I Don’t Want a Divorce, what can I do?

Couple arguing, one doesn't want a divorce
Even if one spouse doesn’t want a divorce, it can’t be stopped

What if I don’t want a divorce?  What if my spouse doesn’t?  Can one spouse force it?  The answer is yes.

Legally, when a couple marries, they’re entering a legal contract.  This contract entitles each spouse to certain rights.  A fair division of marital property is one of those rights, for example.

Another right is the ability to rescind the marital contract.  Historically, one spouse had to show that the other had violated the marriage contract in some way to end it.  If successful, the marriage could be ended. 

However in recent years, states have moved to the “no fault” model.  Under this model, a spouse’s right to rescind the marital contract changed.  Specifically, a spouse can get a divorce over the objection of the other spouse.  Additionally, it also allows ending the marriage without showing either spouse has acted with “fault” in some way, thus its name. As a practical matter, his change has made divorces far easier to obtain.

The “No Fault” Divorce Statute

Minn. Stat. 518.06 (Subd. 1) describes this right to a no fault divorce.  Here are key sections, with bold added for emphasis:

” A dissolution of marriage is the termination of the marital relationship between a husband and wife. A decree of dissolution completely terminates the marital status of both parties … A dissolution of a marriage shall be granted by a county or district court when the court finds that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship …”

Defenses to divorce, dissolution and legal separation, including but not limited to condonation, connivance, collusion, recrimination, insanity, and lapse of time, are abolished.”

In other words, either spouse only needs to allege that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  When this happens, a Judge “shall” grant the divorce.

In addition, only one spouse needs to allege this breakdown.  Even if the other spouse denies it, the divorce won’t stop.  There are also no legal “defenses” to the proceeding.  

In other words, one spouse can’t argue, “our marriage should continue because my spouse acted in some bad way”.  A spouse also can’t argue that a marriage should continue because he or she didn’t do anything wrong.  In sum, if one spouse wants a divorce in Minnesota, there’s no legal way to stop it.

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.  For Court rules, click here.