If your divorce is uncontested (meaning that you and your spouse agree on all of the issues), the divorce may be finalized in as little as a few weeks, depending on your specific situation.
If your divorce is contested (meaning that you and your spouse do not agree on all of the issues), the process can take three months, six months, a year, or longer. It will depend on the nature and complexity of issues that arise in your case, the ability of the parties to cooperate, how quickly financial information can be exchanged, and other factors that will be specific to your situation.
Technically speaking, you do not need to hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce. However, there are many documents and court appearances that will be necessary throughout the process. These can be difficult to accomplish alone and having an attorney on your side will help you understand the divorce process and protect your interests. Moreover, you may not understand the consequences of the agreement as it pertains to your situation once the divorce is final. For example, issues like custody, parenting time, and spousal maintenance are not final and the verbiage negotiated in your divorce decree can be very significant.
The cost of your divorce will depend on a number of factors, including, the complexity of your case, the attorney you hire, and the length of the process. As a result, the total cost of the process can be hard to predict.
Most attorneys will charge a “retainer fee” at the beginning of your representation and bill you at an hourly rate thereafter. A retainer is not a maximum or a minimum. There are also costs to consider such as, filing fees, mediation, etc. When you meet with an attorney, they will discuss your situation with you and have a better understanding of how much the process will cost. However, it is important to keep in mind that they will not be able to give you an exact figure. The most important question with respect to cost is not what the initial retainer may be but what the total cost would be for your case.
In Minnesota, the court uses a child support guidelines calculator through the Minnesota Department of Human Services to determine child support. There are three forms of child support: basic child support, child care support, and medical support.
Basic support is determined by looking at both parents’ incomes, as well as the amount of parenting time each parent spends with the minor child. Child care support can be awarded if the child is receiving child care due to the custodial parent’s work and/or education schedule. Usually, only one parent will be ordered to provide health insurance coverage for the minor child, however, both parents are often responsible for any uninsured medical and dental costs of the child based upon a percentage of their respective income.
For more on child support calculations, see here.
How retirement plans and benefits are divided in a divorce will depend on if they are non-marital or marital assets. If the Court finds that the retirement benefits are marital in nature (usually if they were acquired during the marriage or accumulated in part during the marriage), these assets will be divided equitably between the two parties. It is important to note that an “equitable” division is not necessarily an “equal” division. However, the starting point (subject to an adjustment upward or downward) is equal division of property.
For more on the division of retirement benefits in a divorce, see here.
Once you are served with Divorce papers (Summons and Petition), you should read the documents very carefully. This will help you understand what the issues are going to be in your divorce and what your spouse is asking for. Understand that Petition for Divorce is a document, which is needed to start a divorce and just because your spouse may be asking for everything or may appear unreasonable, it does not mean your spouse will actually get that result.
After you have read the documents, you should begin looking for an attorney to represent you during the process. Your attorney will help you respond to the papers, either through an Answer and Counter-Petition or simply by contacting your spouse’s attorney.
Once you have been served with Divorce papers, it is important to respond and act. A failure to respond may result in a “default,” which could mean that the divorce may be issued by the court without your input or further notice.
In the majority of divorce cases, you cannot move to another state with your child without a written agreement from the other parent. You will usually need the permission of the other parent or the court, depending on your custody arrangement.
If the other parent refuses to consent to the move, you will need to file a motion with the Court to get permission to move to another state with your child. The Court will then apply the statutory relocation best interest factors to determine whether or not the move is in the child’s best interests. For more on interstate child custody, see here.
No. Even if you believe that you and your spouse have agreed on all of the issues in your divorce, you are still opposing parties according to the court. This means that your interests are in conflict and an attorney cannot ethically represent both you and your spouse.
Legal custody refers to decision making for the child. This can include decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, healthcare, and other decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
Physical custody refers to the daily care of the child and where the child primarily resides. Physical custody is determined by evaluating the statutory best interests factors to determine what is best for the child. For more on legal custody and physical custody, see here.
Mediation is an important step in almost every family law case. It is a good way to understand what your spouse is looking for and where they are willing to compromise. If you reach an agreement at Mediation, you do not have to go through the time consuming and costly process of going to trial. For more on the mediation process, see here.
It is important to hire an attorney that is right for you, or else you will be out precious time and money and have to go through the process all over again. Hiring replacement counsel is extremely expensive, time consuming, and emotional—so finding the right attorney to start your case is extremely important.
You will want someone with knowledge, experience, and diligence to represent you throughout the process. It is also important to understand how you will be billed and what the retainer amount and hourly rates are for the individuals who will be working on your case. You want to make sure that you have an attorney who has the time to work on your case. You will want to hire someone who responds to you in a timely fashion, and who utilizes the time that he/she has with you to strengthen your case.
Ultimately, you may meet with multiple attorneys and decide (based on the above factors) which attorney is best for you.
The initial consultation is often free and presents an opportunity for you to ask all of the questions you may have for an attorney before you hire them. The attorney will also have questions for you. The initial consultation is a good opportunity to meet the attorney and make sure that you like their approach to representation and that you both are on the same page with how to move forward. If you hire an attorney without the initial consultation, you are both entering into an important relationship without fully understanding each other’s plan and goals for the process.