Filing for divorce in Minnesota can be a complex and emotional process Here’s how to file for divorce in Minnesota.
Although ending a marriage can be difficult, divorce can be a couple’s best option. Moving on from a relationship may be what’s right for certain families. A person wishing to file for divorce often seeks the help of a lawyer to guide them through the divorce process, but it is possible to file for divorce without an attorney. If a person does not wish to consult a lawyer, they must be well informed on Minnesota’s divorce process and requirements.
Steps to the Minnesota Divorce Process
There are two main divorce processes, each with its steps. One scenario is that both spouses agree on all issues (divorce proceedings, child custody, division of assets, etc.) in the divorce. The other scenario is that the spouses do not agree on all issues and court intervention is necessary to settle the divorce. The following are steps to the Minnesota divorce process in those two scenarios:
Both spouses agree on all issues
1.“Joint petition” signed by both parties
If both spouses agree on all issues regarding the divorce, they may fill out and sign the joint petition for marriage dissolution. Depending on whether the spouses have children will determine which joint petition they must fill out. If the spouses do not have children, they may fill out this form. Minnesota’s instruction sheet for filling out the “without children” form can be found here. If the spouses have children, they must fill out this form. Minnesota’s instruction sheet for filling out the “with children” form can be found here.
2. Joint petition filed with the court
In both “with children” and “without children” cases, the joint petition, one completed and signed, must be filed to the court in the county where the spouses live. Spouses may visit the county courthouse to file the joint petition.
3. Final hearing
For the court to accept the divorce agreement via the joint petition, the spouses normally must present their agreement in writing, at a formal hearing where both spouses appear before a judge. At the hearing, the spouses take an oath to speak honestly and explain what the terms of their agreement are.
4. Judgment & decree
A judge has 90 days to make their decision about the divorce after the hearing (it is rare for a judge to deny a divorce). The judge will issue the Judgment and Decree and send it and copies of the decision to the spouses. The divorce is final once the court clerk enters the Judgment and Decree for the court.
Spouses do not agree on all issues
(Steps 4 and 6 are only applicable to divorcing spouses with children)
1. Summons and Petition
When a spouse wishes to start a divorce, they may fill out a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” The spouse who starts the divorce is called the petitioner. The other spouse is called the respondent. The petition is a legal document filed with the court and served (given) to the spouse, giving information about both spouses and describing how the petitioner wants the divorce issues to be decided. A “Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage Without Children” form can be found here. A “Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage With Children” form can be found here.
The Summons is a legal paper telling the respondent to answer the Petition within 30 days. The Summons form can be found here. Both a copy of the Petition and Summons must be served to the respondent for the divorce to proceed.
2. Answer and/or Counter Petition
If the respondent disagrees with the terms of the petition asked for by the petitioner in the Petition, the respondent has to serve and file an Answer and Counter-Petition. The Answer is where the respondent tells the court what they agree and disagree with in the petition. The Counter-Petition tells the court what the respondent wants the court to decide regarding the divorce and why. The Answer can be mailed to the petitioner but they do not need to be personally served.
3. Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC)
After both the petitioner and respondent file their papers for a divorce, they will have an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). The spouses will receive an ICMC data form which they will have to fill out. Each county has different rules about the ICMC data form, spouses must follow the instructions given by their county. By the time of the ICMC, both spouses should have a copy of the ICMC data form ready with them. The ICMC is the spouses’ first appearance in Family Court which occurs about 3 to 4 weeks after the divorce paper filings.
The ICMC is an informal meeting with the judge, the spouses, and their attorneys. This conference is meant to be a space where spouses can speak freely and resolve as many issues as possible. The judge will not make any decisions or take any formal testimony at this time.
4. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
If the divorcing spouses cannot agree upon child custody or parenting time, the court will require the spouses to attend an orientation and education program that covers the impact that divorce and the restructuring of families and legal proceedings have on children and families. The program will also cover methods of resolving conflicts concerning custody and parenting time.
5. Temporary Relief (Motion) Hearing
If one of the spouses needs an issue that needs to be settled early in the case, such as child custody and support, who will reside in the house, or who will use a shared car, that spouse can request a temporary relief hearing. In this step, spouses should expect to file more legal paperwork that tells the court what temporary relief they need. They should also expect to file affidavits which are written statements signed under oath, explaining why they are making their requests.
