Minnesota is a "no-fault" divorce state, and has been since the mid 1970's. Typical issues involved in a divorce include custody, child support, property division and spousal maintenance. While some divorces come to conclusion following a trial, the vast majority of cases resolve outside of the courtroom.

Thanksgiving is about more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie; it’s a time to reflect on all the things that are wonderful in your life. Unfortunately, if you are currently in the midst of divorce or legal separation, your life might not seem all that wonderful. After all, a relationship that was once filled with promise and excitement has now deteriorated past the point of reconciliation. At a time like this, it’s best to take an introspective look at yourself and your life, and realize that tough times don’t last. The Thanksgiving holiday affords you the opportunity to count your blessings and discover that, while things may not be so great now, they could always be a lot worse.

How Meditation Can Help

Meditation may be the furthest thing from your mind during divorce proceedings, but research from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that people who participate in mindful meditation are able to effectively reduce their stress and anxiety levels. Thanksgiving and other holidays can stir up memories of happier times with your spouse, but meditation can put those memories into perspective.

Turn to Friends and Family Members

Thanksgiving is about spending time with the people you love most. At first glance, that makes Turkey Day and any other winter holiday seem like an unwelcome ordeal for divorcees. Just remember: while your marriage may not have worked out, you still have an entire support system of friends and family members standing by your side. During difficult periods in your life, sometimes you just need someone to be there for you — what better time than Thanksgiving to have those people show their support? Make the most of the time you have with family and friends over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and you will find yourself enjoying the little things in life a lot more than you otherwise would.

The end of summer prompts feelings of regret and sadness in many Minnesotans, and not just because they dread shoveling snow or driving on icy roads. The quickly diminishing sunlight contributes greatly to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that correlates with seasonal patterns. The divorce process always takes a toll on ex-spouses, but SAD can make this already harrowing experience that much more difficult.

How Daylight Savings Time Exacerbates SAD Symptoms

Symptoms of SAD include sleepiness, anxiety, poor appetite, and lack of motivation. These symptoms may begin to arrive already before daylight savings time kicks in, as the days naturally get shorter when winter approaches. SAD sufferers get one extra hour of sleep when the clock falls back, but at the price of even less sunlight exposure when it’s most important. Researchers believe that morning exposure to light helps SAD sufferers far more than light in the evening, but unfortunately, daylight savings time is explicitly designed to extend evening daylight. This shift messes with millions of years of evolution, which never prepared humans to deal with such a sudden change in daylight exposure. It is, perhaps, for this reason that the rate of auto accidents rises dramatically during the first few days after daylight savings time goes into effect.

How Daylight Savings Time and SAD Impact Divorce

During daylight savings time, the emotionally charged process of finalizing a divorce can easily exacerbate the already problematic symptoms of SAD. Contentious disagreements with your ex, coupled with stressful sessions in divorce court, deplete your already tapped reserves, making it that much more difficult to get through the day.

Be mindful of symptoms, and visit with a medical professional if you are having an unusually difficult season.

You’ve filed for divorce. It’s a process that can take plenty of time, even when uncontested. Your lawyer will likely advise you to avoid contact with your ex at this time, but checking in on them on social media can be tempting. Resist the urge to check his or her Facebook page; it’s unproductive emotionally, and it may even affect your case.

Social media is a useful tool for many things, but it’s made divorces more difficult. It means we have to see our ex’s posts every day. Lawyers may even scour your Facebook page for incriminating information. For example, say you’re in the negotiating stage of spousal support, and you’re posting information about your latest shopping spree. Lawyers could use such posts as evidence of disposable income.

Use the following good social media habits during a divorce:

Watch What You Post

If you’re feeling frustrated about the latest blip in your divorce proceeding, it can be quite tempting to vent on Facebook. Such an act may negatively affect your case. Join a private support divorce group, or talk to friends privately. It’s healthy to talk through your emotions but not in a public medium.

Keep your soon-to-be ex-spouse and children out of all your status updates. Refrain from commenting on your days in court or any communications from the other side. Post about other things. Save your arguments for your lawyer and the courtroom.

