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Most people, especially if they have children or significant assets, choose to get an attorney's help with their divorce. The first step in obtaining a divorce is preparing, signing and filing the proper documents in the court for the county in which you live. If you and your partner live in different Minnesota counties, we may file in the county where your partner lives.

Minnesota is a purely "no-fault" divorce state, meaning that you may not allege that your spouse's wrongdoing was the cause of the divorce. Instead, most divorces are based on the grounds that the parties have irreconcilable differences that have led to the breakdown of the marriage.

A finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken must be supported by evidence that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least 180 days immediately prior to the commencement of the proceeding, or there is serious marital discord adversely affecting the attitude of one or both of the parties toward the marriage.

The two documents filed to officially begin the divorce process are the Summons and Petition. The Petition sets forth the basic facts of your case and what you are asking the court for - a divorce, division of property, custody of children, child support, spousal maintenance, etc. The Summons notifies your partner that a divorce case has been filed.

It is critical that your spouse be properly served with the Summons and Petition or your case cannot move forward. Service can take place in two ways. A third party, such as a private process server or the sheriff, may hand deliver the Summons and Petition to your spouse. The third party signs a notarized document called an Affidavit of Personal Service saying that they served your partner. If you think your partner will be agreeable, you may ask them to sign an Acknowledgment of Service/Admission of Service, acknowledging receipt of the divorce papers, before a notary public.

After service, the receiving partner must file an answer. If you and your partner agree on the conditions of their divorce, we may file a Stipulate Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree, which will fast track your divorce. However, if the receiving partner disagrees with the petitioning partner, then they may serve the petitioning partner an answer that explains why they disagree.

What happens if your partner does not respond? Unlike evading service of process, which keeps the divorce from moving forward, your partner cannot stonewall a divorce by refusing to file an Answer once they are properly served. If the 30 day period after service ends without your partner filing an answer, we can request a default divorce hearing.

In order to maintain the status quo while the divorce is being processed, partners are allowed to file Motions for Temporary Relief in order to temporarily order child custody, child support, spousal support and any other issues that occur day to day that must be handled while the divorce is being processed. Once the divorce decree is finalized and signed by a judge, the temporary order will expire and the final divorce procedures will go into effect.

The Judgment Decree is the final document necessary to receive a divorce. Once a judge has signed it, and it is entered by the court administration, the divorce is considered final. This document contains the final judgment on the division of property, child custody, child support and spousal support.

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