Minnesota's Family Law Blog

Solving Family Law Problems in Minnesota

Family law matters can present tremendous problems for all involved. Divorce in particular seems to bring up all of the issues that are most important to people: their children, their money and their futures. If you are facing a family law issue, we can help.

At the Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office Chtd., we solve problems. Our Mankato family law attorneys have a wealth of experience handling all types of family law matters. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Family Law FAQ’s


How much does a divorce cost?

Divorces in Minnesota are usually handled on an hourly basis.  This means that if you have a relatively simple or straightforward case that involves only children or limited property distribution, it will cost less than a complex case that involves business and non-marital property.  A “normal” divorce can run from $1,500 -$5,000.

How long will a divorce take?

Again, this is a question that really depends on your case and how complex it is.  If you agree on just about everything it can take less than a month.  However, if you don’t agree, then the other party will have to put an answer in (which, in Minnesota, is dues 30 days after he or she was served).  Then you will usually have to go to ICMC or the Initial Case Management Conference to see if mediation or trial is more appropriate.  A “normal” divorce usually takes 2-6 months, but can go considerably longer if it is nasty.

How does the process work?

Divorces are started in Minnesota by serving the other side with a Petition for Marital Dissolution.  The other party then has 30 days to put in an answer and usually discovery is next.  Discovery is where questions are asked and answered, in writing, under oath.  Once this is done, the lawyers typically talk about way to avoid trial, such as ICMC, mediation, or ENE (early neutral evaluation).

How do we get started?

First you need to make the decision, do you feel you have to get divorced? If you have been served with a petition for dissolution, then you should call and set up a free-consultation right away.  If you haven’t been served, but need a divorce, call and we can go over your options.  To officially start the divorce, we need three things:

  • Written retainer
  • Payment of the retainer amount
  • A completed intake packet

Once we get these documents we can start working on your divorce.

Can I Make My Spouse Move out?

The short answer is, maybe.  If you are married and living together you each have an equal right to the property.  This means that if you change the lock on your door, your husband or wife has the right to break in (after all they do own ½ the door!).  you may need to file what’s called a motion for temporary relief in order to get the Judge to order your soon to be ex-spouse to move out.

Spousal Maintenance

How much maintenance will I get?

Alimony or spousal maintenance is something that is difficult to determine in Minnesota.  Unlike some states, there is no calculator to give the Judge an exact figure about the amount owed.  What the Court must look at is 1) do you need maintenance? And 2) can the other spouse afford to pay?  If the answer is yes to both then the argument becomes what a fair amount of monthly alimony would be and for how long should you receive it.

How much maintenance will I pay?

Since there is no magic formula for how much spousal maintenance you might have to pay, the Judge will look at your monthly income and budget to determine what a reasonable monthly budget is.  Are you spending too much on going out to eat or gambling? If so, the Judge will disallow those and make that money available for maintenance.

Does my spouse have to work full time?

If yours spouse hasn’t worked in years then he or she has “grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle” as the law says, then he or she may not have to go back to work for some time or even ever.  This is very case dependent and also depends on the amount of income you make as well as both you and your spouse’s ages.

Can I ever retire?

Yes.  While not formally written down in the law, what often occurs when you are paying spousal maintenance and reach retirement age, the Court will look at the percentage of your reduction in income from what you made working to what you are making on retirement and social security.  This isn’t always the case, but in Southern Minnesota, it is true more often than not.

Child Custody

Who gets to decide where the kids go to school?

Minnesota has two distinct types of custody; legal and physical.  Legal custody deals with education and most of the time you will have joint legal custody with your ex.  This means that if you have joint legal custody you will have to agree on where the kids to school.  If you can’t decide together, the Court will ultimately decide for you.

Who pays for the medical insurance?

Medical insurance premiums are considered a form of child support in Minnesota.  This means that over and above cash child support payments, the court will take both parties incomes, divide them out and assign a percentage to each parent to cover the kids health insurance.  This law was changed in 2007/2008 and we rarely argue about this any longer.

Who pays for extracurricular activities?

This is a tricky question and one that isn’t very clear.  If the divorce decree is silent as to who pays, then you’ll have to work it out with your Ex.  While the cost of activity fees, camps, clothing, etc. can be very expensive it is not dealt with under Minnesota Child Support laws.

Can I take the kids out-of-state?

You can almost always leave the state with your kids, as long as you intend to return.  This is true both during the divorce and after.  The issue that comes up very frequently however, is moving out of state.  If your Ex has any parenting that is court ordered then in order to move outside of Minnesota you need to

Child Support

How much do I have to pay for Child Support?

Every state is unique in how they calculate child support, Minnesota looks at the percentage of overnights each parent has and takes into account the income each parent has to come up with a monthly payment that is owed.  For overnights the court looks at everything up to 10.1% of overnights as the same and then up to 45.1% of overnights as the same.

How long do I have to pay?

Most parents have to pay until either 1) emancipation 2) the child turns 18 or 3) the child graduates high school.  There are rare occasions where a MN court can order child support past those three instances, such as the child having a very serious health condition or other need based reason.

Who pays for the medical insurance?

Medical insurance premiums are considered a form of child support in Minnesota.  This means that over and above cash child support payments, the court will take both parties incomes, divide them out and assign a percentage to each parent to cover the kids health insurance.  This law was changed in 2007/2008 and we rarely argue about this any longer.

Who pays for the extra-curricular activities?

