Divorce can be difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Taking that first step can be overwhelming. At Coleman Family Law, our goal is to assist you in making the divorce process easier while protecting your interests. You may represent yourself in a divorce, but navigating the legal maze can be challenging and add more stress without optimal results. A divorce is like any other aspect of your life and requires planning to ensure the best possible outcome. You need to figure out how two support two households instead of one, parenting schedules, child or spousal support among many other issues. Some divorces are complicated as there are issues with Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse or the parties own a business. You need to protect your assets and the best interest of your children. Coleman Family Law specializes in family law; its all we do. Just like selecting a home or a car, you want to ensure you have the right fit as all lawyers are not created equal. You need the knowledge, experience, and insight of a good family law attorney who is both empathetic and formidable and who will protect your rights and interests.
What Are the Requirements to File for Divorce?
Typically, the only requirement for a divorce in North Dakota or Minnesota is a residency one. The residency requirement varies state to state but it's usually 180 days (6 months).
What is the Divorce Process?
Each divorce proceeding is different because each situation is different. Some divorces are amicable and uncontested, making the process quicker, yet it can still be emotionally difficult. Divorces involving children and substantial assets are usually contested, making the process longer and more complicated. Keep this in mind when reviewing the below summary of the steps of a divorce.
Step 1. Identify Grounds for Divorce
You must identify the grounds for your divorce. In most cases, petitioners file no-fault divorces as irreconcilable differences.
Step 2. File the Divorce Complaint/Petition
If your divorce involves neither children nor assets and is uncontested, you may be able to get a divorce without the help of an attorney in Minnesota, North Dakota, or elsewhere. But there is specific information and specific forms that are required of you. A simple divorce is not always that simple. You must complete the appropriate forms; failure to do so may cause serious delays or leave your case pending.
You must file the divorce complaint/petition (depending on whether you are in North Dakota or Minnesota) and all accompanying paperwork with the Clerk of Courts at the District Court representing the county in which you live.
Dealing with the court can seem overwhelming for many people. All filings in both North Dakota and Minnesota are required to be done electronically through Odyssey. If you have an attorney representing your interests, your attorney will take care of filing the required divorce papers for you.
Step 3. Service of Spouse
Your spouse must be served with copies of the divorce Summons and Complaint/Petition. The service of process is required and gives your spouse the opportunity to answer the Complaint/Petition. The spouse can choose to contest it or otherwise participate in an amicable uncontested divorce process.
If you have an attorney, your attorney will take care of the service of process. If not, you should contact the Sheriff's Department; you should not attempt to give your spouse copies of the divorce papers yourself – especially if your spouse has ever been abusive.
Step 4. Spouse Answers Divorce Petition
At this stage of the process, your spouse has been served the divorce petition and has a certain number of days from the date of service to respond depending on whether you are in Minnesota or North Dakota. There are three things that could happen from this point:
- Your spouse doesn't answer the Complaint/Petition and the judge grants you the divorce via a default judgment;
- Your spouse answers and doesn't contest your terms and you are able to file a stipulated divorce with the Court; or
- Your spouse answers and contests the divorce petition, which means you must move on to the next step.
Step 5. Settlement and Discovery
During this step, many things could happen. In North Dakota, all family law cases involving children are ordered to participate in the Family Law Mediation Program, where you and your spouse try to work out your differences. Your attorney may also try negotiating with your spouse's attorney while both parties conduct discovery. Discovery is where information is requested and shared by both parties. In the end, if:
- an agreement is reached, the agreement will be submitted to the Court. A Judge may call a hearing to make sure you both understand the agreement before issuing a Judgment, or
- an agreement isn't reached and a hearing is set for trial.
Keep in mind that it is sometimes in your best interest to reach an agreement before trial. At trial, the judge makes the decisions for you which may be accompanied by risks as you will no longer have a say and will be required to abide by the Judgment.
Step 6. Trial & Divorce Decree
At trial, both sides present evidence, witnesses, and argue their case. The Judge will make the final determination and issue a divorce decree. The divorce decree confirms you are legally divorced and outlines the division of property and if there are children involved, sets a parenting plan.
What Issues Will I Need to Consider During my Divorce?
During your divorce, common issues that may arise include things like:
- parenting time
- child custody and visitation
- division of real estate property
- division of retirement
- division of other assets
- division of debts
- spousal support
- child support.
- There may be other issues to consider such as Safety Plans where there are domestic violence or substance abuse issues.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate all of the above issues while looking out for your best interest and the best interest of the children. The more complicated the divorce, the more likely and necessary it is that a divorce attorney is required and desired. Do not deal with high conflict on your own, hire an attorney who specializes in Family Law.
At Coleman Family Law, your family comes first. Pamela Coleman is an experienced, compassionate divorce attorney representing clients in North Dakota and Minnesota. Coleman Family Law will ensure your rights are represented and advocate strongly when required to attain the best possible outcome under the circumstances of your case. Contact Coleman Family Law today to schedule your free consult. The consult will provide you with your options and the required retainer to start your case.