The So-Called $99 Divorce is Probably a Scam

Its no secret that the government is running low on money these days.  The court system (which is one of the three branches of government) is running low on money too.  Recently, Minnesota Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson gave an interivew that was published in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, in which he commented openly on the financial crisis facing Minnesota courts.  Since, technically speaking, Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson is my boss, I will just observe that his comments were right on.  I believe he presented the case for our court system very eloquently.

So, over the past several years court fees have been increasing.  If the future resembles the past, court fees will continue to increase.

Currently, it costs $400 to file a divorce petition in a Minnesota district court.  Some counties charge slightly higher, depending upon the amount of the surcharge for the county law library.  If each party appears in the proceeding, each party has to pay their own filing fee of $400.

It costs $100 to bring a motion for temporary relief (or to file any other kind of motion) in family court.  This is in addition to the $400 court filing fee.  Again, each party that appears in the motion proceeding has to pay the $100 filing fee.

It costs $25 to file a document by fax.  Yep, $25, even for a one page document.  Sometimes, because of time deadlines, it is necessary to file by fax.  If the fax is more than 50 pages, it costs another $25.

If the court requires a custody evaluation, this can cost quite a bit.  In the past, courts had internal court services workers who would perform custody evaluations.  Generally speaking, the courts no longer offer this service because of the cost.  So, custody evaluations are often done by professional psychologists or sometimes professional social workers.  The cost of a custody evaluation typically starts at about $5,000.  This would be an inexpensive evaluation.

So, when you see ads that advertise a $99 divorce in Minnesota, you can figure they are a scam.  It is not possible to get divorced in Minnesota for $99, when the court filing fee is $400.  For $99, all they really give you is a set of forms that you can actually get for free from the Minnesota Supreme Court at http://www.mncourts.gov/default.aspx?page=513&category=55.

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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