A divorce is among the most emotional and stressful experiences that people must endure in modern society. Even if two spouses go into a divorce expecting it to be a straightforward process, each of them should still prepare for unexpected twists and turns. It is impossible to predict how difficult or easy a divorce in Minnesota will be, but every individual facing a divorce can manage their own goals and expectations. Choosing the right divorce lawyer is perhaps the most important part of this process.
Please note that I did not say the best divorce lawyer, but rather the right one. This is about finding a lawyer who meets your unique needs. You could look at rankings of top lawyers in your town, but that will only tell you what other lawyers think. In a divorce case, you need an advocate who can communicate with you the way you need, and who will handle your divorce the way you want/need it to be handled.
Whether you plan on filing for divorce, or you expect that your spouse will file, you should be thinking about your ideal outcome. Questions to ask yourself include:
Divorces in Minnesota generally follow two paths: (1) the parties reach a settlement agreement, which the court approves; or (2) the case goes to trial, and the court decides the outcome. Most cases end in settlement.
A Minnesota court can only finalize a divorce if it is satisfied that certain issues have been addressed. If there are minor children, this includes child custody and child support. Any final orders involving custody and support must be in the “best interest of the children.” State law presumes that it is best for children to have regular access to both parents, meaning that if they live with one parent, the other parent should have regular visitation rights. Any arrangement that looks different than this requires evidence that it would be in the child(ren)’s best interest.
The court must also rule on the division of marital property. Minnesota law generally requires an equitable — which means “fair,” but not necessarily 100% “equal” — distribution of property acquired during the marriage. Disputes over exactly how to divide the property can still get contentious.
The popular image of divorce in our society involves no small amount of conflict, at least if you get your ideas about divorce from television and movies. Soon-to-be-ex-spouses wage total war against one another at home, in lawyer’s offices, and in the courtroom. Their feud rages on and on, consuming their resources, driving away their friends and family, and leaving their children somewhere in the middle of the chaos.
Is this a realistic depiction of divorce, though? Honestly, sometimes it is, but it does not have to be this way.
As mentioned earlier, nobody can predict how contentious or amicable a divorce will ultimately be. You already know the people who will be involved in your divorce, though, and you know the issues you will have to address. Above all else, you know yourself.
This is often the hardest part about preparing for a divorce case. You have to be completely, totally, maybe even brutally honest with yourself. It is fine to hope for the best, but this is about preparing for the possible worst. You will almost certainly have to deal with some uncomfortable topics relating to your marriage, your children, or both. Your divorce lawyer’s job is to advocate for you. In order for your lawyer to be able to do that job, you have to be completely honest with them. Attorney-client confidentiality exists to ensure that you can be an open book with your lawyer. Before that can happen, though, you must be honest with yourself about how you think the divorce will go.
If you expect (or want) your divorce to be all-out warfare, you can find a lawyer to light that fuse. Some Minnesota divorce lawyers focus on litigation, and thrive in the courtroom setting. Some have built a reputation for themselves as tireless gladiators for their clients’ interests. If you expect your spouse to fight back against what you want, this might be the right kind of lawyer for you.
If your hope is that you can put your divorce behind you quickly, or at least with minimal anguish on either side, you can find a lawyer who can work with you to meet your goals. Many divorce lawyers prefer negotiation over litigation, or other methods of resolving disputes like mediation.
With all of this in mind, you should be able to identify the qualities that you will need in a divorce lawyer. You can now go into an interview with a prospective lawyer with a good idea of who should be representing you.
Anthony Toepfer is a St. Cloud, Minnesota family law attorney who represents people during some of the most difficult ordeals of their lives. He advocates for his clients in divorce cases, child custody disputes, and other family law matters, both in the courtroom and at the negotiating table. As a client of Toepfer at Law, you will always have up-to-date information about your case, and we are always available to answer questions and address concerns. Please contact us today through our website, or give us a call at (320) 497-4416 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.
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