No, it is certainly possible to complete your own divorce without retaining legal counsel. But a divorce can be a very emotional time, especially if there are children involved. As importantly, there are many complex rules and laws concerning the proper allocation of martial assets. Simply put, many divorces are complex matters that would be very difficult to navigate yourself.
Unlike married couples, where the law assumes parental rights in both parents, if you have a child with someone to whom you are not married, you will need to take a few extra steps to protect your parental rights by filing an action with the courts. Minnesota law presumes joint legal custody and at least 25% parenting time for the non-custodial parent, but you must commence a court action to get those rights.
Technically, without a court order for parenting time, no, you are not under a legal obligation to do so, however, as noted in the answer above, non-custodial fathers do have rights if they commence a court action. Keeping a child from a parent is the surest way to find yourself in court unless there are reasonable concerns about safety of the child and it would be in the child’s best interest to not have contact with a parent. There are many factors to consider when making this decision, it would be best that you consult with a lawyer before making your decision on what to do.
No fault divorce means simply that it does not matter who is at fault for the divorce happening. Put differently, the courts are not interested in figuring out who is to blame, it does not matter. As you can imagine, sometimes nobody is to blame for a marriage ending, other times, it is clearly one spouse’s fault. But in Minnesota, it does not matter who is at fault. The term Minnesota uses is “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. This just means that one of the people in the marriage doesn’t want to be married anymore. This also means that you will get your divorce, even over your spouse’s objections. They may drag out your divorce, but they can not stop it from happening.
Minnesota uses a child support calculator, which accounts for the incomes of both parents, some costs associated with the joint child (daycare costs, medical insurance) and spits out a number. You can find the calculator online here (http://childsupportcalculator.dhs.state.mn.us/) Remember, base child support is about the parents’ incomes, not the actual cost associated with raising the child. If you are not working full time, or have in the past worked more hours or at a higher wage, the child support court may use your potential income instead of your actual income; this reality can be frustrating for some parents. Usually you will not need an attorney to help you navigate child support court, but if you are self-employed, or have non-traditional income sources (rent, dividends etc.) you should talk to your lawyer before attending a child support hearing.
At Edman & Edman, our attorneys have been helping clients through family law matters for 40 years; our experienced attorneys know the ins and outs of complex issues that come up. If appropriate, our lawyers may be willing to work with you on a limited retainer basis. We offer a free half hour initial consultation for most matters, so if you are unsure if you need legal help, call us today.