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What are Minnesota Family Court Records?
Minnesota Family Court records are the official documents detailing the events of trials and hearings held at Minnesota courts handling family law, domestic issues, and juvenile matters. These documents include case files and dockets as well as court orders, petitions, agreements, summons, and decrees. While Minnesota makes most of its court records available to the public, some are confidential and only accessible by parties involved in those cases, their immediate families, and legal representatives.
What are Minnesota Family Courts?
Family Courts in Minnesota are divisions of District Courts. There are 10 Judicial Districts in Minnesota covering the state’s 87 counties. District Courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction and are responsible for handling all civil and criminal cases in the state. Each Judicial District has one or more District Courts with most counties having separate Family Courts.
The jurisdiction of Minnesota Family Courts includes the following types of cases:
- Domestic abuse
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
Minnesota District Courts have separate divisions for juvenile cases. Juvenile Courts in the state handle all matters involving minors or children under the age of 18. The types of cases heard in Minnesota Juvenile Courts include:
- Child protection
- Juvenile delinquency
How to Serve Family Court Papers in Minnesota
Minnesota requires the individual filing a motion in its Family Court to contact the other party within 7 days about settling the case out of court. The state’s Family Courts offer mediation and resolution services including alternative dispute resolution (ADR). After filing the motion in court, the first party must contact the other party by phone, in person, or in writing and then complete and file a Certificate of Settlement Efforts form at least 24 hours before the hearing starts.
There are exceptions to this rule. The first party must not contact the other party if there is a court order banning contact between both parties. Another permissible reason not to contact the other party is if there are valid reasons for not attempting to settle the case before it goes to court. Some family law cases are also exempt from this rule. These are listed on the Certificate of Settlement Efforts form. The suing party still has to complete and file this form even if exempted from out-of-court settlement.
When initiating a legal action in a Minnesota Family Court, the party bring the action must serve copies of all initial documents to the other party. Minnesota allows two major types of service:
- Personal Service
- Service by Mail
Who Can Serve Family Court Papers in Minnesota?
Minnesota allows the following individuals to deliver court papers by Personal Service:
- The personal bringing the legal action
- Another adult contracted to act as a process server
- The Sheriff
Personal Service involves hand-delivering a copy of court summons, complaint, notice, motion, or another court document to the other party involved in a case. The server may deliver the document to the other party personally or leave a copy at their residence with another person of suitable age living in the same residence.
Service by Mail involves sending a copy of the court document to the other party by first-class mail. The individual initiating a family law case cannot mail court documents in Minnesota. He or she must contract the task to a Sheriff or a third-party aged 18 or above and not involved in the case.
After completing a Personal Service, the server must fill an Affidavit of Personal Service form that must be filed with the court. When serving papers by mail, the recipient must complete and return an Acknowledgement of Service form that must also be filed with the court.
What Is Contempt of Family Court in Minnesota?
Contempt of court is a decision made by a judge following a complaint about someone disobeying a court order. To be held in contempt of court, the judge must be convinced that the person knew about the order and willfully disobeyed it. Minnesota courts only have contempt forms for enforcing Family Court orders.
Common reasons for contempt of Family Court in Minnesota includes refusal to pay child support or alimony, failure to abide court-ordered child visitation schedules, and refusing to transfer properties to the other party in a divorce. After filing a contempt motion, the accused party must appear in court to show that they were not violating the named court order or provide good reasons for not complying with it. If found in contempt of court, Minnesota Family Court can hand down any of the following conditional penalties:
- Transfer of property
- Jail time
Are Family Court Records Available to the Public in Minnesota?
Most of the records of Minnesota Family Courts are publicly available. These include case information, court transcripts, and administrative records. However, the Minnesota Rules of Public Access make certain records of Minnesota Family and Juvenile Courts confidential. Family Court records that are not accessible to the public include:
- Adoption records
- Domestic abuse and harassment records
- Mental health and psychological evaluation reports
- Family law evaluation reports with regards to counseling, rehabilitation, and treatment
- Court-ordered recommendations on child custody cases
Juvenile Court records are also not available to the public including appeal cases heard in Minnesota appellate court.
Are Minnesota Divorce Records Sealed or Public?
Divorce records in Minnesota are public records. Anyone can access the records online and in person at Family Court courthouses. However, the parties to a divorce may petition the court to seal their divorce records. The Family Court reserves the right to deny requests to seal divorce records. When making a decision, the judge must weight the claimed damage of keeping the records public against the need to uphold the public policy of making divorce proceedings public.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How Do I Look Up Family Court Records in Minnesota?
The Minnesota Judicial Branch provides online access to family case records on its website. Visit the Minnesota Trial Court Public Access (MPA) Remote View portal to search for these records. Individuals who are parties to a case can see more details using this online portal than the general public. Only non-confidential information on publicly accessible cases are available to the general public. To view the official documents of a Minnesota Family Court, contact the District Court courthouse and arrange a visit in person. Minnesota District courthouses provide public access computers for anyone to look up court records. Public access computers are also available at the Minnesota State Law Library.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How Do I Request Minnesota Family Court Records?
Each District Court in Minnesota has a Records Center that provides copies of court records on request. Find the District Court overseeing the Family Court where the case was heard and visit its website for details. Some Minnesota Family Courts also have Records offices. You can visit either location to request for copies of Family Court records. Alternatively, send a mail request for these records. Check the Minnesota District Court website for information about steps and documents required for mail requests. Note that Family Courts charge nominal fees for plain and certified copies of records requested.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.