Divorce vs. Annulment in MinnesotaEverybody knows that marriage is complicated and that the path each couple takes in dissolving their marriage is different. No two couples will experience the same struggles, be it financial or emotional.

Though there are many paths that couples might take, they all end in one of only two ways. Every marriage will end in either 1) a divorce or 2) annulment. Whats the different between these two approaches? When might one be better than the other? To learn more about divorce and annulments, keep reading.


First things first, lets explain what a divorce is. According to a strict definition, divorce exists to facilitate the dissolution of a marriage. Divorce operates under the premise that a valid marriage occurred and, for whatever reason, the parties to that marriage no longer wish to remain in a legal relationship with one another. A divorce then facilitates the breaking of those legal ties that bind the couple together, undoing what the marriage did.

Annulment is an entirely different approach. Annulments exist to erase the record of a marriage, not to unwind a valid marriage. Annulments take place when the marriage itself is flawed in some fundamental way. Rather than breaking up, an annulment simply wipes the slate clean. The marriage isnt a thing of the past like in divorce, with an annulment it never happened in the first place.


Weve discussed the grounds for divorce previously. Though fault-based divorce still requires showing that one of the spouses did something wrong (an affair would be a good example, or some kind of drug or alcohol addiction), the vast majority of divorces are no-fault. This means that no one party is to blame. The basis for the divorce is that the parties no longer wish to remain married. Thats it. Its flexible and has few restrictions.


The same is not true for annulments, which can only happen in very limited circumstances. A common basis for an annulment is that either party was already married to someone else when the marriage took place. Because bigamy isnt legal, this previous marriage immediately invalidates any subsequent attempted marriage, opening up the possibility of annulment. A lack of informed consent is another basis for annulling a marriage, either due to one partys mental illness or mental incapacity or due to the age of the party (a minor who is too young to be able to consent). Other examples of grounds for annulment include incest or inability to consummate the marriage.

Other differences

Another important difference between divorce and annulments is the timeline. Divorce can (and does) happen whenever. A couple could be together for weeks or decades and decide that theyre interested in divorcing. Annulment almost always happens quickly. After all, if a marriage is fundamentally flawed and the argument is that it was never valid, it is important that the marriage isnt long lasting. Though there is no hard and fast rule, annulments typically occur in the first year or two after marriage.

One crucial difference between divorce and annulments is that there is no equitable division process in an annulment. Though a big aspect of any divorce is determining what property is separate and what is marital, in an annulment the marriage isnt seen as valid, thus there is no marital property to speak of. The property is instead seen as separate and the two parties walk away with what they brought to the relationship. For this reason, there is no alimony or spousal support granted in an annulment, another difference with a divorce.

Divorce & Annulment Lawyers in Minnesota.

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues such as alimony and helping negotiate emotional subjects like child custody arrangements. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.


What happens to the house during a divorce?If youre in the midst of a divorce or considering filing, there are likely a lot of things on your mind. The divorce process is stressful, emotional, expensive and confusing. Sometimes, youre faced with questions that you have a hard time answering because it seems like theres no good answer. Other times, youll experience questions that you dont feel like you understand well enough to begin to guess. One area where you might lack information concerns your home and what happens to it during a divorce. In the hopes of shedding a little light on the options you face, take a look at the following discussion of approaches to handling the house.

What if one party wants the house?

If only one spouse wants the house, its cause for happiness, though not necessarily outright celebration. Why no celebration? After all, there is no need for a big fight about the marital home, a common source of contention. Though its better than when both parties want the house, it doesnt mean there isnt still opportunity for trouble. The reason is that just because someone wants the house doesnt mean he or she can actually afford it. If only wishing made it so

If someone wants the house, the next step is to try and determine if he or she can afford it, on their own. This last part is critical. When you divorce, you will almost always want to insist that if you arent keeping the house, the spouse who is must refinance to release you from the mortgage obligation. If the refinancing never occurs, you will remain legally responsible for the house, regardless of what the divorce decree says. If the spouse who wants the house isnt in a financial position to qualify on their own, it may not work out, dashing that persons hopes and forcing you to think through another solution.

What if both parties want the house?

If both parties want the house there is, unfortunately, no way to ensure both people get exactly what they want, someone will have to give. A house, after all, cant be divided in two and isnt subject to shared custody arrangements. Though it may take a while to reach agreement, youll eventually need to settle on one person to remain in the home and the other person to get something else of value in return. If theres equity in the house, it isnt fair for the person remaining in the home to get to keep that valuable asset while the other person gets nothing. Instead, the party with the house will need to offset this asset in some other way. Perhaps the person with the house gives up some retirement funds or a savings account. Perhaps they simply buy out the other party, giving him or her half the equity in the house. Though there may be some upset feelings, the end result is that someone gets to walk away with the house and the other person gets an asset of similar value.

