The Divorce System In Minnesota

One of the problems with the divorce process in Minnesota is that procedures vary greatly from county to county.  This should be corrected by the Minnesota legislature.

Historically, the model for the divorce process in Minnesota was the “litigation” model.  In other words, divorce was treated like any other lawsuit.  Motions for temporary relief were very common, and both parties were  subject to the rules of discovery.  The litigation model works well for businesses like IBM, 3M, Medtronics, and other large corporations with unlimited funds to pay attorneys, but it does not work well for the average couple who need to get divorced.

In some counties, the litigation model is being replaced with a mediation model.  In Hennepin and Anoka counties, for example, there is an Early Neutral Evaluation program that funnels parties to either custody mediators or financial mediators.  During this time, the parties are not allowed to conduct discovery.  (A lot of practicing lawyers do not know this, but there is a standing order in Hennepin County, signed by Judge Swenson, that prohibits service of formal discovery until after the Initial Case Management Conference.)

The problem is that within Minnesota, there is no uniformity from county to county.  There should be.  My personal opinion is that it is proceduarlly unfair for people in one county to be treated differently under the law than people in another county.  Among other things, the variance in procedures creates a “home town” advantage for the lawyer who’s office is located across the street from the county courthouse.   Another problem is that there is not necessarily a reliable source of information for the attorneys or the parties on how best to proceed.  

Minnesota would benefit from a uniform divorce procedure.  The Minnesota legilature should take this issue up the next time it convenes.

Daniel Fiskum is a Minnesota divorce attorney who has been practicing since 1992. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has been named a "Super Lawyer" by the Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics. Mr. Fiskum is currently writing a book for attorneys and non-attorneys entitled "The Streetfighter's Guide to Divorce," which is scheduled for publication in May, 2010. Many of his blog entries will appear in the book. You may contact attorney Fiskum directly at (952) 270-7700. His office is located in the Carlson Towers in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The Fiskum Law website is found at www.fiskumlaw.com.

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