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What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce in Minnesota?
A legal separation allows a spouse to file legal papers requesting child custody, child support, a division of debts and assets, as well as spousal maintenance, or what used to be known as alimony, while the bonds of marriage remain in place. The spouses remain married. While those with strong religious beliefs or those hoping to save the marriage may prefer a legal separation, it is rarely used. A divorce, or dissolution of marriage, is identical to a legal separation but the bond of marriage is dissolved allowing the spouses to remarry. Legal separations often turn into divorce so most people choose to forgo a legal separation.
Are there specific reasons I have to prove why a divorce should be granted?
No. Minnesota is a no-fault state meaning no reason must be given or proven for a divorce to be granted. There are some states where fault must be alleged and proven, such as abuse or adultery, but not in Minnesota. A judge does not ask the parties why they are divorcing or if they think they can get back together. While the parties do not need a reason to divorce, no one ever enters into a divorce lightly or on a whim.
What is spousal maintenance?
Spousal maintenance, what is formerly called alimony, is money one spouse pays to the other to keep the standard of living obtained during the marriage after the divorce. Spousal maintenance and child support are not the same. Child support is for the food, shelter and clothing of a child; spousal maintenance supports a former spouse who cannot earn enough to pay the bills or a former spouse who is going to get very little property in a divorce. Minnesota law requires a judge to weigh and compare multiple factors when determining if spousal maintenance is necessary including how much should be paid and for how long. One is best served talking to a divorce lawyer to delve further into this issue.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a useful process where the spouses or parents meet with a neutral third person to try to resolve their legal issues, such as the division of debts and assets and custody matters. Mediation is less expensive and less time consuming than a trial or a prolonged court case. The mediator helps the parties create an agreement rather than making a judge, who does not know the parties, decide where the children are going to live, who sees the children for holidays and how the debts and assets are going to be divided. Mediators, who do not have to be attorneys, charge an hourly rate that is split between the parties.
How do we start our divorce?
Often couples are able to divorce with little to no conflict. An uncontested divorce, or one where the spouses have worked out their issues on their own, can be completed much faster and at a fraction of the cost of a contested divorce. There are times when a couple attends mediation to resolve their legal issues. The couple can retain a divorce lawyer to draft the necessary documents to complete the divorce or the forms can be obtained from Court Administration for a small fee.
We do have more answers on the FAQ page on our website.
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