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How long does divorce take in Minnesota?

How long does divorce take in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, a divorce (legally called a “dissolution of marriage”) can take anywhere from several weeks to a few months to even years to finalize. To determine a realistic timeline, you’ll need to take into account how much you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce. You will have to resolve issues such as how property should be divided, who should be responsible for the debt, what the custody arrangements should be, how much should be paid in child support, etc. 

How fast you can get a divorce in Minnesota depends on whether your divorce is uncontested or contested. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all the terms of the divorce. For this type, an expected timeline could be as short as 4-6 weeks. 

Factors that determine the length of a divorce in Minnesota

There are several issues that need to be resolved in a divorce proceeding that can determine how long your divorce will take to finalize. Whether you and your spouse agree or disagree on the following issues will affect the length of your divorce process:

  • Custody of the children
  • Child support
  • Visitation rights
  • Division and distribution of assets and marital property
  • Spousal maintenance/alimony
  • Allocation of debts

If the spouses can reach an agreement on all of the points listed above, their divorce is considered uncontested. On the other hand, if the divorcing couple can't agree on any of the above points, their divorce will be contested (and will likely take much longer).

Additionally, the following factors can influence the length of your divorce proceeding:

  • Whether or not you have existing pre- and post-nuptial agreements in place
  • If you have high-value assets to divide, or if your spouse is intentionally hiding assets
  • How many cases the court has and how efficiently they’re able to handle them
  • Unforeseen circumstances, such as getting sick or changing jobs, that affect your availability and schedule

What is a realistic timeline to expect?

For uncontested divorces, you can expect your divorce to take anywhere from several weeks to a few months to finalize, depending on the factors above. 

For contested divorces, you can expect the divorce to take longer. If you cannot come to agreement on the issues of your divorce, you will need to seek mediation. If that route fails, you will need to go to trial and have a judge make a decision for you. These additional steps add time to your divorce proceeding. You can expect a contested divorce to last anywhere from six months to two years. 

How can you speed up the divorce process?

Speeding up the divorce process is related to your willingness to compromise — the more you’re willing, the faster your divorce is likely to be. Doing so will also enable you to solve your dispute outside of trial. However, if you don’t agree with everything your spouse wants, or you feel that your spouse’s initial settlement proposal isn’t an equitable arrangement, the divorce may take longer. You may decide, however, that the sacrifice is worth it. 

Another way to speed up the divorce process is to work with a mediator or an attorney who can facilitate an equitable settlement agreement, while still protecting your rights.

Options for uncontested divorce

If you and your spouse are cooperative and generally agree with one another’s point of view, or you are both willing to negotiate, your divorce will likely take much less time than if you and your spouse are more combative and unwilling to compromise. 

If your divorce is uncontested, you and your spouse also have two options that take much less time than traditional divorce proceedings. These are a summary dissolution and a dissolution by joint petition.

A summary dissolution allows you to get a divorce within 30 days of filing a divorce petition. The process is simple, accelerated, and doesn’t require you to set foot in a courtroom. However, you must meet strict requirements to be eligible. To qualify, you must meet the following conditions:

  • neither of you have minor children born or adopted during the marriage (unless someone other than the husband has been legally declared as the father), and neither of you is pregnant,
  • you have been married for less than eight years,
  • neither of you owns real estate,
  • your marital assets aren't worth more than $25,000, and neither of you has separate assets worth more than that amount,
  • neither of you have more than $8,000 in unpaid debts (other than car loans), and
  • there has been no domestic abuse in the relationship.

A dissolution by joint petition is another option for spouses who might agree on all the issues in their divorce, but don’t meet the stringent requirements to get a summary dissolution. You and your spouse must complete and sign all the relevant paperwork together, which will require you to outline the details about your finances, property, debts, expenses, and more. After filing these forms, your case will be added to the court calendar. The judge will then review your agreement and once approved, will issue the final divorce decree. You may not have to attend a hearing if you do not have minor children, or if you and your spouse are both represented by an attorney. 

Obstacles to getting a divorce in Minnesota

Does Minnesota have a mandatory waiting period or require separation before divorce?

No. While some states mandate waiting periods for divorcing couples or require couples to legally separate before divorcing, there is no waiting period or mandated separation period required before you can file for divorce in Minnesota. 

What requirements do you need to meet before you can get a divorce?

You must have resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days to file for a divorce in the state, unless one spouse is a military member and has kept their Minnesota residency.

Do you have to prove a spouse did something wrong to get a divorce?

Minnesota is a "no-fault" divorce state, which means that you don't have to prove your spouse did anything wrong or get your partner’s consent before you can file for divorce. Instead, it is considered sufficient to simply allege that there has been an “irretrievable or irremediable breakdown of the marital relationship.” By law, there need be no further basis for a divorce in Minnesota.

How is a divorce finalized in Minnesota?

A divorce can be finalized once both parties come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce. Then, a divorce agreement can be drafted. Once a judge approves this, it becomes a divorce decree. 

Can one attorney represent both spouses?

In Minnesota, an attorney cannot represent both parties in divorce cases. To do so would represent a conflict of interest. Nonetheless, if a divorcing couple has reached a comprehensive agreement, it is possible for one spouse to hire an attorney to prepare the paperwork. In such cases, the attorney only represents one spouse and is unable to provide legal advice to the other spouse. The unrepresented spouse must sign a Waiver of Independent Legal Counsel to acknowledge the waived right to counsel.

How much does a divorce cost in Minnesota?

You will have to pay a filing fee when submitting your divorce forms. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you can request a fee waiver. If you have a contested divorce, you will also need to pay for help from a mediator and/or an attorney. The longer your divorce takes, the more costly it will be. 

For these reasons, many people are intent on getting a divorce finalized as quickly as possible to keep costs low. However, for divorces involving children, high-value assets, or any other high-stakes issues, you shouldn’t make unnecessary sacrifices or concessions in a rush to reach a resolution. Once a divorce is finalized, it is extremely difficult to make changes to the divorce decree. 

Taking the time upfront to ensure you reach an equitable arrangement is well worth the time and money in the long run, especially if it means the difference between having joint custody of your children, having sufficient alimony, or having an equitable division of your assets. Working with a lawyer ensures that your rights are being considered during your divorce process and that both parties receive what is fair. A lawyer can even be hired just to review your settlement agreement to make sure it protects your rights and interests. 

If you have questions about how a lawyer can help you, send us a message here. We’ll schedule a free, confidential consultation with you to answer any questions you may have so you can determine if working with an attorney is right for you. 

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