In Minnesota, divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” In both Minnesota and Wisconsin, a divorce ends the marital relationship between two spouses and takes care of the related issues of child custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony) and property division.
Divorce & Spousal Maintenance Frequently Asked Questions
Minnesota law does not provide a cut-and-dried method of determining spousal maintenance in a divorce case. It simply lays out the multifactorial process the court goes through during any spousal maintenance decision. The core concept of spousal maintenance (alimony) has to do with the need or ability to keep a certain standard of living following divorce. When you consult with Lallemont Law, LLC, Angela will go over your unique situation and the statutory factors with you.
Other unique questions that Angela can help you answer about spousal maintenance include:
- Does the length of our marriage (or our ages) determine how much support I will pay or receive?
- Do I have to go to work?
- Should I be looking for work? What is appropriate employment for me and/or my spouse?
- Will I have to move? Can I keep my house?
- Can I afford the same vehicles and other expenses?
- Why do I need to decrease my spending?
- Can it be proven that my spouse requires ongoing financial support?
- Can I change the amount of spousal support I pay?
- How do I change my child support or spousal support if my income has changed?
- My former spouse recently remarried. Will that change my alimony obligation?
Spousal Maintenance, formerly called alimony, is defined by Minnesota Statute §518.003 as “an award made in a dissolution or legal separation proceeding of payments from the future income or earnings of one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other.” Basically, spousal maintenance a payment from one ex-spouse to the other after a divorce or legal separation action has been completed. Unlike child support, there is no exact formula or rule to determine if maintenance is appropriate or how much, if any, maintenance should be awarded.
The cost of a divorce depends on the complexity of the situation though the initial retainer is around $2,000. Some costs may include: attorney fees; the court filing fees; mediation fees, service fees, guardian ad litem fees, or other similar items. Lallemont Law, LLC works with clients to keep costs at a minimum.
The process to get a divorce in Wisconsin varies from that in Minnesota. Wisconsin Courts offer a helpful step checklist of the process (although there are differences between counties):
Decide How You Will File. You need to decide if you and your spouse will be signing the Petition together (filing jointly) or if only one of you will be completing the forms to start the action (filing alone).
Decide If You Need a Temporary Hearing. You may request a temporary hearing before the Family Court Commissioner by completing an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order if you and your spouse cannot agree on any of the following issues:
- Child Custody Use of automobiles or other personal property
- Child Placement Payment of bills
- Child Support Payment of maintenance or spousal support
- Use of the family residence
File the Action. The summons and petition (or joint petition) for divorce or legal separation and confidential petition addendum must be filed and a fee paid to the Clerk of Circuit Court. (Note: There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period before the court can hear the final hearing.)
Deliver (or serve) copies of the documents to those who must receive them. In order for the court to hear the case, your spouse must be provided with copies of the summons, petition, confidential petition addendum, and proposed parenting plan. Proof of that service must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court.
Obtain a Temporary Order (if needed). If you completed the Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order you must attend the Temporary Hearing you requested to have a temporary order issued. If you and your spouse reach an agreement, you can complete and file a Stipulation for Temporary Order. If you and your spouse don’t believe it is necessary to have a formal temporary order, you may ignore this step at this time. If the situation changes before the final hearing, either spouse may seek a temporary order.
If there are minor children, complete any required parenting programs and file any required Parenting Plans. Some counties may require the parents to complete programs concerning the effects of divorce on children as a condition to obtaining a divorce. For example, Buffalo County requires a parenting class before granting a divorce.
Obtain a date and time for the next hearing. In some counties, the court automatically schedules the next hearing. In other counties, you may have to contact the court to schedule the next hearing. This next hearing, depending on the county, may be the final hearing.
Complete your paperwork for the final hearing. This includes:
- Marital Settlement Agreement (if you and your spouse can agree on everything) or a Proposed Marital Settlement Order (if you don’t agree).
- Financial Disclosure Statements
- Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of Divorce
- Vital Statistics Form (from the Clerk of Circuit Court office).
Attend your final hearing.
Complete any other documents required after the final hearing. Sign car titles and real estate deeds, complete documents to divide pension plans (QDRO).
The Wisconsin Judicial Branch also provides an outline of the process.
To file for a divorce in Minnesota, you or your spouse must live in Minnesota for 180 days (6 months) before you file. A divorce is filed in the county where one or both spouses live.
A divorce proceeding begins when one spouse (called the Petitioner) serves the other spouse (called the Respondent) with a Summons and Petition.
The Summons and Petition sets forth the petitioner’s legal positions on the issues in the divorce (property, maintenance, custody, child support, etc.). The Summons and Petition must be personally served upon the other spouse (Respondent).
The Respondent then has 30 days to prepare and serve an answer. The Answer admits or denies the allegations (statements) in the Petition. If the respondent serves an Answer, s/he generally also serves a counter-petition which states what the Respondent’s legal position is on the issues in the divorce.
The time for the Respondent to answer can be extended if it looks like the parties will come to an agreement and settle the issues.
The divorce can be concluded in a few different ways, including:
- The parties can resolve all issues between themselves and enter into a “stipulation” (also called a martial termination agreement) which sets forth their agreement. The stipulation is reviewed by the judge and once it is signed, the parties are divorced.
- The parties can use a mediator or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) to help settle the issues in their case and enter into a stipulation.
- After the parties and their attorneys gather information through a process called discovery (where each party requests information from the other on the issues they do not agree upon) and then try to come to an agreement.
- If the parties do not agree, they can go before the judge for a trial and present all evidence and witnesses supporting their opinion. After trial, the judge has 90 days to make a final decision.
The time a divorce takes depends on how many issues are in dispute, how complex the case is, and how busy the court is. If there is already a basic agreement between the parties or little in dispute, the proceeding may be concluded in a couple of months. For complex cases with a lot of issues, it can take 12 to 18 months for a final hearing.
Grounds for Divorce in Minnesota and Wisconsin are no fault states, which means the ground for a divorce is an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship.” An irretreviable breakdown occurs when there is no prospect that the parties can resolve their differences and the marriage cannot be saved.