Divorce

Under Minnesota law, a divorce is called a "Dissolution of Marriage."  Getting divorced is a lot more complicated than getting married, and it can take several months before your divorce is final.

Overview

Must Live in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, a divorce is called a "Dissolution of Marriage." To get divorced in Minnesota, one of the spouses must be living in Minnesota for at least 180 days before starting the case. Getting divorced is a lot more complicated than getting married, and it can take several months before your divorce is final.
 

Same Sex Couples and Divorce

Effective August 1, 2013, the law in Minnesota allows same sex couples to get married or divorced in this state. To file for divorce in Minnesota, at least one party must be living in Minnesota for at least 180 days before starting the divorce case. A same sex couple may also file for divorce in Minnesota if they got married in Minnesota on or after August 1, 2013, and each party to the marriage now lives in a state that does not allow the dissolution of the parties' same sex marriage. See MN Statutes § 518.07, Subd. 2.
 

Children, Property and Settlement

A divorce can get complicated if the parties have property (real estate, automobiles, vacation property, pensions, jewelry, etc.) or minor children. Usually, the divorce can be done more quickly if the spouses agree on how to divide the property and handle custody and partenting time with the children. Many cases start out with a lot of disputes, but then the parties are able to reach an agreement. Parties often reach agreement after using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services outside of court. NOTE: If you feel threatened by or unsafe with the other party, you may want to get legal advice or help from an advocate before using ADR.
 

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) in Family Court

Most courts give parents the opportunity to work with independent evaluators soon after the case is filed to see if they can reach an agreement about custody, parenting time, money and property. The two types of ENE are: Financial ENE (FENE) to settle financial disputes and Social ENE (SENE) to settle custody and parenting time issues involving their children.

Divorce Education Class for Parents

The law in MN Statutes § 518.157 requires parents who have children together and who are getting divorced to attend a certified divorce education program if they do not agree on custody or parenting time (visitation). The judge may also order that the children attend a class.
The District Courts linked below have information about parenting education classes on their websites. For other court locations, please contact the court administration office to learn about their approved classes.

Fees & Costs

Getting divorced costs money. There are court fees, possible attorney's fees, copying costs and "service of process" costs. If you are low-income or believe you cannot afford court fees, see Fee Waiver to learn how to ask for a fee waiver.
 

Prepare Divorce Forms

There are a lot of steps involved in getting divorced, and there are rules and deadlines to follow in preparing the court forms. Some of the documents in a divorce case are:
1.  Summons and Petition
  • In Minnesota, one spouse must start the divorce by writing a Summons and Petition and "serving" it on the other spouse. There are specific rules for how to serve the documents. NOTE: If both spouses agree on how to settle all the issues in their divorce and can sign the same papers, you could do a Joint Petition for divorce.
2.  Answer
  • The spouse who received the Summons and Petition must read the documents and decide how to respond. If s/he disagrees, s/he writes and serves an Answer. If the couple can reach an agreement, a Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree is prepared by one or both of the parties.
3.  Motions and Court Orders
  • A Motion is a paper asking the Judge or Referee to decide an issue in a case. In a divorce matter, a Motion for Temporary Relief allows you to ask the court to issue a temporary order for child custody, child support, spousal support, and certain property issues. The Temporary Order allows you to get needed financial support while your case is pending in court. The Temporary order will expire when the final divorce decree is signed by the Judge and "entered" by court administration.
4.  Divorce Decree
  • The official name of your divorce document is Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree. Once this document has been signed by a Judge and is "entered" by court administration, your divorce is considered final.

Divorce Forms

 

Going to Court

Where to go?
You usually need to file divorce forms in the District Court located in the Minnesota county where one of the spouses lives. Contact your local Court Administration for information on how to file for divorce in your county.

How many hearings?
The number of times you go to court and see a Judge or Referee depends on local court procedures and whether you and your spouse can agree on issues regarding your children, property and other matters. If you do NOT agree, the case usually takes longer to finish. It is a good idea to get legal advice before finalizing an agreement with your spouse.
 
  • Representing Yourself in Court:  Appearing in court is a very important part of any case, and all parties are expected to arrive early, dress properly, and act respectfully.

Real Estate Must be Listed in Divorce Forms

In your divorce forms, you must list all real estate owned by:
  • you
  • your spouse
  • you and your spouse together; and 
  • you or your spouse with other people (like a friend or relative)
NOTE: There are many ways to divide real estate in a divorce. The court forms for marriage dissolution (divorce) only give you 1 option -- one spouse gets 100% of the house, cabin, or other real estate, and the other spouse gets a lien. But, you can change the court forms. An attorney can explain other options, advise you about the law, and draft terms to meet your situation. If your divorce involves real estate, you should get advice from a lawyer on your legal rights and options.


What is Real Estate

  • house two spouses own together
  • house, condo, or other home purchased by one spouse alone, after separation
  • house, condo, or other property purchased by one spouse alone, before the marriage
  • second home, like a lake cabin
  • timeshare in vacation property
  • condominium or townhouse
  • vacant land
  • investment property, like rental apartments
  • land and buildings owned by a business owned by one or both spouses
  • property being purchased or sold on a contract for deed
  • property owned by one spouse with other people
  • property inherited by one spouse alone, or given as a gift to one spouse alone.
  • "remainder interest" in property -- e.g., in an estate plan, a parent could leave her house to her children, reserving a "life estate" for herself. The parent has the right to live in the house during her lifetime, and the children have a "remainder interest" during her lifetime. The remainder interest must be included in the divorce papers.
  • any other real estate that either spouse has an ownership interest in, no matter when it was purchased or received
   

Talk to a Lawyer Before Signing Divorce Forms

Real estate is often the most valuable asset to be divided in a divorce. If you or your spouse own real estate, it is critical that you talk to an attorneybefore you sign the "Summons and Petition."
If you were served with a "Summons and Petition" (you are the Respondent) you should talk to an attorney before you sign the "Answer and Counterpetition", and before you sign a "Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree" (which is an agreement with your spouse on how to divide all assets and debts.)
 

