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Will I have to go to trial in my divorce case?

Very few people in Minnesota relish the idea of going to trial, especially in their divorce case. Trials are stressful, complex and expensive. Fortunately, most divorces never go to trial. Instead, they are resolved by settlement - through alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation, or through negotiations between the parties' lawyers.

In a typical divorce, the major issues will include property division, alimony (also called spousal support), child support, child custody and visitation. If the parties are able to reach an agreement on all the key issues in their divorce, their agreement will be written down by the attorneys in a settlement agreement. That agreement will then be submitted to the judge for approval.

In most cases the judge will approve the parties' settlement unless it is contrary to law, patently unfair to one side, or there is a question whether one party understands the agreement or was pressured into signing it. The judge will usually hold a short, informal hearing to make sure the parties know the terms of the agreement and entered into it freely and voluntarily. If the judge approves the settlement, he or she will then issue a divorce decree which incorporates the terms of the settlement agreement.

In some cases, the parties will be able to reach agreement on all but one or two issues. In those cases, the judge can approve the partial settlement and schedule a trial on only those issues that remain in dispute.

Negotiating a fair divorce settlement requires substantive knowledge of each party's rights under Minnesota law. The advice of an experienced family lawyer can be invaluable to a spouse in this situation.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Settlement Agreements and Court Approval," Accessed Aug. 20, 2016

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