This is a tricky question and one that isn’t very clear.  If the divorce decree is silent as to who pays, then you’ll have to work it out with your Ex.  While the cost of activity fees, camps, clothing, etc. can be very expensive it is not dealt with under Minnesota Child Support laws.

Who pays for daycare?

Just as the court looks at the PICS (parental income available for child support) amount and determines the percentage each parent has available for health insurance, the same is done for daycare.  There are instances such as when the county or state is involved and provides Minnesota Care or Minnesota Assistance where the formula is different, but generally it’s the same percentage as health insurance

Premarital Agreements

Why do I need a premarital agreement?

A premarital agreement or prenuptial agreement is not the most romantic thing to do prior to marriage, but can save an enormous amount of money and stress if you get divorced.  Even if you are not wealthy, if you are bringing either assets or you anticipate gifts from your parents or others into the marriage then it’s important to at least consider having a prenuptial agreement prepared.

Who do I keep my non-marital property safe?

The short answer is not to co-mingle the property.  Co-mingling property is where you take non-marital property and mix it with marital property.  An example would be if you had a IRA prior to getting married and kept contributing after you were married.  This causes the money to mix together and makes it hard to determine exactly what was non-marital.

A better solution is to keep the accounts separate or start a new account, leaving the old one untouched, while you are married.

Can a premarital agreement ever be invalid?

Yes.  If the technical requirements are not followed exactly, then the prenuptial agreement will usually be held to be invalid.  These requirements can be a little strict, such as having the document done at least 24 hours prior to the marriage, disclosing all assets, having each party have the opportunity to have an attorney review the document, just to name a few.

Can I have my spouse agree that they will not be entitled to maintenance if we divorce?

Probably.  This depends on the facts of the case.  One of the requirements for a prenuptial agreement is that it must be an equitable agreement.  This can be a little hard to understand, for example, if one party becomes a world-famous neurosurgeon while the other stays home and raises all the kids and 25 years later they divorce it would be unfair to put the non-doctor out on the street after all those years with nothing.

Marital Property

What is non-marital property?

Non-marital property is the property that you either bring into the marriage or if someone leaves you assets in their will OR if it’s a gift to just you (not your spouse and you) then it’s considered non-marital property and if you divorce you generally get to keep all of your non-marital property.

This is different than marital property which is generally everything you acquire during the marriage and is divided equally if you divorce.

Who is responsible for paying for the family home after I move out of the house?

If you have a joint mortgage, meaning you are both on the note for the home the bank will except to be paid and they don’t care by whom.  While your credit may take a hit if you don’t pay, generally until the court issues a temporary order, neither of you “have” to pay.

What items can I take with me when I move out of the house?

If you decide to leave the home and get divorced, there is no clear-cut law on what you can and cannot take.  Since most of the items are probably marital property, you are entitled to ½ the value.  The only restriction is that once the divorce is filed you cannot

What items are considered to be marital property?

Most of the items (and debt) that you acquire from the date you are married until the date of valuation (this is a technical term that is either the date of the pre-trial hearing OR whatever is more equitable) are divided equally.  This means the car, the home, retirement or pension plans should be divided equally.  Remember, just because one person has their name on a title or asset, it doesn’t mean it is not marital property.

What if I paid a down payment for the family home with money I had before the marriage?

This can get tricky, if you owned a home before the marriage and you haven’t co-mingled the funds by refinancing and taking all the equity, then you may be entitled to have that portion of the down payment to be non-marital.  This can get tricky and remember, if you are the one claiming the asset is non-marital, then you have the burden to prove it.

Divorce Mediation

What are the benefits of mediation?

Divorce mediation is very common in Minnesota.  It’s usually faster and cheaper than going to trial.  Most people who mediate will choose to have their lawyer present during the mediation to advise them if they are getting a fair and equitable settlement.

Can the mediator take sides?

The mediator is neutral and they have only one concern and that is to settle the case.  They can’t advise you or the other party.  This is important to keep in mind because some people have the belief that a mediator will try and divide the property or the kids in a fair manner, but that’s not what they are they for.

What if we cannot agree at mediation?

If you cannot agree how to resolve the case during mediation the mediator will notify the court and will usually set up a pre-trial hearing.  This is the last chance to try and settle the case short of going to trial.  Most cases do settle short of trial, either at ENE, mediation or through some other alternative dispute resolution.

When is mediation appropriate?

Minnesota law indicates that unless there is physical abuse, the parties should attempt mediation.  While most Courts in Minnesota will not require you to mediate, they will strongly encourage it.

How much does it cost?

The short answer is a lot less than trial.  Typically, mediators charge from $140-$250 per hour.  Some charge for travel and prep time, some do not.  The thing to remember is that trial and trial preparation is what you are attempting to avoid as it can be incredibly expensive.

Unmarried Parents

Do Fathers have any rights in Minnesota if they aren’t married to the mother?

The short answer is no.  Generally, if you are an unmarried father and even signed the birth certificate at the hospital, you have very few rights until the Court adjudicates you as the father of the child.  This is different than if you are married and the child is born.  If the child is born during the marriage, it’s legally presumed that you are the father.

Can an unwed mother leave the state?

Yes.  As long as there has not been a motion to establish parenting time or custody, even if the father has signed a Recognition of Parenting Time the mother can leave the state without obtaining either court or the father’s permission.

If you are interested in common questions that are asked during divorce and other family law issues please look at our Mankato Family Law Blog.

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