A Closer Look At The Divorce Process
If you are considering divorce within the traditional court system in Minnesota, the following outline of the stages of a divorce may help you understand the process and your options:
Initial Summons, Petition Or Answer
- A divorce case is commenced by serving a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on one’s spouse.
- The spouse then has 30 days to serve the Petitioner with an Answer to the Petition, and if he or she wishes, a Counter-Petition. The requirement of serving an Answer is often waived if the parties express an interest in resolving disputed issues through negotiations.
- Either party may file the Summons and Petition or Answer and Counter-Petition with the court at any time. Once pleadings are filed, the matter is assigned to a judge or referee. In Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka counties, the assigned judge will be responsible for all aspects of the case until its conclusion.
Early Case Management Program, ENE And ADR
- Several counties in Minnesota have now adopted the Early Case Management (ECM) program, including Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Dakota counties.
- The first appearance in court in such counties is called an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). At an ICMC the parties and their attorneys meet the judge assigned to their case, and identify a process for resolving disputes so as to avoid prolonged and expensive litigation.
- Processes that can be used for resolution of disputes include early neutral evaluations for both financial and social issues, divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.
- While the parties are engaging in an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, the court holds periodic conference calls with counsel to obtain status updates.
- If the parties resolve all issues through an Alternative Dispute Resolution process, the attorneys prepare the necessary legal paperwork that is signed by the parties and attorneys and sent to the court. No additional court hearings are generally needed.
Pretrial Conference And Trial
- If the parties are unable to resolve all disputed issues, the court will schedule a pretrial conference where disputed issues are identified, along with possible witnesses for trial.
- A trial date is then set. Parties generally continue attempting to settle following a pretrial conference, usually through negotiations between attorneys. If settlement is not reached, attorneys prepare and assist their clients with preparing for trial.