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If you’re going through a divorce, custody dispute, or trying to determine or modify child support, an experienced and effective advocate can make all of the difference.   Attorneys Michael Edman and Kristin Driscoll Nervig are experienced advocates who will support and fight for you every step of the way.   Zlimen & McGuiness handles all areas of family law with an emphasis on divorce, child custody, and child support issues.

Dissolution of Marriage

Under Minnesota law, a divorce is called a “Dissolution of Marriage.”    Minnesota is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only reason needed for a divorce.  Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is defined as you and your spouse having no intention of reconciling your relationship.  To file for divorce in Minnesota, one of the spouses must have lived in the state or been a member of the armed services stationed in the state for at least 180 days before filing.

The process of obtaining a divorce in Minnesota has several requirements and generally begins when one party files a petition for dissolution in the county where either party resides.   The opposing party then may file an Answer to this petition.  How affordable a divorce is and how much time it takes  depends on a number of factors, including whether there are minor children, the number of marital assets, the amount of debt, and the reasonableness and good faith of the parties involved.

The factor that generally has the biggest effect on the affordability and length of a divorce is determining custody of minor children, and child support.  Custody determinations, custody disputes, and child support are discussed in detail below, so please see those sections for more information.

In addition to custody and support, the more property you own with your spouse (including houses, debt, cars, pensions, jewelry, etc.), the more complex the divorce will generally be.   One way to reduce the time and expense involved is to prepare for your initial meeting with an attorney by compiling a list of all your property, keeping the following factors in mind:

-“Marital property” is any property acquired during marriage, including income earned during marriage

-“Separate property” is property owned by a spouse before marriage or acquired during marriage by inheritance or gift

-Debt is also considered property and, at the time of divorce, the couple must also divide all debt accrued during the marriage, including mortgages, car loans and credit card debts.

-If couples are not able to determine on their own or with the assistance of an attorney how to divide property, then the assistance of a mediator or judge may be necessary.

Child Custody

There are two different types of custody arrangements that need to be determined: legal and physical.  Minnesota law generally favors granting joint legal custody unless there is a history of domestic abuse between the parents.  Even when a judge awards joint legal custody, he or she may find that it’s in a child’s best interest to have a primary physical custody to one parent, and then allow the child to spend specified periods of time at the other parent’s home.

-Legal Custody:  a parent’s authority to participate in major decisions affecting a child’s health, education, or general welfare.

-Physical Custody: the child’s physical presence with a parent.

The best, fastest, and most affordable custody scenario is when parents can agree on a custody arrangement for their child. If parents can agree to a custody arrangement then an order of custody from a judge is often not necessary and the parents, through their attorneys, can put together a Parenting Time Plan.  The elements of a Parenting Time Plan usually include arrangements such as a schedule of the parenting time each parent spends with the child, a designation of decision-making responsibilities regarding the child, and method of dispute resolution.

If parents are unable to determine a custody arrangement, a judge will determine the issue.  The basis judges use for determining a custody arrangement is the “best interests of the child”.  To determine the best interests, a judge can consider a wide variety of factors including the work schedules, living situations, and support systems of the individual parents.  Once a judge has considered all the necessary factors, a Custody Order will be issued stating the custody arrangements for the child or children involved.

If a child is born outside of marriage, the mother of a child has sole legal and sole physical custody by law.  The father of the child must establish paternity prior to petitioning for any type of custody.  Once paternity has been established then custody proceedings are initiated by a Petition for Custody and Parenting Time.

Custody Orders and Parenting Plans can be modified and changed if necessary as the child grows or if there is a change in child’s or a parent’s situation.  These modifications are usually made by filing additional paperwork with the court or coming to an agreed upon change in the plan by both parents.

Child Support

Child support is a very important issue for most divorcing families.  In Minnesota, support amounts are based on a formula established by Minnesota law.  This formula takes into consideration the following factors:

-Each parent’s gross monthly income (from all sources)

-How many children live in each parent’s home

-Any other child support orders for either parent

-Any spousal maintenance orders for either parent

-The amount of benefits from Social Security or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid to a joint child due to a parent’s disability or retirement

-The monthly cost for both medical and dental coverage

-The amount of child care costs

-The percentage or amount of parenting time awarded in a court order

Once responses to these questions are put into the formula, a calculator provided by the State of Minnesota states the amount of child support that will be awarded.  While this amount of support can be disputed, a judge is usually required to determine if a different amount is warranted then what was calculated.

The family law attorneys at Zlimen & McGuiness are knowledgeable and experienced in divorce, child custody, and child support issues.   If you’re looking for an effective advocate at an affordable rate, contact them today.