6. Child Custody Evaluation and Investigation
If parents cannot agree on child custody and support, this step is where the court will intervene and order a custody evaluation. Each county handles evaluations differently, but in general, this step is where the court conducts an investigation and evaluation of each parent’s ability to care for and raise the child. They will use this information to determine child custody decisions.
If the parties cannot agree, the case will finish at trial. Before trial, evidence and information should be gathered by each spouse to support their case. .“Discovery” is a phase of court proceedings where the court requires both spouses to disclose all relevant facts and documents to the other side before trial. This occurs out of court and gives both sides time to prepare for trial.
8. Pre-trial Conference
Before trial, the court spouses may be required to attend a pre-trial conference. This step can be seen as a “last ditch effort” to settle the case before it goes to trial. In the pre-trial conference, spouses and their attorneys may also identify the biggest areas of disagreement. In this step, they will also decide how much time they will need for the trial
There are times when, during the pre-trial conference, the spouses reach an agreement and a trial becomes unnecessary. If this is the case, both spouses must record a verbal statement of their understanding and send it to the court.
Most divorces are settled earlier in the case, but some require a court trial. In a divorce trial, a judge examines evidence provided by both parties to decide the terms of the divorce. A trial is an opportunity for both spouses to testify and argue their case to the judge. Spouses may also offer their evidence to dispute the case of the opposite spouse. After both sides have presented their arguments, the judge will make their decision about how the divorce will be finalized.
10. Judgment & Decree
A judge has 90 days to make their decision about the divorce after the trial. The judge will issue the Judgment and Decree and send it and copies of the decision to the spouses. The divorce is final once the court clerk enters the Judgment and Decree for the court.
Minnesota Divorce Residency Requirements
In Minnesota, any couple wishing to file for divorce must meet the state’s residency requirements. To meet the residency requirement, one or both divorcing spouses must have resided in the state for at least 180 days before filing the initial divorce forms. One or both spouses can also have been a member of the armed services stationed in Minnesota for at least 180 days before filing to be granted a divorce in the state.
Grounds for Divorce in Minnesota
Minnesota is a solely “no-fault” divorce state, meaning Minnesota divorce law does not require spouses to provide a specific reason to file for divorce. No matter what the spouse’s grounds for divorce are, they can file and be granted a divorce without having to disclose their reasons. This allows divorcing couples to retain a certain level of privacy in these legal matters.
No-fault divorces do not require proof of spousal misconduct or violation of the marriage contract. The filing spouse can argue the couple no longer gets along and the marriage has broken down. The courts will cite “incompatibility,” “irreconcilable differences,” or an “irreparable breakdown of the marriage” between the spouses as grounds for divorce.
Because of Minnesota’s no-fault laws, divorce will also be granted to a spouse even if the other spouse does not want the divorce. Therefore, if you want a divorce in Minnesota, you do not need the permission of your spouse for the divorce to be successful.
Minnesota Divorce Forms
A list of links to all forms and instruction sheets for all kinds of divorces can be found here.
A list of all the forms and their links that were mentioned in this article can be found here:
- Joint Petition for Marriage Dissolution Without Children
- Instructions for Joint Petition for Dissolution of Marriage without Children
- Joint Petition for Marriage Dissolution With Children
- Instructions for Joint Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children
- Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage Without Children
- Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage With Children
- Answer and Counterpetition For Dissolution of Marriage Without Children
- Answer and Counterpetition For Dissolution Of Marriage With Children
How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Minnesota?
The cost of divorce in Minnesota will vary from person to person depending on many factors. Attorney costs will add to divorce costs if spouses decide to settle their divorce with attorney involvement. The average divorce is around $7,500 but can range anywhere from $3,000 to up to $100,000.
There are some unavoidable court fees such as the initial court filing fees which cost $365. If one of the spouses also needs to hire a person to serve your divorce papers to a spouse, that will be another fee of between $50-$80. If a spouse wishes to make any motions during the divorce proceeding, filing the motions will also be another $50-$70. It is unlikely for the court to waive court fees, however, if a spouse legitimately cannot pay the fees, they may ask for an exception from a judge.