A Summary of Minnesota Divorce Laws

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Grounds for Divorce Under Minnesota Divorce Laws

Divorce Laws Specifically for the State of Minnesota

The first step in any divorce is to establish the grounds (grounds are basically the reasons acceptable by the court) for your divorce. There is only one acceptable reason for divorce in Minnesota and that is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This means that the marriage is broken beyond repair.

Minnesota law states that you must live separate and apart from your spouse for more than one hundred eight days prior to filing for dissolution of marriage or that there must exist serious marital discord that adversely affects one or both spouses.

Residency Requirements/Venue

Minnesota divorce laws require that one or both of you be a resident of the state for a minimum of 180 days immediately prior to the filing of the petition for divorce. The petition for divorce may be filed in the county in which you and/or your spouse reside. 

Legal Separation

A judgment of legal separation may be granted to couples who meet the requirements, which are the same requirements as for dissolution of marriage. Note that legal separation does not leave you free to remarry in the future. You will have to go through the process of dissolution of marriage outlined in Minnesota divorce laws in order to end your marriage if you wish to remarry someone else someday.


Okay, gents, here comes the fun stuff. This is the stuff you don’t really want to think about but really have no choice. The next few segments are going to be all about the things you would rather avoid. First up… alimony. In case you don’t know what that is, it is payment that one spouse makes to the other until that spouse is able to take care of him/herself. Alimony may be awarded to either spouse if that spouse meets all of the following requirements:

  • Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs considering the standard of living attained during the marriage
  • Is unable to adequately support him/herself, considering the standard of living attained during the marriage, through appropriate employment
  • Is a custodian of a child whose condition is such that he/she should not be required to seek employment

Factors the court considers in determining the amount and term of alimony include:

  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking alimony
  • The time necessary for the spouse seeking support to acquire sufficient education or training
  • The comparative earning capacity of each spouse
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The obligations and assets of the marriage, both separate and marital
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, physical and mental condition of the spouse seeking support
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to meet both his needs and the needs of the spouse seeking support
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage
  • Any other relevant factors

The award of alimony ends when the recipient spouse remarries or dies.

Distribution of Property

Depending on whether or not you own any property, you might be happy to know that Minnesota is an equitable distribution state. This means that you get to keep any property that belongs to you and all shared property is then divided between you and your spouse, as the court deems equitable and just. Factors the court considers in dividing the marital property include:

  • The economic circumstances of the parties at the time of the division of property
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marital estate
  • The value of the non-marital property set apart to each spouse
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage
  • Custodial arrangements for minor children

Child Custody

Okay so, there are 3 ways this could go. You could be awarded full custody, joint custody, or no custody. Minnesota courts will decide the issue of custody based upon the best interests of the child. The court will consider several factors, including:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The need of the child for a frequent and meaningful relationship with both parents
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with both the parents and any siblings
  • The wishes of the child

The court may interview the child in chambers to determine the child’s preferences.

In addition to the above, if joint physical or legal custody is sought, the court will also consider:

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate in the rearing of the child
  • The methods for resolving disputes regarding the child
  • Whether it would be detrimental to the child if one parent were to have sole authority over the child’s upbringing
  • Whether there have been instances of domestic abuse between the parents

No preference will be given to either parent in determining custody based on the parent’s age, sex or financial status, or because of the age or sex of the child.

Each parent shall have equal access to all medical, dental, school, religious and other important records of the child. Each parent shall keep the other informed as to the name and address of the school the child is attending and has the right to be informed of the child’s progress and attend school and parent-teacher conferences. 

Child Support

The court may order either or both parents to pay a reasonable amount necessary for the support of a child. Some of the factors the court will consider in determining the amount of child support include:

  • The financial needs and resources of the child
  • The financial resources and needs of the parents
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended
  • The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements

Name Change

Upon request, either spouse may change his or her name as long as the reason for the name change is not for fraudulent or misleading purposes and falls within the parameters set out by Minnesota divorce laws.


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