Real Estate Forms

Real Estate Forms from the MN Dept. of Commerce (also called "Uniform Conveyancing Blanks") include:
  • Summary Real Estate Disposition Judgment
  • Quit Claim Deed
  • Liens
  • Contract for Deed
  • and more... 
NOTE: These forms are not published by the MN Judicial Branch. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions on how to fill them out or how to use them.
 

I-CAN!® Divorce Forms

  • I-CAN!® is a free online forms tool that asks you questions and creates all the forms you need to start and finish a divorce a non-contested divorce. For more information, visit the I-CAN!® tab on this page. NOTE: If your case is contested talk with a lawyer.
  • Forms to Start a Divorce - If you need forms to start a divorce, select this option.
  • Forms to Respond to Divorce Petition - If your spouse started the divorce (by giving you a Summons and Petition) and you need to respond, select this option.
  • Forms for Temporary Orders - Either spouse may use this forms packet to ask for a temporary order on custody, support or property issues that lasts only until the divorce is finalized.
  • Real Estate Forms - Forms such as a Summary Real Estate Disposition Judgment and Quit Claim Deed are published by the MN Department of CommerceNOTE: These forms are NOT published by the MN Judicial Branch. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about those real estate forms.
  • All Divorce Court Forms

Forms to Use After the Divorce is Final

IMPORTANT: The I-CAN!® tools are provided for convenience and informational purposes only. The service and content are NOT intended as legal advice and are not a substitute for a lawyer. By linking to I-CAN!, the MN Judicial Branch does not imply any endorsement of I-CAN!® and is not responsible or liable for the content, accuracy or privacy practices of the I-CAN!® service. Read Disclaimer.
 

Minnesota Court Forms in I-CAN!

We now offer the following court forms in the I-CAN!® document assembly program:
Divorce Forms (both with and without minor children)
Fee Waiver (IFP) Forms (for any type of civil case)
  • I-CAN!® is not designed for cases involving a large number of assets, property or debts. We recommend that you get legal advice on your situation.
  • I-CAN!® may be used for a same sex divorce, but we recommend that you get legal advice on your situation.
TIP: Before using I-CAN!®, complete a "Fast Facts Worksheet" linked below that will help you collect all of the personal information you must enter into I-CAN!® so you can finish faster.

Benefits of Using I-CAN!®

  • It's a free service.
  • You can create a Username and Password that only you will know to protect your privacy.
  • The I-CAN!® service is available over the Internet on a secure network.
  • I-CAN!® saves your answers and fills in your information on the court forms.
  • I-CAN!® prints your completed forms with instructions on how to start your case, calculate child support, and finish your divorce.
  • You can work at your own pace. Start now and finish later.
NOTE: I-CAN!® works on most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.
 

Need Help?

Court Forms Review Service: If you are representing yourself in a court case and you fill out court forms on a computer (in Word, PDF or I-CAN!®), the Self-Help Center can review your completed court forms before you file them with the court. Contact Us for more details.

Phone:
MN Courts Self-Help Center
Monday - Friday, 8:30a - 3:00p (closed court holdays)
(651)259-3888

Email

Instructions on how to serve, file & then finish a divorce will also print from I-CAN! program.
We strongly encourage you to get legal advice from a licensed attorney who practices family law in Minnesota. Divorce cases can be complicated and affect important legal rights, including child custody, property, and financial interests.

Filing for divorce in HENNEPIN or RAMSEY County? If you are filing for divorce in the Ramsey County District Court and you are not represented by a lawyer, you must have your completed divorce forms reviewed by staff at the Ramsey County Family Court Self-Help Service Center ((651) 266-5125). If you are filing for divorce without a lawyer in the Hennepin County District Court, we strongly suggest that you have your completed divorce forms reviewed by staff at the Hennepin County Family Court Self-Help Center ((612) 596-8519). Self-Help Center staff will look to see that you filled out all of the necessary forms and then explain the next steps in the process. Find self-help services.
Rules & LawsIf you are representing yourself in a divorce in Minnesota, you are responsible for following the same laws and rules as an attorney. Read Rights and Duties of Self-Represented Parties.


Laws & Rules on Divorce

The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that deal with divorce (marriage dissolution) in Minnesota. See also Laws, Rules & Legal Research. You can get more help with legal research at your local public law libraryTalk with a lawyer to get advice on how the laws and rules may affect your case.
Resources

Divorce Law Resources 

See also Child Custody & Parenting Time Resources and Child Support Resources.

Divorce Spousal Maintenance (alimony) Mediation / Settle Your Case

Get Help with a Divorce

Some courts and law libraries have a Self-Help Center, advice clinic, or other help for people doing their own divorce. Visit Legal Advice Clinics & Self-Help Centers to see what is available in your area.
Related Video

How to Start a Divorce in Minnesota - (24 minutes)



How to File a Motion in Family Court - (23 minutes)