What if no one wants the house?

This is a relatively painless outcome. If no one wants the house, then theres no need to fight and no need to refinance. All you need to do is sell the thing. Sometimes, even that can prove difficult, with slow real estate markets or inflated ideas of the value of the house standing in the way of a quick sale. When that happens, the problem that can arise is the parties are stuck paying for not only the house, but their alternate housing, something that can get expensive pretty quick. Finally, once the house sells, youll need to divide up either the profit or, in some unfortunate cases, the loss.

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues such as alimony and helping negotiate emotional subjects like child custody arrangements. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.

Source: What Happens to Your Mortgage in a Divorce?, by Ashley Eneriz, published at Time.com.


Minnesota Child Custody EmergenciesTypes of Custody in Minnesota

During a divorce (dissolution of marriage) proceeding in Minnesota, there are many issues for former spouses to settle.

One of the most contentious is custody of dependent children. A basic overview of child custody law in Minnesota can help parents make informed decisions in the best interest of their children.

Minnesota statutes define two types of custody. The first is legal custody.. Legal custody of a child permits a parent to control a childs upbringing, education, health care, and religious practices. Minn. Stat. 518.003(a). There are varying degrees of legal custody in Minnesota, but in general, Minnesota courts presume joint custody is in the best interest of the child. Minn. Stat. 518.17 subd. 2. Courts may depart with this statutory presumption on a case-by-case basis depending on several factors. Those factors are 1) the parents ability to cooperate on child rearing matters, 2) how parents resolve disputes regarding the child, 3) whether extended interaction with one parent could be detrimental to the children and 4) instances, if any, of domestic violence in the household. Minn. Stat. subd. 2.

By contrast, Minnesota defines physical custody as the routine care and day-to-day administration of the childs welfare. Minn. Stat. 518.003(c). Unlike legal custody, there is no statutory presumption favoring joint physical custody. In a marital dissolution proceeding, a court will administer the best interest factors outlined in Minn. Stat. 518.17 subd. 1 to determine physical custody. The best interest test is similar to the test for legal custody, though more detailed. For example, a court will consider the reasonable preferences of the child when considering how to administer physical custody Minn. Stat. 518.17 subd. 1(a)(3).

Minnesota statutes permit parents to come to a reasonable agreement regarding legal and physical custody outside the purview of a judicial proceeding. Upon consent of both parties, parents may submit to the court a parenting plan to determine physical and legal custody of the child. Minn. Stat. 518.1705. A mutually agreed upon parenting plan must include (1) a schedule of time each parent spends with the child, 2) a method of decision-making responsibilities regarding the child and 3) a method of dispute resolution between the two parties. Minn. Stat. 518.1705 subd. 2(a).

Determining physical and legal custody of a child can be a daunting task for parents in the midst of a marriage dissolution proceeding. The advice of a knowledgeable Minnesota Family Process can reduce stress and help determine the best interests of the child.

Dakota County Divorce Lawyers

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues such as alimony and helping negotiate emotional subjects like child custody arrangements. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at  612-424-0398.



Dakota County DivorceIts a common complaint about divorce, the process is not only emotionally fraught and expensive, but it takes far too long. Between waiting periods and overloaded court dockets, it can take months for a divorce to wind its way to a conclusion. Though such complaints are nearly universal, recent news reports indicate that those couples unlucky enough to reside in Mississippi may have far more cause for concern than others. Thats because Mississippi is one of only two states (along with South Dakota) that do not allow for no-fault, unilateral divorce.

Trying to mediate

What is a no-fault, unilateral divorce, you may be wondering? No-fault refers to a kind of divorce that doesnt require holding any one party responsible for the demise of the marriage. States without no-fault divorce, like Mississippi, require someone to be responsible and this can prove difficult for a number of reasons. One reason is that sometimes, no one is at fault, marriages just arent working. Another issue is that requiring fault typically makes a contentious divorce even more so. Finally, finding fault can be hard to prove and thus time-consuming, forcing couples to spend time assigning blame rather than making plans for their life post-divorce.

Collaborative Divorce

A unilateral divorce refers to a split that can be accomplished by one person alone. Though we all know it takes two to tango, when it comes to divorce, its good to be able to move alone. The reason is that if one spouse is particularly uncooperative or combative, unilateral divorce allows the other party to get out of the marriage despite the attempted obstruction. In states without unilateral divorce, the spouse trying to leave might find themselves truly trapped.

