How to get divorced in Minnesota

Tags: Online Divorce, Minnesota

Image: Susan Rydberg / iStock

By Steffan Lawson

Published Jul 27, 2022

Requirements to file for divorce

  • You or your spouse need to live in Minnesota for at least 180 days before filing for divorce

  • You must file a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to initiate the divorce process.

  • If you have children, you must attend a divorce education class if you and your spouse do not agree on custody or visitation issues.

  • Minnesota is a no-fault state, so almost all divorces are granted as long as one spouse desires one.

Grounds for divorce in Minnesota

  • Like most other states, Minnesota will grant a divorce without considering any spouse’s wrongdoing. However, fault may play a role in determining alimony or property distribution.

  • You or your spouse must have resided in the state of Minnesota for at least six months.

Step 1: Starting the divorce process

To file for divorce in Minnesota you must file a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Clerk’s Office of the county court. Although the exact filing fee will depend on the county in which you file, Minnesota has some of the highest in the nation with the average around $400. Whether or not you are representing yourself, you must also file a Certificate of Representation.

If you and your spouse do not have any unresolved issues, you may create a settlement agreement that stipulates how property is divided, child custody and visitation are allocated, and spousal support is structured.

Step 2: Notify spouse of divorce

Divorce is actually a legal procedure between you and your spouse, so, in order to satisfy legal requirements, you must properly notify your spouse that legal action is being taken against them. In a divorce proceeding, this is called Service of Process, and involves delivering copies of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Summons along with supporting documents to your spouse in a timely manner.

Under Minnesota law, you must complete Service of Process immediately after filing your petition.  You may fulfill this legal requirement in one of the following ways:

  • In person—Minnesota allows anyone who is 18 years of age or older and is not a party to the lawsuit to serve the divorce papers in person. In most cases, the process server is a sheriff or a professional, bonded process server.  Once the papers have been delivered to the respondent’s home, person or attorney, the process server must complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the Clerk of Court.

  • By mail—If your spouse is willing to accept the delivery of divorce papers, you may complete Service of Process by sending the papers via mail. Your spouse must sign the included Acknowledgement of Service form and return it to you.

  • By publication—If you are unable to locate your spouse or lives outside the state, you may ask the court to serve notice by publication. If the court approves, then you may post notice of the divorce in a local newspaper for a minimum of three consecutive weeks.

Once Service of Process has been completed, your spouse will have 30 days to respond to the petition or lose certain legal rights under Minnesota law.


If your spouse does not respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, then the judge may assume that the respondent is waiving their right to participate in the divorce proceedings. In this case, the court will likely grant the plaintiff most or all they are seeking in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.


If your spouse does not wish to contest the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, they may file a Summary Dissolution jointly with you with the court.  This obviates the need for a trial and allows parties to submit evidence in written form. To use this uncontested divorce procedure, you and your spouse must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • There are no minor children in the household.

  • The wife is not pregnant

  • There are no debts, assets or real estate worth more than $25,000.

  • There is no history of domestic violence.

  • The marriage must have lasted less than 8 years.


If your spouse files an Answer that disputes details in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, then the judge will order you and your spouse to trial. There may be a number of hearings and legal proceedings before a trial occurs, so you will probably need an attorney to guide you through the process.  Before the trial, you and your spouse’s attorney may engage in evidence requests, witness interviews and negotiations.  This may be a lengthy and complex process that could cost you a great deal personally and financially.

Step 3: Contested or Uncontested divorce?

Contested Divorce (High Cost)

If you and your spouse are cannot come to an agreement on issues related to the divorce, you will have to endure a long and costly legal process that will include a jury or bench trial. Because your spouse will probably hire an attorney to protect their interests, you should follow suit.  Keep in mind the following about a contested divorce:

  • Attorneys possess considerable experience that will make the entire divorce proceed more expeditiously. Their prior knowledge of court procedures will also help prevent you from making a mistake that could risk the outcome of the trial.

  • Although an attorney may help you complete certain legal obligations, there is no guarantee that their involvement will shorten the process. They may engage in a process of investigation about claims made by you and your spouse, or negotiate with your spouse’s legal team in a process that could drag on for weeks or months.

  • However, if you have a lot of property to divide, or complicated issues to resolve, an attorney may provide reliable strategies about obtaining the most rewarding outcome.

  • Because most divorce lawyers charge by the hour in a contested divorce you may expect to pay quite a bit more if you and your spouse engage in a protracted legal contest.

Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)

In Minnesota, if you and your spouse agree on all of the issues related to the divorce and meet certain criteria, you may proceed through an expedited, uncontested divorce process.  This process allows you to file a Summary Dissolution if you meet these requirements:

  • There are no minor children in the household.

  • The wife is not pregnant

  • There are no debts, assets or real estate worth more than $25,000.

  • There is no history of domestic violence.

  • The marriage must have lasted less than 8 years.

If you do not meet all of these requirements, you may still use the normal divorce process.

  • You and your spouse must agree on property division, division of debt and child.

  • There is no need for a trial, but the judge may order you to appear at a hearing.

  • Because you and your spouse are not in conflict, there may be no need for legal representation. In many cases, you can complete the entire process on your own, saving you time and money.

  • In certain circumstances, you may be able to complete an uncontested divorce in as little as 30 days.

Step 4: Cost of a divorce?

Self-Representation (Lowest Cost)

By far, the easiest and cheapest way to complete the divorce process is if you and your spouse are in full agreement about major issues and you represent yourself.  That is why you should make every effort to come to an agreement with your spouse prior to starting the divorce procedure.  You will save a lot of money and effort by filing a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of a Marriage and fulfilling the court’s requests without legal counsel. can offer valuable guidance and the forms necessary to complete this process with minimal cost and effort.

Mediation (Medium Cost)

Minnesota courts require couples seeking a divorce (and without a history of domestic violence) to use a mediation service prior to finalizing the divorce. Mediators are conflict resolution experts, often with legal training, who attempt to help couples come to an agreement on ongoing issues.  Mediation is not legally binding, but it may help shorten the divorce process or make it unnecessary. On average, mediation is 20-50 percent cheaper than a traditional divorce.

Divorce Trial (Highest Cost)

In cases where you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on major issues, the judge will schedule a bench or jury trial that will require you and your spouse to present arguments supporting your respective positions. In the vast majority of trials, it is the attorneys with trial experience that do most of the arguing and presenting of evidence.  In addition to the legal fees paid to the attorneys, there are usually many court costs involved in a trial and pre-trial proceedings.

Step 5: Asset division, child custody and spousal support

Most divorcing couples that can’t reach an agreement usually dispute issues of property division, alimony or child custody. If you plan on filing for divorce in Minnesota, you should be aware of how courts typically adjudicate these issues.

Property Distribution

One of the most divisive issues of almost any divorce is property distribution. Minnesota courts use the principle of equitable distribution which means that assets should allocated fairly.  This does not necessarily entail a 50/50 split and is governed by many factors including:

  • the length of the marriage

  • any prior marriages

  • the age, health, and station of each party

  • the contribution by each to increasing the value of assets

  • each spouse’s occupation

  • future income and assets

  • a spouse’s role as a parent, wage earner or homemaker

Child Custody

As in almost all U.S. states, Minnesota determines child custody based on the best interests of the child. Minnesota courts prefer to confer joint custody, but will take into consideration the following criteria before making a determination:

  • the wishes of the parent

  • the preference of the child

  • the child’s primary custodian

  • the strength of the relationship between each parent and the child;

  • the relationship of the child with either parents, siblings, and other persons who may significantly influence the child’s best interests

  • the child’s attachment to home, school, and community

  • maintaining continuity of a stable, satisfactory environment

  • emotional attachment to an existing or proposed custodial home

  • the mental and physical health of parties involved

  • the child’s cultural background

  • any history of domestic abuse

  • willingness of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child.

Spousal Support

In Minnesota, alimony or spousal maintenance is available as temporary, short-term or long-term. Temporary alimony includes payments made during the course of the divorce proceedings, while short-term involves a limited period following the divorce.  Long-term spousal maintenance is essentially permanent. In most cases, alimony is short-term and allows the dependent spouse to obtain skills to sustain themselves. The court will consider the following when awarding alimony:

  • both spouse’s age and health

  • the length of the marriage

  • marital standard of living

  • both spouse’s future income and assets

Step 6: Finalizing your Minnesota divorce

If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce and filed the Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of a Marriage, then you will probably need to attend a court hearing so that the judge may issue the final divorce decree.  If you have minor children but still have an uncontested divorce you may file a Joint Petition for Dissolution of a Marriage, after which the judge may schedule a short hearing to discuss details of child custody before issuing the final decree.

If you and your spouse disagree on key issues, the judge will schedule a trial.  Following the trial, the judge will consider all of the evidence presented and issue a judgment and a final decree of divorce.