Adoption takes many forms in Minnesota, including traditional adoption, open adoption, international adoption, stepparent adoption and grandparent adoption. Each is unique in terms of both the law, and the court process involved in bringing matters to conclusion.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In Minnesota, alternative dispute resolution relates to processes that litigants may participate in as an alternative to a trial. Whether mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation or moderated settlement conferences, the vast majority of divorce and family law matters are resolved outside the courtroom.


Annulment is an alternative to divorce, but is exceptionally rare. There are a limited number of ways that a spouse in a marriage may seek to annul that legal relationship, such as proving some sort of fraud or coercion. Because Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, very few individuals seek to annul their marriage.


In Minnesota, family court litigants have the right to appeal any "final" decision of a district court judge. The most common appeals follow entry of a divorce decree, child support order, order for protection of harassment restraining order. Appeals are complicated by the fact that very specific procedural rules apply.

Child Support

In Minnesota, child support is determined pursuant to certain guidelines. The income of each parent is taken into account, along with parenting time schedules, cost for daycare and cost for medical and dental insurance. While the support guidelines are not necessarily binding, the vast majority of judges embrace them.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce originated in Minnesota in the early 1990's. The process involves divorce litigants agreeing to forego court proceedings and work together to gather information, consult with experts, and bring matters to a conclusion by agreement. The evolution of early neutral evaluation has reduced the number of collaborative divorces.


Contempt involves holding someone accountable for failing to abide by a court order. Common bases for contempt include non-payment of child support or alimony, failure to deliver property as ordered, or a failure to abide by a court-ordered parenting time schedule. Sanctions and jail time may be involved.


There are two type of custody under Minnesota law: (1) physical custody; and (2) legal custody. Physical custody involves the day to day care of a child, while legal custody involves key decisions concerning a child's education, healthcare and religion. The "best interest of the child" standard applies.


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.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a serious issue in Minnesota. A number of court actions may stem from the actions of an abuser, including divorce, child protective services, a petition for an order for protection and criminal charges. The interplay among those cases can have serious consequences in terms of custody and parenting time.

Early Neutral Evaluation

Early neutral evaluation is a dispute resolution process that has gained substantial momentum in the last 15 years. The parties, and lawyers, meet with an expert in a confidential, non-binding process designed to facilitate a final agreement. That session takes place early in the case, before litigants become entrenched in their positions.

Family Law

In Minnesota, "family law" involves a multitude of practice areas, including divorce, custody, child support, paternity, grandparent rights, adoption, prenuptial agreements and domestic abuse. Some counties have a separate and distinct family court, while other counties do not.

Grandparent Rights

Grandparents are afforded various rights under Minnesota law, including the ability to seek custody or visitation with a grandchild. Grandparent adoption is another alternative. Certain thresholds must be established in order for a grandparent to have standing to seek a court order.

Legal Separation

In Minnesota, the concept of a "legal separation" exists to allow the parties to marriage to determine custody, parenting time, child support, property division and spousal maintenance in the absence of dissolving the marital relationship. Many seek to legally separate, instead of divorce, to keep insurance in place, or for religious reasons.


Mediation is a process in which the parties to a dispute employ a neutral facilitator to assist in resolving matters by agreement, rather than in court. In Minnesota, it is generally expected that the parties to a family law dispute participate in mediation prior to seeking in put from a district court judge.

Orders for Protection

In Minnesota, "domestic abuse" is defined to include physical harm, or threats intended to inflict fear of physical harm, upon a household member. Victims of domestic abuse may seek an Order for Protection. That Order may preclude the abuser from the home, or communicating with the victim, among other things.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation involves a parent attempting to negatively interfere with a child's relationship with the other parent. An alienating parent may lie to a child, or place that child in a position of disliking the other, for no valid reason. Social science continues to evolve on the subject, which has not been universally accepted.

Parenting Consultants

After entry of a divorce or custody decree, parents will often utilize the services of a parenting consultant to assist with ongoing conflicts that arise. The consultant, usually an experienced family law attorney or social worker, is given whatever authority the parties agree. The aim is to remain out of court, and keep costs down.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans provide a viable option to argument and debate surrounding physical and legal custody labels. Rather than focusing on "what to call it," litigants focus on  the specific needs of their child(ren) and create a plan to deal with schedules, decisions, communication, transportation, and other needs that are certain to arise.

Parenting Time

There are wide variety of parenting time schedules available to family court litigants, some equal, some not. With recent changes in the law, courts have moved toward maximizing available time with both parents. Parenting time schedules often take into account a routine access schedule, holiday division, vacations and non-school days.

Parenting Time Expeditors

Parenting time expeditors are often appointed by judges, or agreed upon by the parents, to resolve parenting time disputes that arise after entry of a divorce or custody decree. The authority of an expeditor is limited to making decisions that are intended to serve as an "interpretation" of the existing order.


In Minnesota, paternity cases involve the establishment of the rights of fathers outside of a marital relationship. Once paternity is established, the court will focus on custody, parenting time and child support. Unless and until that happens, the mother of a child born outside of wedlock has sole authority.

Prenuptial Agreements

Minnesota law recognizes the validity of a prenuptial agreement, so long as the agreement is executed in a procedurally fair way, and is substantively fair at the time of execution and enforcement. Prenuptial agreements allow the parties to a marriage "re-write" the laws of probate and marital dissolution.


Prenuptial agreements are available to engaged couples, and will be recognized by the court if they are fundamentally fair, and not a product of misrepresentation or duress. Issues such as income allocation, property division, inheritance and spousal maintenance can be addressed in a prenuptial agreement.

Property Division

There are a number of issues involved in dividing the assets and debts of the parties to a divorce, including valuation methods and determining what is "marital" and what is "non-marital." Minnesota law generally provides for an equitable (almost always equal) division of marital property.

Protective Services

Child in need of protective services (CHIPS) matters involve the county attorney, and social services, overseeing efforts to improve the circumstances a child finds themselves in. The goal is to reunify a parent with his/her child through a case plan. If efforts improve things fail, the county may seek to terminate parental rights.

Settlement Conferences

Moderated settlement conferences occur in the weeks leading up to a trial. The process affords one last opportunity for the parties, not the judge, to control the outcome in their case. A neutral expert will offer a confidential, non-binding evaluative opinion about each party's position in an effort to facilitate agreement.

Spousal Maintenance

Minnesota law recognizes the right of a party to a divorce to seek an award of spousal maintenance (sometimes referred to as "alimony"). Maintenance is typically awarded when one party lacks sufficient income to meet their needs after divorce, and other party has the ability to assist.

Step-Parent Adoption

In Minnesota, a step-parent is permitted to adopt their spouse's child if the parental rights of the other parent have been terminated. Termination may occur voluntarily, or involuntarily. Voluntary termination involves agreement to facilitate the adoption, while involuntary termination involves a court order following a finding of abandonment.

Tax Issues

One of the important considerations with a divorce involves tax issues. Alimony payments are deductible to the payor, and must be reported as income by the payee. The reverse is true for child support. Assets, such as retirement interests, should be divided in way that accounts for tax consequences.