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Minnesota Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Minnesota

Married couples in Minnesota that want to live apart have an option other than divorce. They may opt for a legal separation. To legally separate, the petitioner must file and serve a petition in County or District Court in the county where one spouse lives.

In Minnesota, separation simply means living apart. No one is legally required to live with a spouse. A separation can be arranged informally between the partners or with the help of a mediator. A legal separation changes the status of the marriage and, from a legal standpoint, is very similar to a divorce. Legal separation is as complicated as a divorce, and it can take just as long and cost as much.

A couple opt for a legal separation because religious beliefs prohibit them from a divorce or because of insurance benefits or other financial arrangements that would be unfavorably affected by a divorce.

Legal separation is a separate process from divorce. In Minnesota, spouses do not need a legal separation before they divorce, but legal separation is similar to divorce in many ways. Custody of the couple's children must be determined, child support must be arranged and if necessary, alimony orders effected. In addition, the couple's assets and liabilities must be divided.

Though equally complicated, legal separation does not end the marriage since the couple remains married after the court grants the decree. A wife may not resume using her former name. If the spouses want to divorce after a legal separation is complete, they must go through the court process to get divorced.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.

Complaint

A legal separation case begins with the separation papers in the district court in the county where one of the spouses resides. The papers include the original Summons, Petition and an Affidavit of Service.

Grounds

According to Minnesota Statutes Section 518.06, no grounds for a legal separation are needed. When one or both of the spouses petition for a legal separation and neither party contests it nor petitions for a divorce, the court grants a decree of legal separation. Any party may turn a legal separation into a divorce by filing an answer requesting the modification.

Residency

The residency requirements for legal separation are that one spouse must reside in the state of Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to filing, and he or she may file in the county where either spouse lives, according to Minnesota Statutes Section 518.07 and Minnesota Statutes Section 518.09.

Procedure

A legal separation is commenced when one party serves a copy of a Summons and a Petition for Legal Separation. "Serving" these documents means that they must be provided to the other side in a manner required by Court rules.

In Minnesota service is done in person, and delivered by any person, except the filing party, who hands the divorce papers to the non-filing spouse or by handing the documents to another person living with the non-filing spouse who is of suitable age and maturity. Once service is complete, an affidavit must be filed with the Court. The person completing the service stating that he or she provided the papers to the other party signs the affidavit.

If the non-filing spouse is in agreement, personal service may be avoided. The non-filing spouse signs a notarized statement that admits he or she received a copy of the Summons and Petition.

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