Then & Now: Divorce Law

Attorneys Jodi Terzich and Shannon Ort, from Terzich and Ort, explains how things have changed in the courts minds when it comes to the law of divorce.

CHILD SUPPORT: Prior to 2007, child support was calculated based on a person’s net income. Net income is easily manipulated, especially for high income earners with deductions for retirement, HSA, and other pre- and post-tax savings. It took no consideration in for the earnings of the other party. In 2007, Minnesota shifted to an income-shares model, where both parties’ incomes are considered and utilized in calculating the appropriate level of child support. In addition to using both parties’ income, it also uses the gross incomes and considers the amount of parenting time, with the idea being that the more parenting time you exercise, the more cost of raising a child you absorb, i.e., I have a child in my care on Wednesdays, I feed them, take them shopping or do whatever needs to be done on that day. It reduces the other person’s cost of raising a child by my absorbing costs that are included in my parenting time.

SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE: It is not necessarily a change in the law but a shift in the thinking and mentality. The most recent case law has a strong preference that requires both parties to work and work full-time. Years ago, we found many more traditional families, where one parent stayed home, typically the mom/wife, and dad/husband went to work. We now live in a culture where we have two-parents-working homes and the courts have reflected by suggesting that families who had a parent stay home during the marriage, at the time of a divorce, there may be an expectation for full-time employment. The idea is that people need to be self-supporting.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Years ago, a case would get filed and you would never meet the judge or even opposing counsel until you showed up for a trial. It was much more difficult to settle cases. There is a strong focus on managing cases, managing the issues, and forcing people to engage in mediation to try to resolve their open cases. When their case is filed, you are assigned a judge and have an initial hearing within 30 days. It is an informal hearing where you meet the judge and talk about the issues. You are then required to engage in some form of alternative dispute resolution, and there are periodic check-ins with the court to see how the case is progressing. The idea is settlement-focused, alleviating loss of time and expense, and having a way to manage the case without simply relying on the judge to make final orders.

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