Divorce

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Divorce AttorneyLooking for a Minnesota divorce attorney or have some questions about the divorce process?  You’ve come to the right place.  We will get you started here with some of the questions we are most frequently asked, but please do not hesitate to contact us directly be email or phone for an initial consult.  Our divorce law office is located in Woodbury/St. Paul, Minnesota, with other satellite offices in the Twin Cities, where we would be happy to meet with you.  If you have an international or interstate divorce or custody issue, and you are not a resident in Minnesota, we would be happy to setup an appointment to skype if you prefer.

What happens when I hire a divorce attorney at your office?

In most cases, that attorney becomes your attorney of record, and is able to file and serve legal documents on your behalf, and to receive documents on your behalf. The specific steps taken by the attorney vary based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, and will be determined in consultation with the client.

What’s the first thing we do in a divorce proceeding?

If we are initiating the divorce, we will draft the divorce petition and arrange to serve it on the other party. Serving the other party with the divorce petition does not need to involve a third party delivering the papers to the other party if the other party is willing to acknowledge receipt of the papers by signing an “Admission of Service.” If we are responding to the other party’s divorce petition, we will reply to the requests in the Petition, and identify disputed issues and undisputed issues in the divorce.

Does it matter whether I initiate the divorce or my spouse does?

Both parties are entitled to the same results in court, and subjected to the same obligations to receive those results, whether they are the party initiating the divorce (Petitioner) or responding in the divorce action (Respondent).

How long does it take to complete a divorce in Minnesota (MN)?

If all issues are undisputed, the divorce can be completed in as little as a few weeks. If there are major disputes that need to be litigated in court, the divorce can take many months. On average, a divorce that settles out of court takes two to five months. On average, a divorce that requires a court trial takes six to twelve months. Your divorce make take a longer time, or a shorter time, depending on the specific circumstances of your case.

Will you work on a contingency basis?

By law, Minnesota divorce attorneys are not permitted to work on a contingency basis, where the attorney receives a share of the total award. Attorney’s fees in divorce cases are almost always on an hourly basis. Therefore, the client can expect to pay higher fees for cases that require a great deal of time, and lower fees for cases that resolve relatively quickly.

What retainers are required? How would I be billed?

We try to be as straightforward as possible about our billing so there are no surprises, and we are always happy to answer any questions you may have about billing, at no charge to you.

When you select Williams Divorce & Family Law to represent you, we will provide you with a retainer agreement to sign. The retainer agreement spells out our billing policies in detail. Typically, the client will pay a retainer fee to begin the case.  This retainer is placed into a trust account until the fees are earned.   The initial retainer fee will vary depending on the specific facts and complexities of the case, and how much time we believe the case will take. Retainer fees typically range from $1,000 to $12,000.  Cases that do not require court appearances require retainers on the low end of that range.  Cases that are about to go to trial may require retainers at the high end of that range.  The initial retainer is just a down payment for us to begin the case, it is not expected to cover all the work on the case except in very simple cases. When the retainer is exhausted, we will ask you to replenish the trust account each month until the end of the case.

At Williams Divorce and Family Law, if at the end of the case the entire retainer fee has not been utilized, the remainder is refunded to the client.   Whether the case requires more than the retainer fee, and how much more, depends on many different circumstances, some of which you and your attorney can control, and many of which you cannot.

Williams Divorce & Family Law employees bill their time in tenths of an hour, or six minute increments. Clients receive detailed bills indicating every item for which time was billed. We first apply any retainer you may have paid to your bill, and then you are responsible for the balance as well as replenishing the retainer if we anticipate significant work on your case in the coming month. Balances are payable upon receipt, unless other payment arrangements have been made with Mr. Williams in advance.

What happens to my retainer fee, and interest on my retainer?

By law, all Minnesota divorce attorneys, must deposit retainers into an IOLTA account, Interest On Lawyer Trust Account. The bank then pays the interest earned to the Lawyers Trust Account Board, which makes annual grants to organizations providing services to lower income individuals.

How can I be sure you are the Minnesota divorce attorney I want to work with?

In order to help you be comfortable with your choice of a divorce lawyer, we would be happy to speak with you by phone or email free-of-charge. Our paralegal, Jocelyn Daul, is very experienced in family law, and is able to answer many questions about the divorce process.  However, she is not an attorney.  For questions involving facts of the case and the situation you are facing, we invite you to request a free 30 minute phone consult to speak with one of our attorneys.  They can explain what the next steps might be, and what you might be able to accomplish.  Should you choose to retain us, an office meeting or a consultation could be arranged which would be subject to the hourly rate of the attorney with whom you meet. Gerald or Emily do not become your attorney-of-record until a retainer agreement has been signed.

If the divorce is uncontested, do both spouses need to have a divorce attorney?

No. In Minnesota, each spouse has the right to have an attorney or to knowingly waive that right.  Each spouse should make his or her own decision about whether or not to have a divorce attorney representing him or her.  It may be that both spouses have an attorney.  It may be that neither spouse has an attorney.  It may be that one spouse has an attorney, and the other does not.  If there is only one attorney involved, that attorney represents one of the spouses, and not both spouses (which would constitute a conflict of interest).

If my spouse and I are getting divorce, can we share a divorce lawyer?

In Minnesota and most other states, one divorce lawyer cannot represent both parties in a family court proceeding. (Do not be misled by the movie Juno and its statement about collaborative law!) It is common for divorces to happen with only one lawyer involved. However, when one divorce lawyer is involved, that lawyer represents only one of the parties; the other party waives counsel. The party who chooses not to have a lawyer should not look to the other party’s lawyer for legal advice or guidance as to whether or not to accept a settlement proposal. A divorce lawyer involved in the process should provide representation and advice to only one party.

What is divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process of resolving the issues in a divorce case by agreement of the parties, instead of by the decision of the court after a trial. After it is determined that there are disputed issues, and before the disputed issues are litigated in court, the issues are presented to a mediator, who is a neutral professional who has no authority to render a decision on the disputed issues. The mediator assists the parties in finding common ground, reasonable concessions, or creative solutions, to facilitate the parties’ agreed resolution of the disputed issue(s). Williams Divorce & Family Law, P.A., represents clients who are engaged in the mediation process, and advises them as they move forward in the mediation process.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is one way of resolving a divorce case without going to court, and the primary way of doing so knowing from the beginning that the case will conclude without contested court proceedings. In the collaborative process, the parties and attorneys agree at the beginning of the divorce case to refrain from resorting to court motions and trials throughout the entire proceeding. Where there are disputed issues, the parties negotiate and, as necessary, proceed with alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation, to reach an amicable conclusion to the divorce case. Collaborative divorce is part of Gerald O. Williams’ practice. For more information on collaborative divorce, this link will launch the Collaborative Law Institute.

If I decide not to have an attorney represent me, will the court give me some leeway since I am not licensed to practice law?

An unrepresented party is held to the same standards and expectations as a represented party.  Court appearances by unrepresented parties are on the rise, so family courts are attempting to become more user-friendly.  The court is less likely to give leeway the more complex the court proceedings are.

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