Minnesota Divorce Terminology 101

If you are considering divorce, it is in your best interests to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney as soon as possible. Understanding the legal process while dealing with the emotional fallout of the marital split can be difficult to say the least.

However, you may be able to ease the stress of the process by understanding the nuances of common divorce terms:

  • Separation vs. legal separation — In Minnesota, separation simply means living apart. However, you are still responsible for the care of your children, financial support and payment of bills. A legal separation, on the other hand, more closely resembles divorce and requires the filing of a petition with the District Court in the county where you or your spouse live. Issues regarding custody, parenting time, child support and, if appropriate, spousal maintenance must be resolved. But unlike divorce, you are still married under a legal separation.
  • Child custody vs. parenting time — There are two types of child custody: legal and physical. Physical custody involves making day-to-day decisions about your child’s life and where he or she lives. Legal custody covers the right to make major life decisions about the child, such as those involving education, health care and religion. Depending on your situation, you may obtain joint or sole custody. Parenting time, also known as visitation, refers to the time the non-custodial parents spends with his or her child.
  • Spousal maintenance — When your divorce is finalized, the court may order you or your ex to pay spousal maintenance or support (sometimes referred to as alimony.) Spousal maintenance is designed to provide financial assistance to the lesser-earning spouse. Based on your circumstances, the court may order temporary or permanent maintenance.
  • Summons, petitions and answers — To initiate a divorce proceeding, one spouse must draft a summons and petition and serve it to the other spouse. The receiving spouse then carefully reviews the summons and petition. If the receiving spouse disagrees, he or she answers.

Prior to filing for divorce, consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. He or she can explain the law to you in an easily accessible manner and ensure that your rights are protected.

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