Divorce in Minnesota

Divorce in Minnesota: The Process in a Nutshell

The process of divorce in Minnesota can be longer and more drawn out than the outline provided below, especially if the parties are in strong disagreement and/or there are multiple and complicated issues.  

The Divorce Starts

A contested divorce in Minnesota starts when a summons and petition is served by one party.  This party is called the petitioner.  The other party is called the respondent. When we say “served” it means that these documents (the summons and petition) have been delivered by someone (who is at least 18 years of age and is not the petitioner him/herself) to the respondent. Thus, a divorce proceeding officially starts when the other party is served the divorce pleadings. 

The respondent has 30 days to respond with an answer. As an aside, it’s generally not true that the party who files first is at an advantage in the divorce. 

Once Divorce is Filed with the Court

When a divorce is filed for with the court, an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) will be scheduled. Usually the ICMC is within a month of this first filing. At this informal meeting, the judge will talk with the parties, encourage settlement and help the parties plan out the remainder of the case. Also, the judge can order procedures to help evaluate custody issues or alternative ways to work out disagreements (such as, mediation or social early neutral evaluation).

Divorce Process in Minnesota
Many Questions in the Process

Alternative Dispute Resolution

At alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, the parties will try to resolve whatever disagreements they have. If the couple can solve all issues, these can be put into an agreement and submitted to the judge. If the couple cannot reach a settlement during mediation, the divorce process continues. 

After trying alternative dispute resolution methods and perhaps going through a temporary hearing, the case will move towards a pre-trial conference.


The pre-trial conference helps the judge identify what issues the parties still disagree on, provides another opportunity to settle, and determines the time the parties will need for a trial. The parties can still reach an agreement at the pre-trial conference and therefore, avoid a trial.


Less than 10% of Minnesota divorces go to trial.  As trials are costly, this is a good thing for spouses.  However if a trial is needed, the judge will review the case thoroughly and sign off on an order which then becomes the divorce decree. When the court has filed the decree, the couple is officially divorced.

Typical Issues

The divorce process in Minnesota, or in any state for that matter, is complicated. The following questions are typical issues to consider during that process to ensure that they get addressed in your divorce decree.

  • Child Support: Who pays? What amount?
  • College Savings: Who contributes and in what amounts?
  • Child Custody: Where will the children live? Who gets to make decisions about the kids?
  • Taxes: Who claims the children on their tax returns?
  • Parenting Time: Who gets to be with the children and when? What will major holidays look like after the divorce or separation?
  • Spousal Maintenance: Will one spouse have to pay the other spouse maintenance? If so, how much and for how long?
  • Property: Who gets to stay in the family house? What if the house is underwater? Do you have a vacation home or condo?
  • Marital Assets: How will assets be divided? Who gets what? What if I got it as a gift or in a will? 
  • Debts: How will debts be split up? Does it matter who took them on or who benefited from them? 
  • Business: How will business interests be divided?
  • Insurance: What kinds and amounts of insurance will protect the interests of the parties, including the children and who pays for it?
  • Retirement Accounts and Pensions: How will retirement assets be divided?
  • Domestic Abuse: What happens if there’s domestic violence or threat of domestic violence is involved?

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.