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Divorce Basics

Must Live in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, a divorce is called a "Dissolution of Marriage." To get divorced in Minnesota, one of the spouses must be living in Minnesota for at least 180 days before starting the case. Getting divorced is a lot more complicated than getting married, and it can take several months before your divorce is final.

Same Sex Couples and Divorce

Effective August 1, 2013, the law in Minnesota allows same sex couples to get married or divorced in this state. To file for divorce in Minnesota, at least one party must be living in Minnesota for at least 180 days before starting the divorce case. A same sex couple may also file for divorce in Minnesota if they got married in Minnesota on or after August 1, 2013, and each party to the marriage now lives in a state that does not allow the dissolution of the parties' same sex marriage. See MN Statutes § 518.07, Subd. 2.

Children, Property and Settlement

A divorce can get complicated if the parties have property (real estate, automobiles, vacation property, pensions, jewelry, etc.) or minor children. Usually, the divorce can be done more quickly if the spouses agree on how to divide the property and handle custody and partenting time with the children. Many cases start out with a lot of disputes, but then the parties are able to reach an agreement. Parties often reach agreement after using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services outside of court. NOTE: If you feel threatened by or unsafe with the other party, you may want to get legal advice or help from an advocate before using ADR.

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) in Family Court

Most courts give parents the opportunity to work with independent evaluators soon after the case is filed to see if they can reach an agreement about custody, parenting time, money and property. The two types of ENE are: Financial ENE (FENE) to settle financial disputes and Social ENE (SENE) to settle custody and parenting time issues involving their children.

ENE Fact Sheet Read the ENE Fact Sheet to learn more about this process.
ENE Fact Sheet Contact your District Court ENE Program for options in your case.

Divorce Education Class for Parents

The law in MN Statutes § 518.157 requires parents who have children together and who are getting divorced to attend a certified divorce education program if they do not agree on custody or parenting time (visitation). The judge may also order that the children attend a class.

The District Courts linked below have information about parenting education classes on their websites. For other court locations, please contact the court administration office to learn about their approved classes.


District 1 (Dakota Co.)
District 4 (Hennepin Co.)
District 5 (15 counties in southwest Minnesota)
District 7 (10 counties in central Minnesota)

Fees & Costs

Getting divorced costs money. There are court fees, possible attorney's fees, copying costs and "service of process" costs. If you are low-income or believe you cannot afford court fees, see Fee Waiver to learn how to ask for a fee waiver.

Prepare Divorce Forms

There are a lot of steps involved in getting divorced, and there are rules and deadlines to follow in preparing the court forms. Some of the documents in a divorce case are:

1.  Summons and Petition

In Minnesota, one spouse must start the divorce by writing a Summons and Petition and "serving" it on the other spouse. There are specific rules for how to serve the documents. NOTE: If both spouses agree on how to settle all the issues in their divorce and can sign the same papers, you could do a Joint Petition for divorce.

2.  Answer

The spouse who received the Summons and Petition must read the documents and decide how to respond. If s/he disagrees, s/he writes and serves an Answer. If the couple can reach an agreement, a Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree is prepared by one or both of the parties.

3.  Motions and Court Orders

A Motion is a paper asking the Judge or Referee to decide an issue in a case. In a divorce matter, a Motion for Temporary Relief allows you to ask the court to issue a temporary order for child custody, child support, spousal support, and certain property issues. The Temporary Order allows you to get needed financial support while your case is pending in court. The Temporary order will expire when the final divorce decree is signed by the Judge and "entered" by court administration.

4.  Divorce Decree

The official name of your divorce document is Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree. Once this document has been signed by a Judge and is "entered" by court administration, your divorce is considered final.

Divorce forms Divorce Forms

Going to Court

Where to go?

You usually need to file divorce forms in the District Court located in the Minnesota county where one of the spouses lives. Contact your local Court Administration for information on how to file for divorce in your county.

How many hearings?

The number of times you go to court and see a Judge or Referee depends on local court procedures and whether you and your spouse can agree on issues regarding your children, property and other matters. If you do NOT agree, the case usually takes longer to finish. It is a good idea to get legal advice before finalizing an agreement with your spouse.

Representing Yourself in Court Representing Yourself in Court:  Appearing in court is a very important part of any case, and all parties are expected to arrive early, dress properly, and act respectfully.


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