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Minnesota Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers

In Minnesota, divorce is called dissolution of marriage. The petitioner is the party who initiates the divorce, and the respondent is the party who receives the petitioner's divorce papers.

The documents that start the divorce are:

  • the Summons and Petition for Divorce,
  • the Verification, and
  • the Certificate of Representation (even if a party represents himself or herself).

The petitioner may need to submit additional paperwork depending on the court, but the summons, petition, verification, and certificate of representation are always be required. The petitioner should check with the clerk of court at the county courthouse (where the papers are filed) to make sure the paperwork is sufficient and that the court will accept them.

Neither party should sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless and until he or she is in the presence of a notary.

Read more about Minnesota divorce forms


Filing the Paperwork with the Court

The divorce papers are filed in the country where either spouse lives. The petitioner makes two copies of all documents - one for the other spouse and one for himself or herself. The original is filed with the court.

The petitioner pays a fee to file unless he or she completes a Fee Waiver (also known as an Affidavit to Proceed In Forma Pauperis). This can be obtained from the clerk of court, and the court reviews it. The court waives the fee when it deems the petitioner indigent.

The clerk of court time and date stamps the divorce papers.

Read more about Minnesota divorce facts


Serving the Documents

When the documents are prepared and filed, the petitioner should immediately serve the other spouse with the documents. Service of process ensures that everyone has the chance to argue his or her point of view.

If the other spouse is an adult who is pro se (meaning he or she has no lawyer), then the petitioner serves him or her directly. When the other spouse has a lawyer, the petitioner serves the lawyer.

When both spouses live in Minnesota, special service rules apply. The options are:

  • The petitioner can ask the sheriff or a professional process server to serve the other spouse personally
  • The petitioner can mail the documents and provide an Acknowledgement of Service form

Different rules may apply when a petitioner is hard to locate, in the military, or in jail.

Read more about Minnesota process service


Disclosing Financial Information

Both the petitioner and the respondent complete a Parenting/Financial Disclosure Statement, which details each spouse’s complete financial picture. Certain supplemental documents, like pay stubs and tax returns, may have to be attached. Disclosure helps everyone to understand more about, for example, how much child support should be paid, how the property and debts should be divided, and whether one spouse should receive alimony. The statement is filed with the court and the spouses exchange copies.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

When the spouses are on amicable terms and work together, they can get an uncontested divorce, which saves time and money.

There are two kinds of uncontested divorce in Minnesota. The first kind, summary dissolution, is a streamlined process for very simple cases without children or lots of property. One spouse prepares and files divorce papers, and a judge signs off on the divorce without a courtroom appearance. However, the parties must meet these requirements:

  • The spouses don’t have any children together, and the wife is not pregnant.
  • The spouses have only been married for eight years or less.
  • Neither spouse owns any real estate.
  • The spouses don’t have any unpaid debts in excess of $8000. The only exception is automobile loan debt.
  • The total fair market value of all marital assets is $25,000 or less.
  • Neither spouse has nonmarital (meaning, premarital, separate, and not subject to a claim by the other spouse) assets of more than $25,000.
  • Neither spouse has been the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of the other spouse.
  • If the spouses have pension or retirement benefits, they must agree not to divide them but simply to keep their individual accounts.
  • If the spouses own a business, they can’t divide it in a summary divorce.
  • The spouses must agree to reserve the issue of alimony. This means that they put the issue on hold, and if they ever decide to pursue it again, they can come to court and make a motion.

The second kind of uncontested divorce is “dissolution by joint petition.” This is an expedited way to streamline more complicated divorce cases where the spouses have real estate, children, or significant assets, but they agree about everything. There are separate procedures and forms for joint petitions when spouses have children and when they don’t. Both spouses are considered petitioners. The key is that the spouses agree about all issues in the case before they begin, and then write the petition and other joint paperwork together.

When filing a joint petition, the Minnesota Judicial Branch offers different packets for people with children and for people without children.

The joint petition provides a lot of information about the marriage, and it includes a request for the court to issue an order for divorce that reflects the parties’ wishes. Both spouses must sign a notarized joint petition.

Finalizing the Divorce

Divorces can take a wide range of time to complete. The fastest divorce can take as little as four to six weeks if there is complete agreement on the issues and the parties work together from the start; the slowest, most-contentious divorces can drag on for years.

When filing a joint petition, after about 30 days from filing, the parties get a Notice of Entry of a Decree of Dissolution in the mail, which means the divorce is official and the spouses are divorced.

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When custody is in dispute, a Minnesota court issues a custody order that is in the "best interests of the child." Joint custody will only be awarded if parents have shown the court that they are willing and able to cooperate. A court also examines several factors with the child's welfare in mind. They include (1) the child's preference, (2) each parent's health, (3) the child's health and whether any special needs exist, (4) each parent's relationship with the child, (5) which parent has been the child's primary caretaker, (6) each parent's ability to provide a stable environment for the child, (7) any history of domestic violence or child abuse and (8) any allegations of abuse.

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