Divorce and Custody Terms

See Spousal Maintenance.
Child Support
Child support is money paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help pay for the child's expenses.  Unless agreed upon otherwise, child support is generally calculated according to the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines.  Child Support consists of three facets:  (1) basic support, (2) child care support, and (3) medical support.
Custody of a minor child can be joint between the parents or solely in one parent.  When making an initial custody determination, a court looks at the "best interest" factors found in Minn. Stat. Section 518.17, subd. 1.  If joint custody is sought, the court will look at the best interests factors and also four additional factors found in Minn. Stat. Section 518.17, subd. 2.  There are two types of custody:  Physical and Legal.  Physical Custody means the routine daily care, control, and residence of the minor child - basically where the child lives most of the time, especially during the school year.  Legal Custody means the right to determine a minor child's upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training - basically having a say in the major decisions in your child's life.
Dissolution (Divorce)
The legal dissolution of a marriage by a court.  The terms "dissolution" and "divorce" are interchangeable.
Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE)
Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) is an evaluative process designed facilitate quicker resolutions in family law cases and avoid the need for court trials.  ENE is available for both property (financial) and custody/parenting time (social) disputes.  Unlike mediation, evaluators in ENE actually give opinions on the merits of each parties case.  The parties present their case to the evaluators, who then give feedback and discuss settlement options.
Guardian Ad Litem
A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is a person appointed by the Court to represent the minor child's best interests during a custody dispute.  The GAL conducts an investigation and submits a report with recommendations on custody and parenting time.  They interview the child, parents, teachers, friends, family members, etc.  Due to recent budget cutbacks throughout Minnesota, a Guardian Ad Litem is usually not appointed unless there has been some allegation of harm to the child.
Harassment Restraining Order (HRO)
A Harassment Restraining Order (HRO) is similar to an Order for Protection, except that no specific relationship between the parties is required.  A HRO is a civil (not criminal) order.  A HRO does not contain the extensive relief options seen in an OFP, but is limited to ordering no contact and a cessation of harassing activity.
Marital Property
Marital property means basically everything that you and your spouse own that was acquired or received during the marriage, even during separation.  This includes money, real estate, retirement benefits, cars, household goods, jewelry, and other personal property.  Property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be marital property.  See the definition of "non-marital property" for exceptions.
Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party facilitates an agreement between two or more parties.  Mediation is commonly used to resolve divorce and custody disputes - and is generally preferred to litigation because of the low cost and greater chance of a satisfactory outcome for all those involved.  Parties are often court-ordered to attempt mediation prior to litigating their disputes.  Mediation is a great low-cost option to resolve disputes and find lasting solutions.
Non-Marital Property
In Minnesota, non-marital property is property that fits into one of several categories:  (1) things you owned before your marriage; (2) gifts, inheritance, bequests made by a third party to you and not your spouse; (3) things you got in exchange for your non-marital property; (4) appreciated value in your non-marital property; (5) things you receive after a certain point in the divorce proceedings - the valuation date; and (6) things designated as non-marital property in a valid pre-nuptial contract.  Note that property can be partially marital and partially non-marital
Order for Protection (OFP)
An Order for Protection (OFP) is a remedy under Minn. Stat. Section 518B, for pepole who want to stop domestic abuse.  An OFP is a civil remedy brought in family court that orders an abuser to stay away from you.  The abuser generally must be a family member, ex-spouse, significant other, or someone that lives with you.  An OFP can also order other relief such a no contact, temporary parenting time, temporary child support, temporary custody, exclusion from the home, temporary use of property, etc.  OFPs last for a fixed time, often two years, and can be issued for longer periods in some circumstances.
Parenting Time (Visitation)
Parenting time means the time a parent spends with a child regardless of the custodial designation regarding the child.  Parenting time is commonly referred to as "visitation."  It is generally awarded to the "non-custodial" parent in order to maintain the parent-child relationship.
Paternity is simply who is legally the father of the child.  A biological father, not married to the child's mother, must establish paternity before seeking custody or parenting time with the child.  Also, the Court can't order child support until paternity is established.  If the parents are not married when a child is born, the child has no legal father until paternity is established by either: (1) a Recognition of Parentage, or (2) a Paternity Order from the Court. 
Recognition of Parentage (ROP)
A Recognition of Parentage is a signed, sworn statement that establishes the identity of a child's father.  This process occurs when the child's parents are not married.  ROP's are generally obtained and signed by both mother and father in the hospital when the child is born, but can also be executed later.  The ROP must then be filed with the Minnesota Department of Health.  A ROP does not give a father any rights to custody or parenting time, but does establish paternity and provides a basis for a father to obtain those rights.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Formerly known as "alimony," spousal maintenance is an award, made in a divorce or legal separation proceeding, of payments from the future income or earnings of one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other spouse.  Whether or not a court will award spousal maintenance depends on each couple's unique circumstances.  A court will look to the factors listed in Minn. Stat. Section 518.552 when deciding what amount of spousal maintenance is appropriate.

Disclaimer: No case or client-specific information shall be discussed on this website. The content provided is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about divorce or custody in Minnesota , please seek the advice of an attorney.