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Legal Information: Minnesota

Minnesota Divorce

Laws current as of
December 18, 2023

This section has basic information about divorce in Minnesota. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.

What are the residency requirements for divorce in Minnesota?

To get a divorce, you or your spouse must live in Minnesota or be a member of the armed services stationed in Minnesota for at least 180 days before filing.1

1 Minn. Stat. § 518.07(1)

What are the grounds for divorce in Minnesota?

A judge can grant you a divorce if s/he finds that there was an “irretrievable breakdown” of your marriage, which means your marriage cannot be saved. Unlike in many other states, there are no fault-based grounds for divorce in Minnesota.1

1 Minn. Stat. § 518.06(1)

Can I get alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is financial support paid by one spouse to the other. A judge can grant you alimony if you:

  • lack sufficient property to meet your reasonable needs and the standard of living you had during your marriage, especially if you need to go through training or education to get a job;
  • are unable to support yourself by working, taking into consideration the standard of living you had during your marriage and all other relevant circumstances; or
  • have custody of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that you not be required to work outside of the home.1

1 Minn. Stat. § 518.552

How will a judge make a decision about alimony?

The judge will decide how much alimony to award you and for how long. Alimony can either be temporary or permanent. A judge will not consider your or your spouse’s misconduct during your marriage when determining alimony. A judge will consider the following factors:

  • your finances and property, including property awarded to you as part of the divorce;
  • your ability to meet your needs on your own, including whether you have a child living with you and are receiving child support;
  • the time you would need to get the necessary education or training to allow you to find a job and the likelihood of you completing the education or training and becoming self-sufficient, given your age and skills;
  • your standard of living during your marriage;
  • the length of your marriage;
  • if you were a homemaker, the judge will look at:
    • the length of time you were out of the workforce; 
    • if you need education or training to reenter the work force; and
    • if you have a lower earning capacity because you weren’t working while you were married;
  • the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities that you sacrificed during the marriage;
  • your age;
  • your physical and emotional condition;
  • your spouse’s ability to meet her/his needs while paying you spousal support;
  • your and your spouse’s contributions regarding getting and preserving the marital property and contributions to increasing or decreasing the value of the marital property; and
  • your contribution as a homemaker or in any other way that helped to advance your spouse’s career or business.1  

If the judge is unsure whether to give you permanent or temporary alimony, the judge will award you permanent alimony, leaving the order open for changes in the future.2

1 Minn. Stat. § 518.552(2)
2 Minn. Stat. § 518.552(3)

Can my alimony award be changed?

Alimony terms can be changed (modified) if one spouse can prove one or more of the following circumstances makes the existing terms unreasonable and unfair:

  • substantially increased or decreased gross income of either party;
  • substantially increased or decreased need of either party; 
  • receipt of public assistance under the AFDC program; or
  • a change in the cost of living for either party as measured by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.1  

The judge can also change your alimony award if you live with another adult in a romantic relationship (“cohabitation”) after your divorce. That change could come in the form of your alimony award being:

  • reduced;
  • suspended;
  • paused (“reserved”); or
  • terminated.2

In deciding whether cohabitation should be the reason to change the alimony, the judge will consider all of the following factors:

  • whether the reason you (the person receiving support) are not marrying the live-in partner is due to the alimony award;
  • the economic benefit that you get from the cohabitation;
  • the length of time you have lived with your partner and the likely future length of the cohabitation; and
  • the economic impact that changing the alimony award would have on you if you and your live-in partner later stop living together.2

Note: In your divorce decree or in a post-divorce decree, you and your spouse can agree that your alimony order cannot be changed in the future. The judge will follow that agreement if it is fair, supported by the facts in your case, and there is full disclosure of both your and your spouse’s financial situations. However, at a later time, if you and your spouse both agree that the judge should be able to modify the alimony order, you can both agree to the change.3

    1 ​Minn. Stat. §§ 518.552(6)(a); 518A.39(2)(a)(1) - (2)(a)(4)
    Minn. Stat. § 518.552(6)
    Minn. Stat. § 518.552(5)

    What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

    While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow in most states:

    • First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
    • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage, which may include a no-fault ground such as irreconcilable differences.
    • Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.) For the exact rules for serving the papers, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.   
    • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side.  This may be called “contesting the divorce.”  If s/he contests it, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out.  If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he may sign the appropriate divorce papers and send them back to you and/or the court (depending on your state).  If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this may be called an “uncontested divorce.”  Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce).
    • Fifth, if there is property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues.   The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce.  Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

    You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

    Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Minnesota?

    The Minnesota Judicial Branch has the following resources regarding divorce:

    Lawhelp.org provides information about annulments, the costs related to filing for a divorce, and more.

    WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.

    You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.