A Guide to Divorce in Minnesota
Just like every marriage is different, couples seeking a divorce in Minnesota will encounter a unique set of circumstances to formally end their relationship. However, all Minnesota divorces do share many similarities as well.
To help ease your stress and concerns, you need to arm yourself with good information to help you better understand what you are about to go through.
In addition to this guide, you should seek additional information from divorce professionals who can help you get you through this difficult time.
Here are some important things to know.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Minnesota?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Is it possible to file for divorce without using a lawyer?
- How much does a divorce cost?
- How long does it take to get a divorce take in Minnesota?
- Should I retain the services of a certified divorce financial analyst?
- Bifurcation of marital status in Minnesota
- Can I cancel or stop a divorce in Minnesota?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is proof of divorce?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
In Minnesota, married couples can end their marriages through a divorce or an annulment. Legal separation is also permitted and may be the first step in moving toward the end of a marriage.
Legal Separation. When a marriage is no longer working and one spouse moves out of the home, couples may consider themselves separated. While this is physically the case, they are not legally separated, and there is a big difference between the two.
A legal separation must be granted by a Minnesota court, just like a divorce. Child custody, asset division, and support issues are worked out. A couple remains married, but in a much more distant and less bonded way.
Some people choose legal separation for financial benefits, such as being able to keep health insurance, or by continuing to file as a married couple on tax returns. If a person is not a U.S. citizen, and they get a divorce, they run the risk of deportation. But with a legal separation, a noncitizen can still stay in the country even if they don’t live with their spouse.
Others opt for legal separation because or religious beliefs or moral values against divorce.
Annulment. An annulment treats a marriage as if it had never happened. An annulment can take place in Minnesota if:
- One party was not able to give their voluntary consent to the marriage at the time of the marriage ceremony because:
- One party has a mental illness, insanity, mental incapacity and the other party did not know about the mental illness, insanity or mental incapacity at the time of the marriage ceremony
- One party was under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other “incapacitating” substance at the time of the marriage ceremony
- Consent was obtained by force or fraud.
- One party is not able to consummate the marriage with sexual intercourse and the other party did not know this at the time of the marriage.
- One of the parties was under the legal age for marriage. The legal age for marriage in Minnesota is age 18, or age 16 or 17 only with the consent of the parents, a guardian, or the court and approval of the application for a marriage license by a Juvenile Court Judge.
Divorce. A dissolution of marriage is a permanent end to a union. Assuming all requirements are met, the couple will divide assets, resolve child custody and support issues, and other related concerns. Courts will then approve a final and legally binding document ending the marriage.
What are the grounds for divorce in Minnesota?
Minnesota is strictly a “no-fault” state which means all you must do is cite irreconcilable differences to get a divorce. No other details need to be provided.
Understanding what your divorce options are
Understanding the different divorce process options is a critical first step in moving forward. In fact, after the decision to divorce, your choice of how you will get divorced is the most important decision you will make.
Remember that there are only two ways for you to reach a final resolution:
- You and your spouse agree
- A judge decides
That’s it. Those are the only two ways to get a divorce in Minnesota.
The type of divorce sets the frameworks for how you get to a final resolution. The process you and your spouse choose sets the tone and shapes the outcome of your divorce.
Before we get into the details, there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind:
Divorce is anything but cookie cutter. That means there isn’t a “best” option across the board – but there is a best option for you.
Okay, here are the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, though. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions.
That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn More: I’ve really just scratched the surface on the types of divorce. For a deep dive into the pros and cons of these options, be sure to check out our guide on the types of divorce.
The process of filing for divorce
Although there are many different kinds of divorce in Minnesota, the basic process of filing for divorce is pretty much the same no matter type of divorce you choose.
Gather important information. To give yourself the best chance at achieving the best possible outcome, you need to be organized and proactive when it comes to pulling together the information you will need.
By doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected while also saving time, money and anxiety for the next steps in your divorce.
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
Fill out the paperwork. The initial filing of a dissolution will require one party to complete a Summons, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and Confidential Information Form. If children are involved, you will also need to complete a financial affidavit of child support as well.
File your documents. Once your forms have been reviewed and approved, you can officially file them with the court.
If you are initiating the action, you will be known as the Petitioner. If you are the one receiving the forms, you will be known as the Respondent.
You will need to pay a fee when you file, unless you are able to get the fees waived.
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the clerk of the court in the jurisdiction where you live.
How to complete proof of service
After you file your paperwork, you must provide your spouse with a copy of the paperwork so that they have a chance to respond.
You can do this by using a private process service, the sheriff’s department or anyone who is at least 18 years old and is not an interested party in the divorce. After the papers are served, an affidavit of service will need to be filed with the court to show this step has been completed.