Check Your Privacy Settings

Block your soon-to-be ex-spouse on Facebook and other social media outlets to avoid temptation. Such an act will prevent you from seeing his or her status updates. It also prevents him or her from finding you. Check your privacy settings on all social media outlets to see who can find your page and what information is available to the public—and lawyers.

Step Away From the Computer

Divorces are emotionally-trying proceedings. Checking Facebook constantly won’t help you feel better. It may actually make you feel worse. Get away from your virtual friends, and start spending time with your real world ones. Get out of your house for a night: see a movie, get dinner, or organize a game night. Socializing with others will take your mind away from your current situation. Sitting at home and posting on social media will make you yearn for what you’re missing.

You often hear that you “marry the family.” A divorce means you may have to maintain a relationship with your ex-in-laws for the sake of the children. You also might like your ex-in-laws and want to keep in touch with them. It is possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-in-laws if you use the right approach.

Prepare Yourself

You were close to your in-laws prior to divorce. Or maybe you didn’t like your in-laws prior to divorce. Regardless, your relationship will change despite your past or present feelings. Your ex-spouse may say negative things about you to your ex-in-laws or even your children. You can reach for some level of closeness, but never expect things to be the same.

Put in the Extra Effort

You may already be feeling stretched thin, but a good relationship with your ex-in-laws requires extra legwork. Be direct with them: “We’ve been family. I want to keep it that way. What can I do to make this work?” Your ex-in-laws may or may not respond to your overture. Be prepared for either response, and don’t take it personally.

Think of Your Children

Maybe your relationship with the in-laws was always fractious. It may be tempting to let things fall apart. Think of your children, and work towards a good relationship for their sake.

Avoid Negativity

Avoid saying anything negative about your ex-spouse or anyone else. Request your ex-in-laws to remain positive and avoid name-calling. Make sure this rule applies around your children. Is there some hostility? Consider having a therapist or other third-party involved to negotiate the relationship. Gently remind your ex-in-laws that everyone has a duty to the children.

Include Them

Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex-in-laws means involving them in your children’s lives. Invite them to help plan birthday parties, host holidays, and participate in family outings.

Be Patient

Mending a relationship takes time. You need time to process your divorce. Your ex-in-laws also need time to process. Give them time to heal, and don’t expect too much at first. Remain diligent and positive. You can have a relationship with those you used to call family.

Getting married these days is expensive enough, with some even modest weddings costing six figures. Divorce can likewise be expensive, uncomfortable and messy. Understandably, many people want to shortcut the process to conserve resources and speed things up. In light of these economic realities, it’s probably not that surprising that a strange new phenomenon is gaining traction – the online divorce.

Can couples really dissolve a marriage by getting it done online?

Unfortunately, yes.

The process is often much cheaper than using an attorney (at least in the short term). It’s also faster. But it also carries tremendous risks and can, ironically, backfire and lead to months or years of expensive legal fighting.

If you and your partner agree on everything regarding your separation – division of assets, child custody arrangements, spousal support, etc. – then it is at least theoretically possible that you could get an online divorce and get through the process without bad repercussions. According to reports, you simply tell the divorce service what you want, and they draw up the paperwork.

Why Using an Attorney is Generally Much Better Than Relying on an Online Divorce Service

If you and your spouse disagree on financial matters, child custody arrangements, or basically anything, then you will almost certainly want to discuss your situation with an attorney. As a skeptical article in the Financial Times put it: “Would you do your own plumbing, pull out your own teeth, or self-diagnose an illness?”

The article continued with a cautionary tale from across the pond:

“A case in point is Andrew McLeod-Baikie, a 52-year-old father-of-four, who paid £600 to get an online divorce
from his wife Susan in 2011, according to reports of a magistrates’ court hearing. Mr McLeod-Baikie, however, did not obtain the decree absolute, which makes a divorce official, before marrying again. His first wife alerted the authorities when she saw pictures of his second wedding on Facebook.  Mr McLeod-Baikie, of Cresselly, Pembrokeshire, pleaded guilty to bigamy. Magistrates at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, fined him £400 and ordered him to pay £400 in costs, according to a report of the hearing in the Daily Telegraph.”

