The various proceedings, namely, dissolution, legal separation, and annulment, are all governed by the same procedural rules. Many of these rules are set out in the statutes. Other procedural rules are set out in the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure and the General Rules of Practice for the District Courts.
See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 301.
Jurisdiction; Residency Requirement
At least one of the parties must be a resident or domiciliary of Minnesota for at least 180 days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding.
See Minn. Stat. 518.07.
A proceeding for dissolution or legal separation must be brought in the county where either party is domiciled. If jurisdiction is premised on one of the parties being a member of the armed forces stationed in Minnesota, venue is proper in the county where the member is stationed. The court may transfer venue to another county if the parties consent, if the court finds that an impartial hearing cannot be had in the county where the proceedings were commenced, or if the convenience of the parties or the ends of justice would be promoted by the change.
See Minn. Stat. 518.09.
Service of Process
A Proceeding Affecting Marriage is commenced by service of a summons and petition or other means authorized by statute upon the person of the other party. This precludes substitute service or service by mail. Service can be accomplished by:
a. Personal service (by serving the summons and petition upon the person of the party to be served),
b. Admission/Acknowledgment (when the party to be served signs an admission of service or acknowledges service as permitted in Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.05); or
c. Alternate means (by alternate means authorized by statute), or
d. Publication (permitted only upon an order of the court). Minn. Stat. 518.11(c)
See Minn. Stat. 518.09, 518.11, Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 302.01(a)
Summons and Petition
These are the initial pleadings in a proceeding for dissolution, legal separation or annulment. The forms are available at http://mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx?c=15. The information required by statute is accounted for in the forms.
a. Joint Petition (Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 302.01 (b)(1)): If a joint petition is filed no summons is required, but both parties must sign the verified joint petition. The rules provide that parties may proceed using a joint petition, agreement, and judgment and decree for marriage dissolution if they agree on all issues.
See Minn. Stat. 518.005.
Parent Education Sessions
In any action under chapter 518 or under the paternity statute where custody or visitation is contested, the parents of a minor child are required to attend a minimum of eight hours in an orientation and education program that meets the minimum standards set by the supreme court. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, participation in a parent education program must begin within 30 days after the first filing with the court or as soon as practicable after that time based on the reasonable availability of classes for the program for the parent.
See Minn. Stat. 518.157.
Scheduling Statement or Initial Case Management Statement
Except where the court orders the parties to use an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC), within 60 days after the initial filing in a case, or sooner if the court requires, the parties shall file a Scheduling Statement that substantially conforms to the form developed by the state court administrator.
a. If the county uses ICMCs, the parties will be required to complete an Initial Case Conference Data Sheet to provide to the court in advance of the ICMC.
See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 304.02(a).
Alternative Dispute Resolution Options
a. Who must participate: All family law matters in district court are subject to the ADR processes established in Rule 114 for all civil cases, with the exception of the following matters:
1. Actions enumerated in chapter 518B (Domestic Abuse Act)
2. Contempt Actions
3. Maintenance, support, and parentage actions when the public agency responsible for child support enforcement is a party or is providing services to a party with respect to the action.
4. The court may not require the parties to participate in any “facilitative process” where one of the parties claims to be the victim of domestic abuse by the other party or where the court determines there is probable cause that one of the parties or a child of the parties has been physically abused or threatened with physical abuse by the other party.
b. Types of ADR Processes (Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 114.02(a)) There are multiple, refer to statute for a complete list. If a jurisdiction utilizes the ICMC process, it is at this hearing that the parties will discuss and agree upon attempting ADR options. The most common are the following:
1. Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE): A forum in which the parties’ and their attorneys present the core of the dispute to neutral evaluator(s). The evaluators are selected from a roster of qualified and trained neutrals. The neutral then gives an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the cases. The evaluator(s) may then facilitate discussions for a mediated agreement.
2. Mediation (Minn. Stat. 518.619): a forum in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between parties to promote settlement. A mediator may not impose his or her own judgment over that of the parties.
See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 310.01.
Within 30 days after the expiration of the time for filing an Initial Case Management Statement, the court will enter its scheduling order. The court may issue the order after either a telephone or in-court conference, or without a conference or hearing if none is needed. Scheduling orders may include dates for completion of discovery, motions, evaluations, pretrials or trials.
See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 304.03(a).
Each party is required to complete a Parenting/Financial Disclosure statement, which must be served on all parties and filed with the court at least seven days prior to the date of the pretrial conference. The statement must be in the form developed by the state court administrator.
See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 305.01.