The parties in a Minnesota family law matter are the Petitioner (the party bringing the action) and the Respondent (the party responding to the action). The Respondent has several options for responding to an action. If the action is for paternity or custody, the Respondent has 20 days to file an answer. An answer is a document that responds to the allegations set forth in the Petitioner’s Petition. The Respondent goes through each allegation in the Petition and can either:
- Admit that the allegation is true
- Deny the allegation
- Qualify the allegation
- Respond that he or she simply does not have the information to respond to the allegation
If the action is for a dissolution of marriage (divorce), then the Respondent has 30 days to file an answer. The Respondent is also able to file a counter petition, requesting relief from the Court in the same way that Petitioner requested relief.
Pay Attention to Court Pleadings
If the Respondent fails to answer or respond within the required 20 or 30 days, the Petitioner can move for the court to default the Respondent after an additional 20 days. If a Respondent is served with court pleadings it is important that he or she pay careful attention to the timelines explained in the pleadings so as not to miss the opportunity to respond and/or ask the court for relief. Depending on the case, sometimes the Respondent is granted an “indefinite extension to answer,” meaning that the Petitioner will waive the deadline for the Respondent to have to file an answer. This is typically done in cases where it looks like the parties are close to settling the matter. If the parties do not settle, then the Respondent will file an answer and counter petition prior to trial to solidify his or her position moving forward. If the matter is settled, the Respondent may benefit financially by not filing an answer and counter petition. Each party is required to pay an initial filing fee (approximately $350-$400 depending on the county and the type of case). If the Respondent does not file an answer and counter petition, he or she can avoid paying this initial filing fee. However, if there is a post decree motion in the future, Minnesota court administration will require the Respondent to pay that initial filing fee at that point in time, in addition to the motion filing fee.