An attorney can fight for your rights in the divorce and seek to get you a fair outcome. With an online divorce service, meanwhile, you may never even speak to an attorney. Your paperwork will simply be a cookie-cutter form that may have been prepared by an attorney, but it will be in no way customized for your unique situation. By hiring an attorney to handle your divorce, you ensure that you have an advocate who will speak for you in the legal system.

An uncontested divorce in Minnesota can take as little as four weeks, although 60 days more likely. More difficult divorce cases – where the parties disagree on many issues – can end up taking years. The surest way to get a quick divorce in Minnesota is to not contest it. An uncontested divorce is a divorce where one party files for the divorce, and the other party doesn’t try to convince anyone that the divorce should not take place, nor does the defending spouse attempt to argue about division of assets. If you agree on everything, the divorce will happen quickly.

Most divorces, however, do not end that quickly. Even with the best of intentions at the beginning, it can be surprisingly hard to get both spouses to agree on subtle features of the separation. Simple seeming cases, even when skillfully and mindfully guided by a competent attorney, can surprisingly evolve into more complicated disputes that cost money and time.

Factors That Determine How Long a Minnesota Divorce Takes

How long it takes to complete a divorce from the time it is filed depends on a number of factors. In Minnesota, those factors include:

•    How cooperative you are with your spouse. Do you argue with their point of view every step of the way or give into their wishes?
•    How cooperative is your spouse with you? Do they argue with you over details; fight to keep you from getting what you want; or battle tooth and nail to get what they want?
•    How well your attorney protects your rights while facilitating the settlement.
•    The philosophy, actions and reactions of your spouse’s attorney .
•    The number and complexity of disagreements between you and your spouse. Do you fight over custody of the children, division of assets, spousal maintenance, visitation rights, etc.?

If you want your Minnesota divorce to go smoothly, work with your attorney to develop creative negotiating strategies, and figure out how and under what circumstances you will be willing to compromise on your vision for what you want. Some luck is also required. If your spouse is unwilling or unable to compromise or negotiate in good faith, or if his or her lawyer adopts an uncompromising stance, you will likely struggle to reach an equitable agreement, and litigation may be inevitable.

An Emory University study suggests a huge age gap increases the likelihood of divorce. The study indicates that a five-year age gap increases the likelihood of divorce by 18 percent. A 10-year age difference, meanwhile, increases that rate to 39 percent. Add another 10-year difference, and the chance of divorce is 95 percent. On the flip side, the longer the couple stays together, the less likely they’ll end up divorced. One decade together can nearly cancel out the added risk of divorce for couples 20 years apart in age.

Divorce Statistics: What Factors Weigh More Heavily for Staying Together?

As any statistics boffin will tell you, correlation does not mean causation. Couples should be self-aware and keep the lines of communication open rather than let numbers dictate their fates.

One way to think about this is to ask: what do you and your spouse have in common? If you are close in age, you will be more likely to have more in common. A couple with a 20 year age difference may have different tastes in music, food, fashion, and other lifestyle choices. Those differences don’t necessarily spell divorce in all situations, but if you have little in common with your spouse (regardless of ages), you’ll have a difficult time building a relationship on anything substantive.

You can be friends with someone of another generation, but if you find that you don’t have much in common, then consider marrying someone closer to your age… or at least someone with whom you have more in common.

The myth that half of all marriages today end in divorce is a throw-back to the 1980s, when the divorce rate was at its highest. Since then, the divorce rate has steadily dropped. Recent statistical analyses offer insight into the factors that indicate the likelihood of divorce – or happily ever after.

The Education Factor

The divorce rate for men with a high school degree or less is 39%. For women with a similar education level, the divorce rate is 37%. For people who have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, the divorce rate drops to 28% for men and 29% for women.

The Race Factor

Native Americans have the highest divorce rate: 44% for men and 45% for women. Black Americans are next – the divorce rate in that community, according to relatively recent data, is about 42% for both men and women. Among white Americans, 36% of men and 38% of women divorce. Hispanic-Americans have an even lower divorce rate: 27% for men and 30% for women. Asian-Americans have the lowest divorce rate: 16% for men and 18% for women.

