I’m not a Minnesota attorney and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn last night, so I’m using this case to generalize for California.
In California, we open a divorce case with forms. No fancy pleadings or clever wordsmanship. Just checking boxes. However, the boxes you check are important because they are telling the Court and your spouse exactly what you want out of the case in terms of child custody, child support, spousal support and property rights. You’re putting the other side on notice of what you are asking for and if they don’t answer the petition within 30-days, you can get everything you want.
The flipside of that is that the Court cannot grant you relief you didn’t ask for. So if you don’t ask for spousal support or a specific division of property, the Court can’t help you if you change your mind down the road. Instead, you might have to amend your pleadings and reserve or file post judgment motions. That’s time consuming (and in family law, time is literally money, when it comes to billable hours), makes a process you probably want over go even longer and may even generate conflict that you had originally avoided.
That’s why, no matter how clean and easy you think your dissolution will be, you ask for everything up front. In negotiations, you can give on issues. Even in a default, you can be generous or simply reserve issues to be dealt with earlier. But if you start negotiating against yourself from the beginning, you are on the losing side of the table.
Law Offices of Aaron C. Smith
Aaron C. Smith