Every county in Minnesota deals with divorce differently. Anoka County is no exception. Whether the resources available to litigants, or the general disposition of the bench, our divorce lawyers are here to answer your questions concerning divorce in Anoka County. Our attorneys have been practicing in the north metro since 1998. We’ve appeared before the judges in Anoka County hundreds of times, and understand what makes each judicial officer unique.
The long-standing rumor concerning Anoka County involves a claim that “mother’s have all the rights.” However, there are has been a dramatic shift in the Anoka County judicial roster over the last ten years. While some of the former judges were outright opposed to joint physical custody and equal parenting time schedules, we find that just isn’t the case any longer. That’s not to say that a 50/50 schedule is guaranteed in your divorce, but simply that the general temperament of the bench in Anoka County has changed a bit.
Anoka County divorce litigants will find that some of the tools available in other counties are available to them – such as early neutral evaluation, mediation and moderated settlement conferences. The trouble for many, however, is that Anoka County does not have a very large court services department.
Consequently, most divorcing couples are left to hire their own custody evaluator if they are unable to reach an agreement concerning physical custody, legal custody or parenting time. Costs for such an evaluation can approach $10,000.00, but our divorce attorneys routinely work with custody evaluators who offer a sliding fee scale.
Initial Case Management Conference
In Anoka County, the first court appearance is referred to as an “initial case management conference.” The ICMC is designed to allow divorce litigants an opportunity to meet with a judge in an effort to secure a place in the early neutral evaluation program. Anoka County is unique in the sense that the judge assigned to your case will not necessarily be the judge assigned to handle the ICMC. This is because Anoka County family court cases are rotated among judges who also handle other types of litigation. Consequently, the judge assigned to your matter will only have a “family law week” once every few months.
Custody and Financial Evaluations
If the parties agree to participate in an early neutral evaluation, Anoka County has a roster of approved neutrals who are available to help you. Anoka County refers to the custody evaluation as a “custody and parenting time early neutral evaluation” (CPENE), while the property and alimony issues are managed through a “financial early neutral evaluation” (FENE).
The list of neutrals in Anoka County is comprised primarily of local attorneys who have received significant training in divorce and family law evaluation. The truth is that some are much better than others. Our divorce lawyers have worked with nearly everyone on the list, and can provide guidance for you. The right evaluator can make all the difference in terms of whether your divorce is settled early, or proceeds to the next phase of litigation.
Assignment of a Custody Evaluator
Because of the limited nature of court services in Anoka County, divorcing couples who are dealing with a custody dispute must usually retain their own custody evaluator. Most often, the litigants who are allowed to utilize a court-appointed evaluator have an extremely limited income. Our attorneys routinely direct clients to the appropriate custody evaluator. The most common factors for consideration involve the custody evaluator’s experience in Anoka County, their rates, fee structure, and willingness to testify.
Custody evaluations are rather intrusive. The evaluator will want to spend significant time with you, and your spouse, in the presence of the minor children. In addition, they will take the time to speak with others that you may direct them to. Sometimes, custody evaluators in Anoka County will have the parties participate in a chemical use assessment, anger assessment, domestic abuse assessment or psychological evaluation, if appropriate.
Exchange of Information
Presuming that matters were not resolved during the early neutral evaluation, the court will require the parties to a divorce to engage in the discovery process – a process designed to facilitate the exchange of financial information. Sometimes discovery is conducted informally. Our lawyers try to do so, if at all possible, to avoid unnecessary expense to our clients. On the other hand, if the parties to the divorce don’t trust one another very much, a more formal approach to discovery may occur – including interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions.
At the conclusion of discovery, the next step in an Anoka County divorce involves a formal negotiation, and meeting with the judge, at the courthouse. This “pre-trial conference” is designed to siphon out any issues that are agreed to, leaving the judge with a list of issues that are disputed for purposes of trial. If partial agreement is reached, that agreement may be put on the record, in open court, to bind the parties, and make those agreements part of the final divorce decree.
Moderated Settlement Conference
If only a few issues remain contested at the time of the pre-trial conference, some Anoka County judges will refer the parties for a moderated settlement conference. Our lawyers have seen an increasing number of these procedures taking place in Anoka County in recent years. A moderator (mediator/evaluator) will meet with the parties, and lawyers, near the time of trial in an effort to reach a full and final settlement. The majority of cases headed for trial are resolved this way.
If the moderated settlement conference is unsuccessful, the parties to the divorce will appear for trial. Trials in Anoka County divorce court are handled by the judge. There are no juries in family court. Upon hearing all of the evidence, the judge will take the matter under advisement. The judgment and decree are typically entered within a few months.
We’re Here to Help
Our attorneys understand that divorce and family law cases are particularly emotional, and stressful. Often, there is far more at stake than simply “dollars and sense.” Your future is on the line. Our attorneys have handled cases in Anoka County for nearly 20 years. Let us help ease the burden, and provide you with the kind of guidance you deserve. Call (763) 323-6555 to schedule a confidential case evaluation.