I’ve Filed for Divorce in Minnesota. What’s Next? Go!

stopwatAs early as three weeks after filing for divorce, the parties must appear before the judicial officer assigned to their case. This first appearance is called the “Initial Case Management Conference.”

The ICMC is an informal hearing. No arguments are presented, or decisions made – except for a determination concerning how to move forward in the most efficient manner.

Any issues that are not resolved among the parties can be resolved through the selection of a settlement process known as early neutral evaluation. The fundamental purpose of the ICMC is to obtain a referral for ENE – or elect to litigate.

FENE

One neutral expert is assigned in the Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (“FENE“) program. They start by gathering all of the necessary financial information, and listening carefully to the position of each party (with the assistance of their lawyer). A candid assessment made regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case. Negotiation follows.

Fortunately, more than 70% of cases are resolved through FENE, with approximately $1,000 in neutral expert fees. This may seem expensive, but the end result is a fraction of the cost of traditional litigation and trial.

SENE

Social Issue Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE) is used to resolve custody and parenting issues. In this type of evaluation, there are two custody experts assigned - one male and one female, to avoid any perceived gender bias.

The evaluators meet with the parties, and their lawyers, to listen to their position. Once all of the information is presented, the evaluators break, and meet privately to discuss the matter. Then, they return to provide an evaluative opinion about the likely outcome if the matter moved forward to a more traditional custody study. Once the opinion is given, the parties discuss and negotiate. Approximately 65% of SENE referrals result in a settlement.

If you have questions about the ICMC, FENE or SENE process, we invite you to contact us. These programs are designed to facilitate an early settlement – even in the most difficult cases. Our lawyers have participated in hundreds of these evaluations, and we are prepared to assist you, as necessary. Please call (612) 789-2100 to speak with a lawyer free of charge.

The Four Phases Of A Contested Divorce In Minnesota

About half the cases we handle are more contested divorces. These are marital dissolution cases in which the litigants don’t expect to reach agreement early and, instead, need the intervention of the court system in order to reach a resolution.

These divorces typically involve four distinct segments.

The first segment of work in a contested case involves the case workup. This is where we put together the initial pleadings in the case and serve and file them. You will complete an initial questionnaire and provide documentation to us so that we can adequately move forward and understand exactly what relief is sought.

Following the service of the summons and petition, we will participate in what’s called an initial case management conference. This is a first meeting with the judge, on an informal basis, to talk about the issues that are in controversy. The court, at that point, might refer the matter for an early neutral evaluation. This is a process where the parties can meet with a court-appointed expert and try to settle the case before becoming too entrenched.

If matters don’t resolve at the early neutral stage, then we move into the next phase – called discovery. This is a process where we’re going to gather information from your spouse. We may do so formally, or informally.

In addition, we may elect to schedule a motion for temporary relief. This is a hearing in which the court will make a determination, on a temporary basis, of who is going to reside in the homestead, who is going to have temporary custody of the children, and what sort of temporary alimony, or child support awards, are appropriate. Quite often cases will settle following the entry of a temporary order, because the parties have a preview into how the judge views the facts of the case.

However, if the case has to continue, we will position your case for the settlement stage. We’re going to attempt to work out matters either through mediation, or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.

If we’re not able to work it out, the court will call us back in, and we will participate in a pre-trial conference, where we’re going to try one last time to get the case settled, with the assistance of the judge.

The fourth phase involves preparation for and actually trying the case. The judge has 90 days to issue a written decision following the end of the trial, and if either party is dissatisfied with the outcome, they have an additional 60 days in which to file an appeal.