Divorce can be a difficult and stressful process, even in amicable situations. Navigating the maze of legal issues is confusing for many separating couples. To make matters more complicated, there few hard-and-fast rules and rarely any black-or-white answers. Instead, the outcome of important matters such as property division, alimony and child custody hinges on the unique circumstances of your family.
It's still helpful to learn about the general legal framework of divorce in Minnesota. Below you will find general guidance on some of the most common questions divorcing couples face. However, as with any legal issue, make sure you consult with a lawyer about the specifics of your situation.
1. Are any grounds required for divorce?
Historically, courts would only grant a divorce if one spouse could prove the other's wrongdoing - for example, by presenting evidence of adultery, abuse or failure to support. Fortunately, those times are long past. Minnesota is now a no-fault state, which means you don't have to prove fault-based grounds to get a divorce. It's enough to assert that irreconcilable differences caused the marriage to break down.
2. How does property division work?
Some states divide the marital property 50-50. Minnesota takes a different approach. Called equitable distribution, this method is more nuanced and comprehensive, with the aim that each spouse walks away with an award of marital property that's fair and just in light of all the circumstances.
Courts take a wide range of factors into account when making property determinations, including:
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and health of both spouses
- The earning capacity and financial resources of both spouses (including any separate property that's not subject to division)
- Each spouse's contribution to the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the marriage as a homemaker
Given the individualized nature of these factors, it's not a formulaic approach.
3. What are the rules regarding child custody?
This is one area of family law where there is a hard-and-fast rule: The best interests of the children always come first.
Applying that rule, however, is far from straightforward. Courts must weigh a wide range of considerations. Generally speaking, children do best when they have ongoing contact with both parents. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean a 50-50 time-sharing arrangement. Instead, it depends on what works best for your family - and what will best serve the needs of the children.
4. Is child support required?
Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children. During divorce, child support is a critical piece of the financial picture. Courts impose support obligations based on statutory guidelines that take into account:
- The income of both parents
- The educational, medical and daycare needs of the child
- The family's standard of living during the marriage
- The existing child custody arrangement
Sometimes, additional factors come into play - self-employment, special needs, loss of an income stream and other special circumstances. These situations may require departing from the presumptive amount set by the guidelines.
Have more questions?
If you're considering (or already facing) divorce, chances are, you have a million questions. And that's understandable. Your life - and the lives of your spouse and children - will soon be undergoing a seismic shift. That's why it's so important to sit down with a knowledgeable family law attorney and get answers to all of your questions before moving forward.