In many ways, February is a month of romantic extremes. For example, February means Valentines Day, and it also means Divorce Month.
Typically, feuding couples bury the hatchet between Haloween and Thanksgiving in anticipation of the coming winter holidays. The truce usually lasts until mid or late January. At that point, the barrage of “Don’t forget to buy roses for your sweetheart” Valentines Day ads reaches a fevered pitch. Then, some of these unsatisfied spouses reflect on how bad their marriages have become. They want out, and they call a Buffalo family law attorney.
Fling Divorce in Wright County
Like many other jurisdictions, Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. Irreconcileable differences is the only grounds for marriage dissolution in the Gopher State. Marital fault, like adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, is usually irrelevant.
Unlike many other jurisdictions, there is no divorce waiting period in Minnesota. The law only requires that at least one spouse resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to the petition’s filing date.
The filing party must also notify the other party about the filing. If at all possible, personal service is best. A waiver of citation is the next best thing, but these waivers have some intricate technical requirements. In 2015, a New York judge allowed a divorce petitioner to serve her husband via Facebook, but another court later rescinded that order. As far as Buffalo family law attorneys are concerned, online service is not yet a reality.
Buffalo Family Law Attorneys and the Divorce Temporary Hearing
The temporary hearing usually occurs about two or three weeks after the petition is filed. The brief delay gives both sides ample time to retain a Buffalo family law attorney. Both sides need representation at this point, because the temporary hearing is a very critical point in the case.
At this hearing, the judge makes a lot of decisions based on very little evidence. So, arguments of counsel are critical. Some of these decisions include:
- Interim spousal support,
- Child custody and visitation arrangements,
- Temporary child support, and
- Temporary property division.
Technically, these orders automatically expire when the divorce becomes final. But as a practical matter, the judge often rolls the temporary orders into the final orders. To change this outcome, there must be dramatic new evidence. For example, a social services investigation might reveal a history of child abuse.
The Pretrial Process
Next comes the most time-consuming part of any marriage dissolution case. A lot of things happen between the temporary hearing and the case’s resolution.
Fundamentally, a marriage dissolution case is not about choosing a “winner” and a “loser.” Rather, the case must divide marital property in an equitable way and contain a parenting time plan which reflects the best interests of the children.
So, divorce cases always involve discovery. Sometimes, discovery involves a document exchange, and that’s about it. But in most cases, discovery is much more intense. In addition to document exchanges, there are things like:
- Oral depositions,
- A social services investigation,
- Long lists of questions that must be answered under oath, and
- Property inspections.
Discovery is especially protracted if a Buffalo family law attorney suspects that a spouse is concealing financial or other information from the other spouse.
Social Services Investigation
If parenting time is contested, most Wright County family law judges order social services investigations.
Typically, a government social worker talks to the parents, interviews the children, conducts at least one home inspection, speaks with witnesses, such as teachers or doctors, and reviews documents, such as school report cards and medical records. Based on all this evidence, the social worker prepares a report and files it with the court.
The social worker’s recommendation is not binding. But in many cases, the judge gives it considerable weight.
The vast majority of divorce cases settle out of court. Some settlements occur very early, perhaps even at the temporary hearing. Others take place very late, sometimes literally just before trial is about to begin. Mostly, however, settlement occurs once discovery is at least substantially complete.
If Buffalo family law attorneys cannot settle the case on their own, a trained mediator sometimes helps. This person is usually either a retired judge or a family law attorney who is unaffiliated with the case. If both parties participate with open minds and in good faith, mediation is successful about 75 percent of the time.
Agreed settlement is usually preferable to an emotional trial. Additionally, a negotiated settlement gives the parties more control over the outcome. As a result, voluntary compliance is a little higher. Finally, when problems crop up later, and they always do, the parties feel empowered to talk things out instead of running to court. That situation is better for everybody.
Speak with a Dedicated Lawyer
The divorce process is usually costly, both emotionally and financially. But an experienced Buffalo family law attorney from Carlson & Jones, P.A. can greatly minimize these costs. Call us today for a free consultation.