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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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  • "With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.

  • "Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.

  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties. Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.

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