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How To File for Divorce in Illinois

Illustration of divorcing couple splitting their home in half.

As difficult as the divorce can be, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you take the time to become familiar with the divorce process in Minnesota, it can help reduce your stress and anxiety.

This is easier said than done, but the good news is that we will offer a breakdown of the process here. We’ll also explain the different types of divorce in Minnesota.

The Minnesota divorce process varies depending on the type of divorce filed. There are two main types: a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce. If you file for an uncontested divorce, you can file a summary dissolution or a dissolution by joint petition.

This article will explain the basics of Minnesota divorce law. It will also outline the steps you must take with each type of divorce.

Divorce Basics

One of your first decisions is whether you’ll file for a contested or uncontested divorce. Your decision will depend on whether you and your spouse can agree on the material terms of your divorce.

Some of the significant issues you must address include:

  • Child custody and child support
  • Alimony/Spousal support
  • Parenting time
  • Division of property
  • Division of marital debts

Your Minnesota divorce lawyer will draft a marital settlement agreement that includes these issues. If your spouse agrees to the terms in the agreement, your divorce attorney will submit it to the family court judge for approval.

Once the judge approves it, they will grant your final divorce decree. Your agreement will become a court order that you can enforce later.

You will file a contested divorce if you and your spouse cannot agree on these issues.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

A divorce can be either contested or uncontested. Contested means that there are issues that the spouses disagree on, such as division of property or spousal maintenance (alimony). You can resolve these issues through an out-of-court settlement or by letting a judge decide.

An uncontested divorce means the parties agree on everything and merely ask the court to sign off on their divorce agreement.

Some cases start as contested and end up being uncontested. Others may start as uncontested and become contested during divorce proceedings.

Residency Requirements

You must meet the state's residency requirements before filing for divorce.

You or your soon-to-be ex-spouse must have been a resident of Minnesota for at least 180 days before filing for divorce. There are limited exceptions to this rule. You should speak with a family law attorney before proceeding if neither you nor your spouse meet this requirement.

No-Fault Divorce State

Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state. You don't need to prove that your spouse did anything wrong to file for divorce. The judge can grant a divorce if one spouse wants to end the marriage and certifies that it is irretrievably broken.

The court may consider things like domestic abuse, substance abuse, or misuse of marital funds when determining child custody, parenting time, or property division.

Types of Divorce

The next decision you must make is the type of divorce you wish to file.

There are three ways to get a divorce in Minnesota:

It’s worth discussing each of these in more detail.

Summary Dissolution of Marriage

A summary dissolution of marriage is an uncontested divorce that doesn’t involve minor children or property. If you meet the criteria below, you will file the court forms and divorce papers with the Minnesota courts.

Ideally, the judge will sign the papers without needing a hearing. A summary dissolution saves time and money.

Summary dissolution is only available if:

  • There are no minor children and neither party is pregnant
  • You have been married for eight years or less
  • You don't own any joint property
  • The marital assets are worth $25,000 or less
  • There is no domestic violence between the parties
  • Neither person has more than $8,000 in debt, except for automobile loans
  • Neither spouse has $25,000 or more in separate property

You can't split pensions or retirement benefits in a summary dissolution. Each spouse keeps their retirement accounts. In addition, you can't divide a business in this type of divorce. If you and your spouse have a business together, a summary dissolution is not a good option.

The judge will not award spousal maintenance in a summary dissolution. As neither spouse can waive alimony on a permanent basis, the court instead “reserves” the issue of spousal maintenance. A spouse can petition the court for spousal support later.

Filing for a Summary Dissolution of Marriage

To file for a summary dissolution, you must complete the Summary Dissolution Forms Packet, which includes the Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of a Marriage.

You do not need an attorney's help to file for summary dissolution. However, it would help if you spoke with a divorce attorney. A divorce lawyer can help determine if this is a good option. They will also review your divorce forms to ensure you have everything.

There is also a self-help center available through the Minnesota Judicial Branch. The courts cannot provide you with legal advice. They can only advise you on the process.

When you complete and sign your divorce forms, file them with the district court in your county. You must pay a filing fee. These fees vary depending on your county. You can also apply for a fee waiver.

Dissolution by Joint Petition

A dissolution by joint petition is an uncontested divorce where both parties agree to all terms. You can file a joint petition with or without children. This is a good option if you don’t qualify for or don't want a summary dissolution.

In this type of divorce, you and your spouse must agree to all terms. If so, you can file a joint divorce petition with the court. If you have minor children, the judge will hold a brief court hearing to finalize the divorce.

The courts refer to a petition for dissolution of marriage as a joint petition because the spouses ask for the divorce together.

If you have few issues to resolve, you can file for dissolution by joint petition. However, you must resolve these issues before the divorce becomes final.

Filing for Dissolution by Joint Petition

To file for dissolution by joint petition, you must complete the Joint Petition without Children or the Joint Petition With Children forms.

Only complete these forms once you and your spouse reach an agreement. If there are still issues you disagree on, contact a mediator or Minnesota divorce lawyer.

You don’t need a divorce lawyer to file for dissolution by joint petition, but if you have children, real estate, or retirement assets it's a good idea to speak with a lawyer. Meeting with an attorney will help ensure you get a reasonable settlement of issues concerning your divorce.

Once you complete and sign your paperwork, file it with the district court in your county. You must pay the filing fee or apply for a fee waiver.

Contested Divorce

In a contested divorce, you and your spouse are in disagreement on issues. This could include division of property, allocation of debts, child or spousal support, and child custody. You and your spouse will have the chance to make your case to the judge. The judge will base their decision on state divorce and child custody laws.

Working with a family law attorney is essential if you require litigation to resolve your divorce issues. The court process is formal and complex, and non-lawyers often struggle with it. The court will hold you to the same standard as a licensed attorney. You don’t want to be at a disadvantage, especially if your spouse has a lawyer.

Filing for Contested Divorce

To file for a contested divorce in Minnesota, you will complete a summons and petition and file it at the appropriate courthouse. In the petition, you will tell the court what you want in the divorce.

The summons informs your spouse about the divorce case and how they can respond. It also outlines any temporary restraining provisions. You must serve your spouse with the paperwork by using the appropriate means and prove it with an Affidavit of Service, which must be filed with the court.

The next thing you must do is file your financial disclosure forms and get a court date for your initial court hearing. You may ask the court for temporary child support, spousal maintenance, a restraining order, or other remedies.

From there, the court will likely encourage you to make efforts to settle the case. They’ll recommend mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution. Discovery may take place to exchange information and evidence between the parties.

If you cannot settle, the court clerk will schedule a pre-trial hearing. If need be, the clerk will also set a trial date.

After the trial, the presiding judge will order a divorce judgment and decree.

Learn About the Minnesota Divorce Process From a Legal Professional

Deciding to end your marriage is never an easy decision. Going through a divorce proceeding in Minnesota is challenging, but understanding the laws and legal obligations can make it more manageable.

The best way to do this is to have an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney assist you.

Find a local attorney by searching our directory or clicking on one of these links:

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information, please consult an attorney or conduct legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Minnesota Divorce Laws: Related Resources

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