Understanding the Traditional Divorce Process

Anding Law Office, P.A. offers clients the option of pursuing either a traditional (litigated) divorce or a collaborative divorce, depending on what is best for their circumstances and needs. Traditional divorce offers the structure of the court process with a final decision by a judicial officer if parties are unable to reach settlement.

A traditional divorce is generally commenced by one spouse having the other spouse personally served with a Summons and Petition issued in the Minnesota county where either spouse resides. The spouse who receives the Summons and Petition has thirty days in which to answer the petition.

When the case is filed in District Court, a judicial officer is assigned, and a meeting with that judicial officer is typically scheduled. The first meeting with the judicial officer is called an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). The judicial officer's involvement soon after filing encourages the parties and their attorneys (if represented) to focus on resolving and narrowing the contested issues that are barriers to settlement. Often there is agreement to participate in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, such as Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) or mediation, following the initial meeting with the judicial officer. The use of ADR early in a case can result in the more efficient, cost-effective resolution of disputes with greater satisfaction to the parties.

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) is a confidential, voluntary, evaluative process designed to facilitate prompt dispute resolution in custody, parenting time, and financial matters. In the ENE process parties and their counsel present the core of a disputed issue to an experienced neutral professional. The neutral then gives an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case in an effort to assist the parties in reaching resolution.

Mediation is a confidential, voluntary, facilitative process in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between parties to promote settlement. A mediator may not impose his or her own judgment on the issues for that of the parties.

If the parties do not reach settlement early in the divorce process, they will have an opportunity to pursue formal discovery of facts that will help them develop their case, and to retain experts, as appropriate, to perform forensic accounting services, custody and parenting time evaluations, and property and business valuations to help support their case. There is also an opportunity to ask the court to issue a temporary order for custody and parenting time, support, responsibility to pay certain bills, who can live in the family home, etc. This kind of request is made by bringing a motion for temporary relief.

If settlement is not reached after parties have had an opportunity to develop their case, the court will schedule a Pre-Trial Conference. The Pre-Trial Conference is yet another opportunity for the parties to attempt settlement. In some situations, the parties' attorneys will speak to the judicial officer presiding over the case. The attorneys will inform the court of the contested issues. If a case settles at the Pre-Trial Conference, the court will allow the parties to put their agreements on the record with a written agreement submitted after the fact. Matters that do not settle will be set for trial.

Typically, when a case is set for trial, the court will issue an order setting the date and time for trial, and setting forth deadlines for such things as the exchange of exhibits and witness lists. The length of a trial is directly tied to the number of issues in controversy, along with the complexity of those issues. The judge has 90 days to issue a written decision following the end of the trial.

Although the traditional process is the most well-known option for a divorce and other family law matters, it is not the only one. Anding Law Office offers clients a number of options for resolving divorce disputes, including Collaborative Divorce.

Experienced, Practical Guidance for Your Minnesota Divorce or other Family Law Matter

Anding Law Office, P.A. helps clients evaluate the costs and benefits, both financial and personal, of all decisions during the divorce process, so that they can make well-reasoned choices that will serve their best interests moving forward.

Located in Edina, Anding Law Office, P.A. serves the Greater Twin Cities area. If you are contemplating divorce, have been served with divorce papers, or are involved in another type of family law matter, contact Anding Law Office, P.A. for a free consultation.