Minnesota's Divorce Law

by Shannon Johnson
Giving your best in a marriage is not always enough.

Giving your best in a marriage is not always enough.

Robert Koene/Photodisc/Getty Images

Minnesota is a 100 percent no-fault divorce state, which cuts down on the contention inherent in fault-based divorces. However, issues such as property division, custody and alimony still require Minnesota courts to consider certain details of the marriage. No matter what, having an idea of how the court handles various facets of divorce can make reaching a settlement much easier, saving you both time and money.

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Residency Requirements

Residency is the first requirement a couple must meet when filing for divorce. You don’t have to live in Minnesota when the divorce is filed, but you do have to have a home you consider to be a permanent home, also known as a domicile, within the state. The petition seeking a divorce must be filed in the county where either you or your spouse reside or have a domicile. If neither you nor your spouse live in or have a domicile in Minnesota, but were a member of the armed services within the state at least 180 days prior to filing, you may file for divorce in the county where either you or your spouse is stationed.

Divorce Grounds

Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. This means that the only ground for divorce is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” In other words, the marriage cannot be saved. This is typically proven by at least one spouse testifying before the court that there is no chance of reconciliation.

Property Distribution

When it comes to dividing a couple's property, Minnesota is an "equitable distribution" state. Equitable distribution is when a court splits marital property in a manner it deems fair and just. Certain factors the judge considers when making an equitable distribution of marital property include the length of the marriage, spouses' age, health, occupation and employability, and each spouse’s available source of income. The marital estate is typically valued at the first pretrial settlement conference. From this point, both you and your spouse are barred from transferring, encumbering with debt, concealing or selling any marital assets.

Spousal Maintenance

In order for one spouse to get alimony, known as "spousal maintenance" in Minnesota, he will have to prove a need for it - because he lacks sufficient property to provide for his needs, is unable to be self-sufficient through employment or cannot work due to caring for a special needs child - and the other spouse must have an ability to pay. Certain factors will have an effect on the amount of spousal maintenance awarded, including age, division of marital property, educational attainment, ability to secure employment and whether a spouse is disabled.

Child Custody

Minnesota courts will award custody based on the best interests of the child. There are two types of custody -- legal and physical. Legal custody represents a parent's right to make decisions concerning the child's upbringing, such as religion and education. Physical custody represents where a child lives. Both legal and physical custody may be sole (granted to one parent only) or joint (shared between parents). Factors considered under the best interest standard include the parent/child relationship, which parent has been the child's primary caretaker, mental and physical health of each parent, child's cultural background and whether the parents will be able to cooperate in a co-parenting situation. Once physical custody and a right to visitation is established, known as "parenting and access time," the court will create a parenting plan describing when each parent has a right to spend time with the child, including important days like holidays, birthdays and school vacations.

Child Support

Minnesota calculates child support based on the "income shares" model. This formula bases the child support award on the following factors: the parents' combined income (and each parent's percentage share of this total), number of children, and child care and medical expenses. The court will also take into account the amount of time each parent spends with the child and whether or not there are any outstanding spousal maintenance and child support orders, among other factors.