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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.

 FAQs on Same Sex Marriage and Divorce FAQs on Same Sex Marriage & Divorce

Children, Property & Settlement

Your divorce will be more complicated if you have property (real estate, automobiles, vacation property, pensions, jewelry, etc.) or minor children. Your case could be done faster if you and your spouse agree on how to divide the property and handle custody of the children. Many cases start out with disputes, but then the parties are able to reach an agreement. Sometimes the judge will order the parties to try mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to reach an agreement.

Parent Education Class

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 listed below describe their approved divorce classes on their websites:

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

For other courts, contact Court Administration to learn about their approved divorce education classes.

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.

Divorce Legal Education Tools

Divorce booklet "What to Expect: Divorce in Minnesota" (booklet on what judges
want people to know about getting divorced in Minnesota)
Divorce video "How to Start a Divorce in Minnesota" (video, 25 min.)

Divorce Paperwork

There is a lot of paperwork involved in getting divorced and there are rules and deadlines to follow in preparing the papers. 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.  Final 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 papers for divorce 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 court.

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.

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

 

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