No spouse wants to contemplate a divorce. Perhaps the marriage is simply not working. Perhaps the love has simply vanished. The simplest way to leave a love-less marriage is through the filing of an uncontested divorce. Contested divorces are complex and expensive legal processes that can be circumvented by an early settlement agreement.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Minnesota uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Minnesota Defined
Like many states, Minnesota recognizes the value of providing a swift, low-cost mechanism for spouses to seek divorce. Uncontested divorce is available in Minnesota through the same process as a normal divorce. If neither spouse contests the divorce and both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce, the divorce is considered uncontested and the court can grant an uncontested divorce.
Most uncontested divorces in Minnesota will be filed by a joint petition for dissolution (a joint divorce filing signed by both spouses). The petition will be accompanied by a legally-binding separation agreement that describes the terms of the divorce. Agreement is the key factor in an uncontested proceeding. More than half of all divorces in Minnesota result in settlement on at least some issues, and it is normally better for both spouses to agree upfront rather than during the middle of a contested divorce process.
Requirements for Seeking a Minnesota Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Minnesota, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement for seeking a Minnesota uncontested divorce is the state residence requirement. To meet the residency requirement, either one or both spouses must have resided within the state for at least 180 days prior to filing for divorce, or the marriage must have been created in Minnesota.1 Under Minnesota law, “residence” means the place where a party has established a permanent home from which the party has no present intention of moving.2
Next, you will need to establish that the grounds for divorce exist. In Minnesota, this is relatively simple in an uncontested proceeding. All that needs to be alleged in the divorce petition is that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.3An irretrievable breakdown simply means that problems have occurred in the marriage, and reconciliation is not possible.
Finally, you and your spouse will need to agree on the terms of the divorce. Any inability to agree on all of the important issues in the divorce could result in your divorce becoming contested. The most common means of agreement is via the creation of a legally-binding separation agreement.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement (occasionally referred to as a stipulation under Minnesota law). A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
A fully completed separation agreement should contain provisions on all of the following issues in the divorce:
- Child custody;
- Visitation and parental rights of the parties;
- Child support (also consider educational and medical spending needs of any children);
- Spousal support (known as maintenance in Minnesota);
- Division of marital property, including the marital residence; and
- Assignment of any marital debts.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Minnesota
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- If you and your spouse are proceeding with filing for divorce without an attorney, the first step you should take is to create a separation agreement.
- Once you have agreed on the terms of the divorce, you should decide whether you will file for divorce separately or jointly. A separate filing will require one spouse to file the divorce petition and the second spouse to respond to the filing. A joint filing does not require a response, and it is generally simpler for a couple seeking an uncontested divorce to file jointly (this procedure outline will assume a joint filing).
- You and your spouse should then acquire and fill out the required divorce forms. Fortunately, if you and your spouse have chosen to file for divorce without the assistance of attorneys, Minnesota’s Judicial Branch’s website has compiled same divorce forms to help you start the divorce process.4
- Next, you will need to determine which court is the proper court for filing your divorce petition. You should file for divorce in the district court in which you meet the state residence requirement.
- You will then file your joint divorce petition and other appropriate paperwork in the appropriate court and pay the $50 filing fee.
- Once you have filed, you will want to set a date for a hearing with the court.* In an uncontested divorce, the hearing is simple, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will approve your separation agreement and grant your divorce by signing a certificate of dissolution.
* Spouses without minor children can waive their right to a hearing if the parties have entered into a written stipulation that an uncontested divorce is proper.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- Minn. Stat. § 518.07.
- Minn. Stat. § 518.003.
- Minn. Stat. § 518.10.
- Forms to Start a Divorce, MINNESOTA JUDICIAL BRANCH