Minnesota Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Minnesota divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, in order to divorce, a party must have lived in the state for at least 180 days before commencing the action.

The divorce is generally filed in the county in which either spouse resides. Actions are filed in the District Court, which is the county court. In a divorce, the spouse filing is called the Petitioner; the spouse responding is called the Respondent.

A legal separation is granted if the court finds a couple needs one and one of the spouses has lived in Minnesota for at least six months prior to the initiation of the action.

Minnesota is a No-Fault state. Irrevocable breakdown is the only grounds for divorce. Irrevocable breakdown is demonstrated by 1) living separate and apart for 180 days or 2) serious marital discord affecting the attitude of one or both spouses toward the marriage.

Minnesota offers a streamlined divorce route for some people in a limited number of circumstances. To use it, both spouses must agree on the terms and conditions of the property distribution and both must file a joint declaration. In order to use the summary action, eight conditions must be met including

> no minor children born or adopted by the parties during the marriage, "unless the court decides that someone other than the husband is the father";
> the wife is not pregnant;
> the parties have been married for fewer than eight years as of the filing date;
> neither spouse owns real estate;
> together they have no debts in excess of $8,000, excluding encumbrances on automobiles;
> the total market value of the marital estate does not exceed $25,000, including the equity of automobiles;
> neither spouse has nonmarital assets of more than $25,000;
> neither party is a victim of domestic abuse by the other.

In this route, the couple complete forms that are available in the district court office. These forms authenticate the following information:

> the name, address, Social Security numbers and any previous names of the parties;
> the place and date of the marriage;
> that either the Petition or the Respondent or both 1) has resided in Minnesota for not less than 180 days immediately preceding the filing; 2) "has been a member of the armed services and has been stationed in Minnesota for not less than 180 days immediately preceding the commencement of the action..."
> that each meet the eight above qualifications for a Summary Divorce;
> each spouse’s nonmarital property;
> how the assets and debts of the marriage are divided;
> both parties’ income;
> that there has been no domestic abuse by one spouse of the other.

In some counties the couple must watch an educational video, but if all the papers are in order, a court administrator enters a decree of dissolution 30 days after the action has been filed.

Couples who cannot avail themselves of a summary action file for an Uncontested Divorce. In this routine, there are at least six forms that must be completed. They include the following:

> The Summons, which advises the Respondent that he or she has 30 days to respond to the Petition, also states temporary restraining provisions that prohibit a) disposal of assets, b) harassment, c) require continuity of insurance and d) urge the parties to seek alternative dispute resolution.
> The Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage, which is a general statement of the facts, including the relief or assistance sought, normally includes an Answer, in which the Respondent agrees or disagree with the allegations in the Petition. There are dedicated forms for couples with or without children.
The Summons and Petition must be served on the Respondent. If he or she does not reside in Minnesota, the spouse may be served by any adult other than one who is a party to the case. The process server then signs an Affidavits of Personal Service (or a Certificate of Service if it is done by a sheriff or his or her deputy). After the initial service, each party may serve documents on the other by mail and personal service is not required. Each document, however, must be accompanied by an Affidavit of Service by Mail. When a document is served by mail, three days are added to any deadline in the forms.

A Respondent has the option of waiving personal service by signing an Admission of Service, which permits the dissolution to proceed.

> The Marital Termination Agreement spells out the terms and conditions of the marital dissolution, including the distribution and division of assets and liabilities, spousal and child support, and visitation.
> The Waiver of Counsel, which is signed by both Petitioner and the Respondent, certifies that both the parties agree to waive the right of counsel.
> Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment, and Judgment and Decree is the instrument that ends the marriage. The Findings of Fact are used in support of Conclusions of Law, which deals with the obligations of the spouses in conjunction with the dissolution of the marriage.
> Parenting Plan, which becomes part Judgment and Decree, establishes the terms and conditions of custody and a visitation schedule if minor children are involved in the divorce.

An uncontested divorce can be negotiated so that it moves by default -- either a pure, which happens when one spouse simply fails to respond and the action is resolved without his or her participation, or when both spouses reach an agreement that is submitted by one spouse as a default. This route does not harm the interests of the defaulting party who has agreed to the terms and conditions of the divorce, child and spousal support and visitation.

A default can be coupled with an administrative dissolution of marriage, which can be approved without a hearing, when

> there are no minor children, and the parties have reached agreement;
> if there are minor children and the respondent has not answered the petition and 20 days have lapsed in addition to the 30 days of the summons;
> if there are children and the parties have signed an acknowledged agreement and are represented by legal counsel.

To schedule a default hearing, a party must file a Default Scheduling Request and meet the conditions listed above.

When a divorce is not uncontested, other forms are required as the case moves through negotiations of the spouses and possibly a trial. These forms include

> the Certification of Representation and Parties, which is a form used to make a record of the address of the parties;
> the Scheduling Information Statement indicates the complexity of the case and the amount of time it will take to prepare for it. This form is filed within 60 days of the initiation of the divorce, and in the event of any other hearings, must be filed within 60 days. Within 30 days of filing the Scheduling Information Statement, the court must issue a scheduling order.

As a tool of negotiation in a contested divorce, the Petitioner may undertake discovery, which normally includes asking the other party written questions, asking for admissions of fact, inspections of property and seeking psychological, mental and vocational evaluation. These steps involve Interrogatories, Request for Production and Requests for Ådmissions.

Since a contested divorce often takes turns that are impossible to map in advance, sometimes a Petitioner must resolve issues on a temporary basis. Often temporary relief means monetary assistance for a limited time to relieve the burden of going through a divorce. These measures normally include filing of Notice of Motion and Motion. The notice papers must be served and filed 14 days before a hearing (17 days by mail) and the Respondent has at least 5 days (8 days if serving by mail) to respond. The Petitioner must file an Affidavit of Service or Affidavit of Personal Service.

One common temporary measure is an Application for Temporary Relief, which is generally accompanied by an Affidavit. The Affidavit puts into words what the Application expresses in numbers: the claim of the Petitioner for monetary relief pending the outcome of the action.

A missing spouse may require that the Petitioner serve notice by alternate means. In a divorce, the court may order that the Summons and Petition be sent by first-class mail to any address at which the Respondent may receive notice, including relatives. If there is no such address, the papers are sent to his or her last known address. A court may then order publication in a legal newspaper if this is likely to succeed. (A legal newspaper is one which specializes in publishing legal notices). When real estate is involved, the court must order publication in a legal newspaper.