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Summary of Minnesota Divorce

Summary of Minnesota Divorce

By Maury D. Beaulier, Esq.

This Article is intended to provide only a summary overview of the issues related to divorce. It includes links to Minnesota Statutes and more detailed articles on the subjects listed.

RESIDENCY: One spouse must reside in the state of Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to filing a divorce. You may file the divorce in the county where either party resides. [Minnesota Statutes 518.07 and Minnesota Statutes 518.09].

NO FAULT: Minnesota is a "no fault" divorce state. In the not so distant past, divorces could only be granted for specified reasons such as infidelity or abandonment. This resulted in much highly emotional litigation that pitted one spouse against another with each painting the other as the "bad guy." Minnesota, like most states, has eliminated fault from its statutes.
Currently, for a divorce to be granted there must only be an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. [Minnesota Statutes 518.06].

LEGAL SEPARATION: No grounds for a legal separation are needed. If one or both parties petition for a decree of legal separation and neither party contests the granting of the decree nor petitions for a decree of dissolution, the court shall grant a decree of legal separation. Any party may turn a legal separation into a divorce by filing an Answer requesting the modification. [Minnesota Statutes 518.06].

DIVORCE-WHAT TO SERVE: A divorce is commenced when one party serves a copy of a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. "Serving" these documents means that they must be provided to the other side in a fashion required by Court rules. In Minnesota service may be completed "personally" by having any person, except the filing party, hand the documents 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 affidavit is signed by the person completing the service stating that he or she provided the papers to the other party.

Personal service may be avoided if your spouse is willing to admit service. Service can be admitted by having the non-filing spouse sign before a notary a document that admits they received a copy of the Summons and Petition.

If you do not know where your spouse resides, you may ask the Court to allow "substitute service". To qualify, you must demonstrate to the Court that you have tried to locate the other party without success and that you seek to serve them by publication. If the Court agrees to allow substitute service, a short notice may be published in a legal newspaper in the county where the other party was last known to reside. Service is complete after the notice has run for three consecutive weeks.

WHAT TO FILE: The original Summons, Petition and an affidavit of service must be filed with the Court with an appropriate filing fee top commence the matter in the Court system. Generally speaking, filing fees in Minnesota range from $127 to $132.

PUTATIVE SPOUSE: If a person who has lived with another person and believes, in the good faith, that they are married, that person is considered a putative spouse until knowledge of the fact that the person is not legally married terminates that status. Any putative spouse has the same rights and obligations as if they had been married until the person obtains knowledge that they are not legally married. These rights may even include the right to spousal maintenance. [Minnesota Statutes 518.055]

SIMPLIFIED DIVORCE PROCESS: A simplified divorce process is available in circumstances where the parties have: (1) no living minor children have been born to or adopted by the parties before or during the marriage, unless someone other than the husband has been adjudicated the father; (2) the wife is not pregnant; (3) they have been married fewer than eight years as of the date they file their joint declaration; (4) neither party owns any real estate; (5) there are no unpaid debts in excess of $8,000 incurred by either or both of the parties during the marriage, excluding encumbrances on automobiles; (6) the total fair market value of the marital assets does not exceed $25,000, including net equity on automobiles; (7) neither party has non-marital assets in excess of $25,000; and (8) neither party has been a victim of domestic abuse by the other.

A couple qualifying under all of these criteria may obtain a divorce decree easily by filing a sworn joint declaration with the signature of both parties notarized. Forms for this process are available through the Court Administrator's Office. [Minnesota Statutes 518.195]

PARENTING CLASS REQUIRED: In any divorce proceeding where custody or parenting time (visitation) is contested, the parents of a minor child shall attend an orientation and education program relating to co-parenting and co-parenting skills. Only upon request of a party and a showing of good cause, may the court may excuse the party from attending the program. If past or present domestic abuse is alleged, the court may not require the parties to attend the same parent education sessions. [Minnesota Statutes 518.157]

PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION: Minnesota requires an equitable division of the marital property of the parties without regard to marital misconduct. Equitable does not mean mathematically equal and the court must base its division on all relevant factors including the length of the marriage, any prior marriage of a party, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, needs, opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets, and income of each party. The court must also consider the contribution of each in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker. It shall be conclusively presumed that each spouse made a substantial contribution to the acquisition of income and property while they were living together as husband and wife. The valuation date for the marital assets is the day of the initially scheduled pre-hearing settlement conference, unless a different date is agreed upon by the parties, or unless the court finds that another date of valuation is fair and equitable. [Minnesota States 518.58]

NON-MARITAL ASSETS. "Non-marital property" means property real or personal, acquired by either spouse before, during, or after the existence of their marriage, which (a) is acquired as a gift, bequest, devise or inheritance made by a third party to one but not to the other spouse; (b) is acquired before the marriage; (c) is acquired in exchange for or is the increase

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