Reasons for Divorce

Every couple faces challenges, but just a handful of problems cause most divorces. These include:

•    Marrying for the Wrong Reasons. Many people get divorced because their reasons for marrying never added up in the first place and/or because these reasons ultimately stopped inspiring progress and growth in the relationship.

•    Losing Individual Identity. Married people who sacrifice or ignore their own interests often end up feeling as if they don’t know themselves. The resentment and other negative emotions that flow from this fundamental problem break down the relationship.

•    Having Different Concepts of Success. For some people, success means acquiring a big house, an expensive car, fine clothes, country club memberships, boats and other worldly goods and social status. For others, success means security to travel freely and pursue artistic ambitions. Debates about the fundamentals of “a good life” – for instance, arguments over when or whether to have children – can lead to the end of a relationship.

•    Dwindling Intimacy. Exhaustion from work, childcare, and other obligations can understandably have a negative impact on a couple’s intimacy. A lack of physical connection can degrade the couple’s sexual relationship, paving the way for dissatisfaction and divorce.

•    Struggling to Resolve Conflicts. Couples who learn how to fight constructively – that is, who know how to resolve disputes effectively and let go of annoyances that are beyond control – tend to stay married longer than do couples who react in passive aggressive fashion or who hold grudges.

This may seem odd coming from a divorce lawyer…but there are many resources throughout the Twin Cities for those who are aiming to reconcile, or avoid divorce. Church groups, individual pastoral care, counseling, marriage courses, books and podcasts may be beneficial to you.

Divorcing your spouse because s/he broke a law in Minnesota may have some sticky implications, depending on which laws were broken and how the guilty was punished. Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, so the facts of your spouse’s criminal case may or may not be relevant to your divorce. Consider the following before pursuing divorce based on criminal conduct:

1. If your spouse has been accused of a crime but has not yet been convicted, you can’t call them a criminal in divorce court. Even if you believe they are guilty, in the eyes of the law, they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

2. Being a criminal doesn’t make a person a bad parent. If a court found your spouse guilty of a crime, they may still have parenting time rights – and may even be rewarded joint custody of your child(red). The court will consider all evidence concerning your and your spouse’s character.

3. A conviction may or may not lead to jail time. Don’t assume that your spouse will not be able to contact you, or visit your children. If you fear retribution or domestic violence, take precautionary measures, and protect yourself and your child(red) from a spouse who is a violent offender.

4. If you believe your spouse committed a crime for which s/he has not been charged, report the alleged crime before filing for divorce. If you are the victim of the crime, file a police report.

5. Divorce court is not criminal court. Don’t file for divorce hoping to get the conviction your spouse didn’t get in criminal court. If you believe the crime your spouse committed is cause for divorce, make your case before the judge, but do it knowing the judge may not punish your spouse criminally.

What happens when a married couple in Minnesota files for divorce, and one of them receives disability benefits? How will spousal maintenance, child support and the disability benefits themselves be affected? The outcome depends on the definition of marital property, how that marital property will be divided and the nature of the benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is considered household income under Minnesota law, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not. This distinction comes into play in certain circumstances regarding spousal maintenance and child support.

SSDI, SSI and Marital Property in Minnesota

Since Minnesota is not a community property state, how disability benefits are split when a marriage dissolves depends on a number of factors. These include:

•    Both spouse’s financial standing;
•    Each spouse’s sources of income;
•    How long the couple was married; and
•    Who ends up with custody of the children

Other factors may also come into play – for instance, if these are any special needs children in the family who also receive benefits.

Disability Benefits and Spousal Maintenance

A spouse receiving SSI benefits may see a reduction in benefits if they receive spousal maintenance. SSDI is generally not affected by alimony. For that reason, you might consider other equitable distribution options, such as adjustments to other property awards.

On August 1, 2016, a Minnesota law went into effect that reduces or terminates spousal maintenance if the receiving spouse cohabitates with another partner after the divorce.

SSI, SSDI and Child Support

Child support offers its own challenges. For instance, let’s say a child receives SSI, and the spouse with custody is awarded child support. That arrangement will affect the child’s SSI benefits. As an alternative, you could ask that child support be placed in a special needs trust (SNT). If a child receives SSDI based on a parent’s disability, the court will likely take that factor into account when establishing child support.