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Key Divorce Concepts in Minnesota

Nov 4, 2021 | Kathleen M. Newman

In Minnesota, a divorce proceeding has many legal concepts often foreign to non-lawyers.   While effectively representing clients for past thirty-five years, Family Law attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt law firm explains the legal concepts so clients can make sound decisions in their cases.      

Some key divorce concepts clients need to know:

1.  The Summons and Petition are the legal documents filed by the spouse who starts the divorce proceeding and contains facts, such as legal names, residences, names of children and property and income information as well as the relief that spouse is requesting concerning those issues.   When a spouse is served with a Summons and Petition, they are required to file an Answer and Counter Petition stating their version of the facts and the relief they are requesting within 30 days.

2.  Temporary Motions.  Once a divorce is filed, parties to the divorce may need relief  on issues like home occupancy, child support, spousal maintenance and attorney’s fees.  If the parties cannot agree on these issues, then a Temporary Motion is filed with the court, and a court order will be issued addressing these matters on a temporary basis.

3.  Alternate Dispute Resolution.  The Family Court encourages the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve both temporary and permanent issues in a divorce.  This includes the use of a Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE) a Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE) or Mediation.  All of these ADR processes involve meetings with mediators, the parties and their attorneys to work together to find a solution without involving the court.

4. A Divorce Decree is the legal document the Family Court judge approves resolving custody, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property, debt, and attorney’s fees.  A Divorce Decree is either the result of an agreement between the spouses or the result of a trial where a judge makes the decisions.

5. Spousal Maintenance is a court ordered obligation to pay money to help support a spouse; spousal maintenance may be temporary or permanent.  Similarly, Child Support is a court-ordered obligation to pay money to a spouse to cover a child’s needs like food, clothing, housing, education and medical care.

6. A Legal Separation is a court-ordered agreement where spouses stay married but live separate lives, usually, but not necessarily, having separate residences. The agreement addresses child custody and parenting time, child support and spousal maintenance and temporary allocation of property without a final division of property.

7. No-Fault Divorce is the concept that getting a divorce does not require wrongdoing by a spouse, but merely proof of an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” meaning that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Take-away:  Ending a marriage is a complex matter involving legal concepts usually foreign to everyone but skilled and experienced family law attorneys such as Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt law firm.  Call Kathleen at 612-305-1400 when you need advice concerning your legal rights regarding ending your marriage.


Minn. Stat. §§ 518.002, 518.06, 518.13, 518.552, and 518A.26.

Hollander v. Hollander, 359 N.W.2d 55, 56 (Minn. App. 1984).