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Know the Laws: Minnesota

UPDATED September 8, 2017

Basic information about divorce in Minnesota.

back to topWhat are the residency requirements for divorce in Minnesota?

To get a divorce, you or your spouse must live in Minnesota (or be a member of the armed services stationed in Minnesota) for at least 180 days before filing.*

* Minn. Stat. § 518.07(1)

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back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Minnesota?

A judge can grant you a divorce if s/he finds that there was an “irretrievable breakdown” of your marriage (meaning your marriage cannot be saved).  You and your spouse do not have to provide any fault-based reason for your divorce.*

* Minn. Stat. § 518.06(1)

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back to topCan I get alimony?

Alimony (spousal support) is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse.  A judge can grant you alimony if you:

  • lack sufficient property to meet your reasonable needs and the standard of living you had during your marriage, especially if you need to go through training or education to get a job;
  • are unable to support yourself by working, taking into consideration the standard of living you had during your marriage and all other relevant circumstances; or
  • have custody of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that you not be required to work outside the home*

* Minn. Stat. § 518.552

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back to topHow will a judge make a decision about alimony?

The judge will decide how much alimony to award you and for how long, either temporary or permanent.  A judge will not consider either your or your spouse’s misconduct during your marriage.  A judge will consider the following factors when deciding an alimony award:

  • your finances, property (including property awarded to you as part of the divorce), and your ability to meet your needs on your own, including whether you have a child living with you and are receiving child support;
  • the time you would need to get the necessary education or training to allow you to find a job and the likelihood of you completing the education or training and becoming self-sufficient, given your age and skills;
  • your standard of living during your marriage;
  • the length of your marriage;
  • the length of time you were out of the workforce if you were a homemaker, if you need education or training to reenter the work force, and if you have a lower earning capacity because you weren’t working while you were married;
  • your loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and any other job opportunities that you missed;
  • your age;
  • your physical and emotional condition;
  • your spouse’s ability to meet her/his needs while paying you spousal support;
  • your and your spouse’s contributions regarding obtaining and preserving the marital property; and contributions to increasing or decreasing the value of the marital property; and
  • your contribution as a homemaker or other contributions that you made, which allowed your spouse to further his/her career or business.*

If the judge is unsure whether to give you permanent or temporary alimony, the judge will award you permanent alimony, leaving the order open for changes in the future.** 

* Minn. Stat. § 518.552(2)
** Minn. Stat. § 518.552(3)

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back to topCan my alimony award be changed?

You and your spouse can agree that your alimony order cannot be changed in the future by including that in your divorce decree or post-divorce decree.  The judge will obey the agreement if it is fair, supported by the facts in your case, and there is full disclosure of both you and your spouse’s financial situations.  However, at a later time, if you and your spouse both agree that the judge should be able to modify the alimony order, you can both agree to the change.*

The judge can also change your alimony award if you live with another adult after your divorce.  That change could come in the form of your alimony award being:

  • reduced (lowered);
  • reserved (paused); or
  • terminated (ended).**

* Minn. Stat. § 518.552(5)
** Minn. Stat. § 518.552(6)

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back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow in most states:

  • First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage, which may include a no-fault ground such as irreconcilable differences.
  • Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse - for the exact rules for serving the papers, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side.  This may be called “contesting the divorce.”  If s/he contests it, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out.  If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he may sign the appropriate divorce papers and send them back to you and/or the court (depending on your state).  If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this may be called an “uncontested divorce.”  Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce).
  • Fifth, if there is property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues.   The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce.  Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

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back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce laws in Minnesota?

The Minnesota Judicial Branch has the following resources regarding divorce:

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid provides an in-depth booklet about divorce in Minnesota.  This booklet discusses grounds for divorce in Minnesota, the basic divorce process, and alimony.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites.  We provide these links for your information only.

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