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You’ve taken the difficult step of signing a marital settlement agreement with your spouse to finalize the terms of your Minnesota divorce. This legal agreement covers critical issues like child custody, child support, alimony, and division of assets and debts.

Now that the agreement is signed, you may be wondering – what happens next? Your divorce is not yet finalized just because you have a settlement agreement in place. There are still a few steps left before your divorce is complete.

How the Divorce Settlement Process Works in Minnesota

First, let’s review the key steps that lead to a divorce settlement agreement in Minnesota:

  • One spouse files for divorce by submitting a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This starts the divorce case.
  • The petitioning spouse serves divorce papers to their spouse.
  • Both parties exchange financial information and agree on dividing marital property and debts through negotiation or mediation. If needed, they also determine custody, parenting time, child support, and alimony.
  • Once terms are agreed upon, the settlement agreement is drafted, usually by a divorce lawyer or mediator. Both spouses review and sign it.
  • The signed agreement goes to the judge, along with the final divorce paperwork.
  • The judge reviews everything, ensures the settlement is fair, and issues a final divorce decree.

So what happens after you sign the settlement agreement but before the final decree is issued? Let’s take a closer look.

After Signing, Carry on With Negotiations if Needed

Ideally, when you signed the agreement, you were satisfied with all the terms and ready to move forward. However, sometimes, after signing, one party realizes they are unhappy with certain provisions.

If this happens, your divorce lawyer can attempt to re-negotiate or modify the existing settlement agreement unless the agreement specifically says the terms cannot be changed. Your lawyer can also request another mediation session to resolve any outstanding issues.

While rare, if substantial changes need to be made that you and your spouse cannot agree on, your settlement may be thrown out, and you may have to start over. This possibility stresses the importance of taking the time necessary to ensure you are fully comfortable with the agreement before signing it.

Your Attorney Prepares the Final Divorce Paperwork

Assuming you and your spouse are satisfied with the signed marital settlement agreement, the next step is converting it into a binding legal contract through your final divorce paperwork.

Your experienced divorce lawyer will take care of this process. They will prepare all the documents to incorporate your settlement agreement into the final divorce order.

This includes the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, Confidential Information Forms, Certificate of Dissolution, and any other forms required by Minnesota law. Your family law attorney will also draft the final Decree of Dissolution.

Reviewing these documents closely before they get submitted is essential to avoid any errors.

The Paperwork Gets Filed With the Court

Once the final divorce documents are complete, your divorce lawyer will file them with the Family Court in Minnesota, where your divorce case was opened. This is typically the county where you or your spouse reside.

Filing the paperwork formally brings your settlement agreement to the court and starts the process of making it an enforceable court order.

The Judge Reviews Your Divorce Case

After the paperwork is submitted, a Family Court judge will be assigned to your divorce case. The judge will thoroughly review all aspects of your divorce.

This includes:

  • Ensuring your settlement agreement meets all legal requirements in Minnesota
  • Confirming the agreement is fair and equitable to both you and your spouse
  • Validating all divorce forms and documentation is complete

Family Court judges want to ensure any agreements are reached to protect the best interests of the minor children involved. They also want to confirm the property division is reasonable. If the judge has any concerns, your divorce lawyer may be asked to provide clarification or make changes to the paperwork. Assuming no issues, the case moves forward.

The Court Issues a Final Divorce Decree

The final step is the judge formally issuing a written Final Decree of Dissolution, also called a Final Divorce Judgement. This legally finalizes your divorce.

The decree includes all the details of your divorce as outlined in your settlement agreement – division of assets and debts, alimony, child support, custody, etc. By signing this order, the judge formally dissolves your marriage and approves your settlement agreement.

Getting a Certified Copy of Your Divorce Decree

After your divorce is finalized, get several certified copies of the final decree from the Court Administrator’s office. You will need these any time you need to prove you are divorced. For example, you can change your name on financial accounts, government ID, insurance policies, etc. The certified decree is proof your divorce is 100% final.

Timeframe for Completing a Divorce in Minnesota

If you have a signed settlement agreement, completing an uncontested divorce in Minnesota can take 90 days or less. However, if your case has complications, it could take 6 months or longer before the final decree is issued. Much depends on how smoothly your specific divorce proceeds through the court process.

Is Your Settlement Agreement Legally Binding?

It’s important to understand that a signed marital settlement agreement is a legally binding contract under Minnesota law, even before your divorce is finalized. If your spouse does not uphold their end of the agreement, you may pursue legal action.

Some areas where issues often appear include:

  • Failure to pay child support or alimony per the agreed schedule
  • Not transferring over assets like the house or car title as indicated
  • Denying the agreed-upon parenting time outlined in your custody arrangement

Your divorce lawyer can help determine the best steps if your ex-spouse violates the settlement agreement. This could include filing contempt motions or seeking to enforce the contract terms.

Can I Change My Divorce Settlement Agreement?

What if you want to modify your existing settlement agreement after your divorce is finalized? In Minnesota, it is possible to change or amend divorce agreements after the final decree, but your options are limited.

According to Minnesota statutes 518.145 and 518.552, areas you may be able to modify include:

  • Child Custody – if the change improves the child’s life
  • Parenting Time – if modification serves the child’s best interests
  • Child Support – if there is a substantial change in circumstances

Changes to spousal maintenance depend on the language of your original agreement. Your divorce lawyer can advise if alimony terms can be altered.

Property division and debt allocation are usually non-modifiable per your divorce decree terms. Overall, the court’s priority is upholding conditions that protect children’s welfare and financial stability.

How to Change Your Divorce Settlement Agreement

To modify your existing divorce settlement agreement in Minnesota, you must file the proper paperwork with the court:

  • A Motion to Modify an Existing Court Order – This explains what you want to change and why. It also requests a hearing.
  • A Proposed Modification Agreement – Your requested changes must be presented to the court in writing. An attorney can help craft this properly.
  • A Statement of Income & Assets – You must disclose your financial position.

Your ex-spouse is served with the modification paperwork and has a chance to contest your requested changes. Assuming they agree or do not dispute, the judge will review your proposal and issue an order granting or denying the modifications.

Having an experienced divorce lawyer guide you through this process is highly recommended to ensure success. Navigating post-decree modifications on your own is extremely difficult.

Think Twice Before Seeking to Change Your Settlement

While Minnesota law allows for some divorce agreement changes post-decree, you must think carefully before taking this step. Modification hearings can easily spark renewed conflicts with your ex-spouse and drain time and money.

Before filing any modification motions, consider the following:

  • Can you address this need informally first? More conflict could do more harm.
  • Is this change absolutely necessary or in the best interests of minor children?
  • Is the change worth potential retaliatory legal action by my ex-spouse?
  • Do I meet the legal thresholds for this type of modification?
  • Can I afford the time and legal expenses of this process?

Working with an attorney experienced in post-decree divorce modifications is highly recommended if you must pursue changes to get impartial guidance.

Let Our Divorce Lawyer Guide You

Going through a divorce marks a major life transition. At Martine Law, our seasoned Minnesota divorce attorneys are here to guide you through each stage of your divorce smoothly and offer insight every step of the way.

Contact our office today to schedule a consultation. We are here to answer your questions, discuss your options, and ensure your divorce settlement agreement leads to the best possible outcome for you and your family.