MARITAL DISSOLUTION STEPS
FOR COPIES OF FORM PLEADINGS AND FORM LETTERS, PLEASE REFER TO YOUR VLN
FORM DISC, OR CALL VLN TO OBTAIN SPECIFIC FORMS. CALL VLN TO ARRANGE FOR
OFFICE SPACE AND/OR MEETING WITH STAFF ATTORNEY.
1. Initial Interview. Review and complete a Dissolution Information form with client
as completely as possible. Both you and client need to sign the VLN Representation Agreement,
returning a photocopy to VLN. The representation form contains a space for listing expenses.
The filing fee in Hennepin County for marriage dissolution as of July 1, 2009 is $402.00.
The filing fee for a motion or responsive motion is $100.00. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s De-
partment charges $35.00 for service plus mileage. A $40.00 deposit is required if you do not
have an account. Your VLN client should be eligible for In Forma Pauperis status, and
therefore will not have to pay the filing fee or service fee. The Sheriff will not require you
put down a deposit if proceeding IFP.
2. In Forma Pauperis. If the client cannot afford the costs of the filing fee, service of
process and/or a certified copy of the Judgment and Decree, it will be necessary to obtain an Or-
der for Proceeding In Forma Pauperis. Please call VLN if you would like assistance in obtaining
judge’s signature on the Order. See forms and instructions.
3. Draft the Summons and Petition for Marital Dissolution. If this is a dissolution
with children complete the DHS Financial Affidavit. Meet with the client to review and have the
client sign the documents in the presence of a notary public.
Social security numbers should not be included in any pleadings. Submit
social security numbers separately on the form entitled, “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
FORM”. Any tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements or other confidential docu-
ments should be filed with the court separately in a sealed envelope and the “SEALED FI-
NANCIAL SOURCE DOCUMENTS” list filed with the court.
4. Arrange for service of the Summons, and Petition on the Respondent. If this is a
dissolution with children, you should serve the Financial Affidavit and supporting documentation
with the Summons and Petition. The appropriate county sheriff’s office in Minnesota will waive
the service fee if you have an Order for Proceeding In Forma Pauperis. Send to the county
where you are requesting the respondent be served. Please call VLN if you need information
regarding out of state service. Most out of state sheriffs will honor a Minnesota IFP Order.
If the location of the Respondent is truly unknown after diligent inquiry, you may
need to serve by alternate means. See the alternate service forms. You may contact us for spe-
After service, file the Summons and Petition, with an affidavit of service, Confi-
dential Information Form, Financial Affidavit, plus filing fee (or the IFP Affidavit and Order) with
the District Court. When filing the Financial Affidavit, attach Form 11.2 Sealed Financial Source
Document to the affidavit in between the Financial Affidavit and the required supporting documen-
tation. The family courts are located at the Family Justice Center, 110 South 4 Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55401, not in the Hennepin County Government Center. No filing fee will
be required if you have an Order for Proceeding In Forma Pauperis.
5. If there are minor children and there are contested custody issues, advise client
of Educational Program Requirements when you receive Notice of Judicial Officer Assignment.
See form letter.
6. Approximately 4-6 weeks after filing, you will be required to attend the Initial
Case Management Conference. This is a meeting involving both parties, attorneys and the as-
signed Judicial Officer to determine what the contested issues are and the timing of future activity
in the case. You will be mailed a form entitled, “Initial Case Management Conference Data
Sheet”, which you must complete and submit to the court (3) days prior to the meeting. This form
is for the court’s informational purposes only and does not become part of the court file. You
may be able to use this conference time for a default hearing. Also, in a pure default you
may be able to proceed administratively, without the need for a hearing. See paragraph
7. At or after the conference, ascertain the need for bringing a motion for temporary
relief. Does your client need an order establishing temporary custody of minor children or setting
a child support obligation during the proceedings? Will need to analyze on a case-by-case basis.
If you determine that a temporary hearing is appropriate, you must schedule a hearing
with the clerk of the Judicial Officer assigned to the case. Draft Notice of Motion and Motion, Ap-
plication for Temporary Relief, and client’s Affidavit. Serve on opposing party or attorney by mail.
File these documents along with affidavit of service with the District Court. Arrange for a courtesy
copy of your pleadings to be mailed or delivered to the Judge or Referee hearing the case.
8. Negotiating a stipulation/marital termination agreement where the client is on
MFIP. Get County Attorney to sign off on the stipulation. You may call the family division to do
this by mail, telephone #(612) 348-6392. If there is no stipulation and the client receives MFIP,
you must notify the public authority of the date, time and courtroom where the final hearing will be
held. See form – Notice to Public Authority.
9. Informational Statement: To be served and filed 60 days after filing the action or
60 days after the temporary hearing.
If you believe your case is going to proceed by default, you do not need to com-
plete the Informational Statement form, if you will be filing a purple Default Dissolution Scheduling
Information sheet within 60 days of opening the court file or temporary hearing.
10. File affidavit of default and purple default scheduling sheet to get final hearing
date in cases where the dissolution is a straight default and there is no opposing attorney. Serve
notice to public authority if client is receiving public assistance, once you get the hearing date.
If there are no minor children, and the respondent has not made an appearance 50 days
after service (71 days after alternate service) you should be able to proceed administra-
tively (without the need for appearance at hearing).
Also, consult administrative dissolution checklist, if there is an opposing attorney and no-
tarized Marital Termination Agreement. You may be able to proceed administratively with-
out the need for appearance at hearing.
If the opposing party has not served a formal answer, but has responded informally (a
note or a phone call) you may still proceed administratively, however you must provide
written notice to the respondent. Please see Affidavit of Default and Notice of Proceeding to
11. Draft final Judgment and Decree. See form and administrative checklist if appro-
12. Draft a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) if a division of pension or
retirement assets has occurred as part of the dissolution. These orders must be submitted to a
Judge for signature and filing, and then a copy served on opposing party or attorney, and a certi-
fied copy served on the administrator of the pension plan. QDRO’s may be submitted to the
Court after the entry of the Judgment and Decree. You may also call VLN at this point if you
would like assistance with drafting this document, or would like another volunteer attor-
ney to draft the document.
13. Final Hearing: Take to the hearing or submit in advance the original plus (2) cop-
ies of the Judgment and Decree if there are children, (1) copy if not. Attach Appendix A.
14. When judgment has been entered, you will be notified by mail. At that time you
need to order a certified copy of the J&D; when it is received send a certified copy to the client,
and arrange to have opposing party or attorney served with a copy along with a pleading called
“Notice of Entry”. Once again, you can receive one certified copy of the J&D at no charge if you
have a current (w/in one year) In Forma Pauperis Order. Serve a copy of the J&D on Support &
Collections, if there is spousal maintenance or child support ordered. At this time you may also
send a closing letter to your client, including any explanation of information particular to their case
such as name change notification, (social security, driver’s license) how to enforce child support
through the county, transferring pension benefits, health insurance, real estate, etc.
15. If the parties own real estate, the property may have to be transferred or sold.
Appropriate forms are available upon request. Notify the client in the closing letter that they must
file any transfer deeds and a certified copy of the Judgment and Decree with the County Record-
16. Complete and return the VLN Case Closing Form to VLN. Please also provide
us with a copy of the final court Order or Judgment and Decree.