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Legal Separation in Minnesota

Why do people often consider a legal separation in Minnesota?

Many people believe the myth that a legal separation in Minnesota is cheaper and quicker than a divorce.  This is usually the reason that people think about pursuing a legal separation.  Unfortunately, it’s not typically cheaper or quicker.  There is a legal proceeding in either case. 

In either case, the court still must determine issues of child custody, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and asset and debt division.  The only thing that doesn’t change?  You and your spouse are still legally married after a legal separation.

So, in a legal separation you don’t legally divorce your spouse.  If later down the road you want a divorce for whatever reason, you have to start another legal proceeding to get the divorce.  This happens in the majority of cases in which there is initially a legal separation.

Why a legal separation instead of a divorce?

Because of the foregoing, rarely is a legal separation recommended.  There are a few exception in which a legal separation in Minnesota may be preferred:

  • At least one spouse has religious reasons for not getting a divorce.  If one spouse’s religion takes a negative view towards a divorce, a separation may offer a viable alternative.
  • At least one spouse has a financial reason for not getting a divorce.  This may involve preservation of medical insurance benefits or some other financial incentive that s/he may lose with a divorce but not a separation.
  • At least one spouse has hopes that the parties will reconcile.  This may be a reason to get a legal separation in the hopes that the other spouse will eventually work to reconcile.
  • Neither spouse meets the 180-day requirement for residency in Minnesota.  In order to divorce, one of the spouses must have resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to the start of the divorce.  Legal separation in Minnesota does not have a 180 day requirement.

Unless one of these four reasons applies and it’s important to you, it’s rarely a good idea to pursue a legal separation as an alternative to a divorce.  Because of these issues, legal separation in Minnesota has become extraordinarily rare and generally is not a good solution to an ending relationship.