much child support will be paid, who will be responsible for medical expenses, how assets and debts will be divided, and on whether and how much spousal maintenance will be paid. If you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement about these issues and are thus able to file a joint petition, you will likely get a much quicker resolution, save yourselves much of the cost of attorney’s fees and avoid the stress and anxiety of a contested dissolution action.
Even if you and your spouse don’t agree on all the issues relating to your divorce, you may still be able to obtain a divorce fairly inexpensively because Minnesota courts strongly encourage parties to resolve issues on their own if at all possible. To that end, Minnesota has many “alternative dispute resolution” processes to help parties settle their disputes without having a full blown, costly trial.
After a divorce action is filed, there is an Initial Case Management Conference where the parties have an opportunity to try to resolve their issues. If they can’t reach an agreement about custody or parenting time, the court will appoint a social early neutral evaluator to try to help them reach a settlement with respect to those issues. If there are unresolved financial disputes, the court will appoint a financial early neutral evaluator to help resolve them.
Parties can also avoid costly litigation by using alternative dispute resolution techniques such as mediation and arbitration. Mediation is an informal process in which the parties go into separate rooms and a neutral third party facilitates communication between the parties to assist them in reaching an agreement.
Arbitration is a more trial-like process that takes place in front of an arbitrator chosen by the parties. It can be binding or non-binding, whichever the parties prefer. Both of these procedures can save the parties substantial time and money.