How to File a Divorce in Minnesota

How to File a Divorce in Minnesota

by Edward A. Haman, Esq., July 2015

Divorce in Minnesota is called dissolution of marriage. A dissolution for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting, the issue of alimony may arise. If there are minor children, the issues of child custody, visitation, and support will need to be resolved.

Residency and Where to File

In order to file for dissolution in Minnesota, one party must be a resident of the state for at least 180 days. You may file in the District Court in the county where either party resides.


The most simple procedure in Minnesota is a summary dissolution, which is available if:

  • there are no minor children,
  • the wife is not pregnant,
  • the parties have been married for less than 8 years,
  • there is no real estate,
  • the total debts are less than $8,000, not including auto loans,
  • the total marital assets are less than $25,000,
  • neither party has nonmarital assets totaling more than $25,000, and
  • there is no domestic abuse.

Even if you don’t qualify for the summary dissolution, you may be able to proceed with an uncontested dissolution, where you and your spouse reach an agreement about the division of your property, and, if you have any children, what arrangements will be made for them. You begin the procedure by preparing and filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, along with various supporting documents. For an uncontested dissolution, one of these documents you would be a marital settlement agreement outlining the division of assets, and your agreement regarding any children. These documents are filed with the court, and copies of them are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.   

Grounds for Dissolution

Grounds for dissolution are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Minnesota, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for dissolution. Unlike most other states, there are no traditional fault-based grounds in Minnesota.

To get a no-fault dissolution in Minnesota, you need to state in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage that “there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage relationship.” Also, one of the following must exist: (1) serious marital discord adversely affecting the attitude of one or both of the parties toward the marriage, or (2) the parties have been living separate and apart for 180 days before filing.

Property Division

A dissolution involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. Generally, each party may keep his or her nonmarital property, which is property:

  • acquired before the marriage,
  • acquired by gift or inheritance,
  • acquired in exchange for, or as an increase in value of, nonmarital property,
  • acquired after the valuation date (the date of the prehearing conference), and
  • designated as nonmarital in a prenuptial agreement.

All else is marital property. Unless there is a property settlement agreement by the parties, the judge will divide the marital property after considering the following factors:

  • the length of the marriage,
  • any prior marriages,
  • each party’s age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and needs,
  • each party’s opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets,
  • each party’s income, and
  • each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation of assets.

Alimony in Minnesota

The court may award either party alimony if the party seeking alimony (1) lacks sufficient property to meet his or her own needs, and (2) is unable to be self-supporting through employment, or is not required to seek employment due to being a child custodian. In the absence of an agreement by the parties, Minnesota alimony law provides that the amount and duration of alimony will be determined by the judge, after considering the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the party seeking alimony,
  • the time needed for education and training to find appropriate employment,
  • the standard of living established during the marriage,
  • the duration of the marriage, and for a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent education, skills, or experience have become outmoded and earning capacity permanently diminished,
  • any loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, or other employment opportunities,
  • the age, and physical and emotional condition or the party seeking alimony,
  • the ability of the party paying alimony to meet his or her own needs, and
  • either party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation of marital property, and in furtherance of the other’s employment or business.

Child Custody in Minnesota

A custody determination basically comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement, it will be accepted by the judge unless it is not to be in the child’s best interest. If you cannot reach a custody agreement, Minnesota child custody law provides for the judge to decide the issue, after considering the following factors:

  • each party’s wishes,
  • the preference of the child, if of sufficient age,
  • the child’s primary caretaker,
  • the intimacy of the relationship between the child and each party,
  • the relationship between the child and the parties, siblings, and other significant persons,
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community,
  • the length of time the child has been in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity,
  • the permanence of the existing or proposed home, as a family unit,
  • the mental and physical health of all persons involved,
  • each party’s capacity to give love, affection, and guidance, and continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion, if any,
  • the child’s cultural background,
  • the effect of any domestic violence upon the child, and
  • any other relevant factor.

Child Support in Minnesota

Child support is determined by reference to the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines. A child support calculator that applies the guidelines is available on the Minnesota Department of Human Services website.

Miscellaneous Matters

No hearing is required if there are no children, and the parties have a written agreement (or if the respondent fails to file an answer within 30 days of service of the summons). Either party may change their name to any other name.

If you and your spouse agree on the major issues, an uncontested divorce may be right for you. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney to get advice or help filing for divorce with the LegalZoom personal legal plan.