No-Fault Divorce

So why is no-fault divorce a good thing? Weve already touched on some of the important benefits, but lets run through them again. For one thing, no-fault divorces are much faster. With speed comes efficiency and with efficiency comes cost savings, meaning no-fault divorces are also cheaper than those where fault must be found. No-fault divorces are potentially less acrimonious, given that one party doesnt have to be blamed for the failure of the marriage. Its for all these reasons that 48 out of 50 states have adopted no-fault grounds for divorce, an attempt to make it easier on unhappy couples to end their marriages.

What Makes an Easy Divorce?

Back to the title of the post, why is it a good thing to be able to divorce easily? A good example comes from Mississippi, where the legislature is currently embroiled in a fight over how to modernize the states antiquated divorce laws. At least two solutions have been proposed and both were quickly rejected by one influential legislator philosophically opposed to divorce. After an outcry from critics, the legislator agreed to meet with a domestic violence support group, the Center for Violence Prevention and discuss the matter. The group explained to the legislator how important a change in the law is to victims of domestic violence across Mississippi. As the law currently is written, divorce is nearly impossible if one spouse refuses to cooperate, leaving vulnerable spouses at the mercy of their controlling partners. Though some argue that abuse is already a legitimate ground for divorce, the CVP revealed examples of judges across the state who have said single incidents of abuse arent enough to satisfy the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. According to the CVP, the law helps abusers by encouraging their victims to feel trapped and helpless.

In Mississippi, the way the divorce law has been written, to make it exceedingly difficult, not easy, has caused some families serious and unnecessary harm. In a hopeful sign, the previously obstructionist legislator has now changed his tune and, after meeting with the CVP, authored an amendment of his own designed to make the divorce process simpler, especially for those who may be victims of violence. Though Mississippi still has a long way to go to smooth out an overly complicated process, this appears to be a step in the right direction.

Dakota County Divorce Lawyers

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues such as alimony and helping negotiate emotional subjects like child custody arrangements. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at612-424-0398.


Source:Lawmaker flips to support domestic abuse as divorce reason, by Sarah Smith, published at SunHerald.com.



Minnesota Divorce LawAnother touchy area that can be hard to compromise on, especially for those without children, involves pets. Those who have pets understand how much they can become an integral part of the family and why, in some divorces, the thought of losing contact with a pet can be so heartbreaking.

Though people have long understood the emotional bond that comes from having a pet, the law has been slow to catch up. Until very recently, pets were an afterthought in divorces, legally consigned to the importance of any other item of personal property, like a sofa. According to recent articles on the subject, times may be ripe for change, with one state finally passing a law to recognize the important role pets play in some families. Many advocates for change hope that this represents a broader societal movement to acknowledge the legal value of animals, which, if true, could have big impacts on the way pets are dealt with during a divorce.

Pets in a Divorce

First, let’s discuss the way things have long been done. When it comes to pets, the law never held them in terribly high regard. Even if you desperately loved your dog, the family court likely didn’t care very much. That’s not because the judges are heartless (they probably really love their dog too), but because the law does not grant animals any legal weight in a divorce proceeding. Animals, under the law, are simply items of personal property. That means if one spouse came into the marriage with a pet, that pet would be deemed separate property and thus the property of that spouse in a divorce. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, it would need to be divvied up, just like the other items of marital property. Before the law, your beloved cat is no different than a TV set or an ottoman.

This means that courts will not engage in a long or detailed analysis of where a pet should be placed. There is no best interest test (which is what happens with children). There are also no court-ordered visitation arrangements allowing shared custody. After all, would a court ever order and then administer shared custody of a toaster? Unlikely.

Those who love their animals far more than their toasters have begun advocating for changes under the law. Animal activists point out that the law is actually more complicated when it comes to animals than it first appears. Though family laws ignore the importance of animals, criminal laws do not. That’s because laws exist in every state criminalizing animal abuse and neglect. In this way, the courts do in fact make a distinction between pets and sofas. After all, no one would go to jail for abusing their couch, the same isn’t true with animals.

Just last year legislators in Alaska finally took the plunge and became the first state in the country to update antiquated family laws as it relates to pets. In Alaska, judges can now conduct a best interest analysis when it comes to pets. They can consider things like how the parties care for the pet, who feeds the animal or takes it on walks, and then make a much more informed determination about who should receive the pet post-divorce. Since then, legislators in other states, like Rhode Island, have floated similar proposals. Though there’s no tidal wave of legal change just yet, Alaska’s decision marks an important legal step forward for animals and the people who love them. If progress continues, don’t be surprised if in another few years pet custody hearings are the rule rather than the exception.

Free Initial Consultation

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues such as alimony and helping negotiate emotional subjects like child custody arrangements. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at 612-424-0398.


Source: In a first, Alaska divorce courts will now treat pets more like children, by Karin Brulliard, published at WashingtonPost.com.


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