If your spouse is cooperative, you can mail the documents yourself and provide an Acknowledgement of Service form, which must be signed by your spouse. This document will need to be returned to the court.
Check with your local courthouse if your spouse is hard to locate, in the military, or in jail.
Filing for a divorce online
In Minnesota, the Judicial Branch maintains a web page that allows you to fill out all of your divorce forms online. Forms are available as Fillable Smart Forms which will help expedite your divorce process.
Once the forms are complete, you can eFile them by following the instructions that accompany the forms.
Is it possible to file for divorce in Minnesota without using a lawyer?
You can file for a divorce in Minnesota on your own and this option may work for you in an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse are able to reach agreement on all issues.
Legal information includes court forms and tools to help you complete court forms, answers to general questions about court process or procedure, and help preparing for your day in court.
How much does divorce cost?
When you file paperwork in Minnesota, you will need to pay a filing fee of $375. The fee for a legal separation or annulment is $345. There may be other additional fees depending of the specifics of your case. You may be able to have these fees waived in some instances if you meet certain qualifications.
If you need to retain an experienced divorce attorney, expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 per hour. You will also need to pay some sort of a retainer up front to start the process.
If you decide to use a mediator or an arbitrator, expect your costs to be somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, and possibly more.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Minnesota?
To file for a divorce in Minnesota, you must be a resident of the state for a minimum of 180 days prior to filing your paperwork.
The court may grant your divorce any time after the filing of the Summons and Petition. The length of the proceedings depends on the amount of litigation involved and what a court’s backlog of cases may be. The more cooperative both sides are, the quicker an agreement can be reached.
Typically, it takes about 30 to 90 days in an uncontested proceeding for a divorce to be finalized.
Should I consider using a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
If you are going through a financially complicated divorce, you may need someone who can assist you with an accurate and objective analysis of the financial and tax implications of your decisions.
This will help you make the right decisions now when it comes to reaching a settlement with your spouse. It’s important to get this right from the start – you won’t get a second chance.
While some people with simple situations may only need a family law attorney to help them with this process, many others will benefit from working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Bifurcation of marital status in Minnesota
Bifurcation means that both parties in a divorce can legally declared as a single person while the other issues in their divorce are still being worked out. It does not affect things such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other contentious issues that may have stalled or become major sticking points that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
Bifurcation on marriage is allowed in Minnesota, but the courts can be reluctant to grant this status because it creates additional administrative oversight and court proceedings related to a divorce.
Can I cancel or stop a divorce in Minnesota?
If you are not the person who filed a petition for divorce in Minnesota, then you probably can’t stop the process.
However, if you are the one who did file the petition, you can usually stop the divorce proceeding if you change your mind, especially early in the process. You will need to go to the courthouse where you filed the petition and ask for a request for dismissal. You may be able to also access the form online.
By withdrawing your case, you’ll stop the process. But if you later change your mind and decide you do want to go forward with the divorce, you will need to start the process all over again.
What is a divorce decree?
A divorce decree records a Dissolution of Marriage and is the court’s final order that terminates a marriage. It provides a summary of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including financial responsibilities and a division of assets. It also covers child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues.
In Minnesota, a divorce is a public affair. It means that any person can go to a particular courthouse and obtain the paperwork relating to a divorce. All that is needed is the last name and the first name of the divorcing couple.
All documents filed with the Court are accessible and available to the general public. A divorce decree for any given case is a public record.
Divorce decrees are available from the county district court office that granted the divorce.
If divorce was relatively recent you may go to any courthouse in Minnesota to access and print the document. Online access to court documents varies by county.
Once the divorce decree is issued, parties are legally free to marry another person. The divorce decree is a legally binding document, and if either party does not meet the requirements and obligations set forth in the decree, the other party can take legal action to correct any deficiencies.
What is proof of divorce?
After a final divorce decree is granted, a proof of divorce is a certificate that shows minimal information, such as the names of both spouses and the date and place a divorce was granted, but typically no other information.
Rather than having to produce the lengthier divorce decree, a divorce certificate can provide proof of divorce for many legal purposes. It can be used when a person wants to change the name on any state-issued documents, or as proof that the person legally has the right to get married again.
Contact the county where your divorce was granted to get more information on how to obtain a proof of divorce certificate.
Changing Your Name
When preparing your divorce forms, you will be presented either an option to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
Name changes are granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are accepted with all US organizations and agencies as evidence of your name change.
We recommend starting by updating your name with the Social Security Administration. Once you’ve done that, you can go on to change names everywhere else.
We understand that it takes a lot of time to contact each company and figure out what to send where. That’s why we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to mitigate the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.
Read: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Changing my Last Name
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a ton of divorce resources on the internet that make big claims
These are the tools and resources we’re excited to share with you because we know they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- Online dating
- And a whole lot more
You can check them out here >>