My recent blog post on the future of divorce in Minnesota has received a lot of attention. I am hopeful that the folks at the Minnesota state legislature understand the severe economic pressure that the Minnesota court system is under. While I like to remain apolitical in this blog, it is nonetheless true that the divorce court system provides a significant and important service to the citizens of Minnesota. Regardless of how prolonged and contested divorce proceeding can become, it is better than self-help. It is important that the Minnesota legislature provide adequate funding for the Minnesota judicial branch.
Having said that, there are ways that people can reduce the costs they incur in connection with their divorce proceeding. First, the parties should take a personal “inventory,” and ask whether they want to spend the next year or so of their life fighting about their personal issues in public, in divorce court. If the answer to that question is “No,” then the parties should identify the kinds of issues that they may be able to reach a compromise on. Then, they should try to reach a compromise. A compromise on some of the issues is better than no compromise at all.
Sometimes parties cannot reach a fair compromise because one of the parties has a personality disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are examples of personality disorders that are very difficult for the other spouse to deal with in the context of a divorce proceeding. I also understand that some issues may not be amenable to compromise, even if both parties are comporting themselves rationally. That’s why they have judges. But, if parties can limit the range of issues that a judge has to decide, that streamlines the process and results in cost savings.
It is important that parties retain certain basic financial records that can help in dividing assets. These records include recent state and federal income tax returns, recent paycheck stubs, year-end account statements for retirement accounts and investment accounts, and records relating to the purchase of a homestead or other significant item of real estate or personal property. If these kinds of records can be exchanged at the time that the proceeding is started, this will result in a significant cost savings.
When I meet with a client for a free divorce case analysis, I provide the client with a comprehensive list of documents that I may need to review if I agree to represent the client. I suspect that other attorneys do the same, so when you have an initial case analysis meeting with an attorney, be sure to ask him or her for a copy of the list.
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