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What’s the Process for Getting Divorced in Minnesota?

Assuming that you are clear that you want to get divorced, the process for completing a divorce in Minnesota is pretty simple. The only serious complications that arise come from conflict with your spouse or over-reliance on lawyers, or both. Many of my clients go through a simple 2-step process: First, the couple has a conversation in which they figure out their plan for the kids, for their finances, and for their assets and debts. After they’ve come up with a plan, they complete a stack of paperwork (many couples do this paperwork themselves, some hire a paralegal service, and others hire a lawyer to complete it), and submit that paperwork to the family court in the county in which one or both of them reside. A judge reviews this paperwork, and is generally delighted that he or she wasn’t asked to figure out the details, but was presented with an agreement that the couple had already reached. A judge may have questions, but a couple that has had a good conversation and understands what they’ve agreed to generally has no problem answering those questions satisfactorily.


Many couples sit down and sort out their plans without any professional help. They find it easy or at least manageable to sort out the common questions: What will we do with the house? What plans do we need to make about taking care of the kids? How are we going to share the costs of raising the kids? How are we going to share other living costs? How are we going to divide up our assets and debts?
A variety of challenges arise for some couples around this conversation. The common challenges include: serious disagreements with each other about what the answers should be; being overwhelmed by the complexity of these questions; being overwhelmed by the emotions connected to the spouse and the divorce, or combinations of these challenges. These challenges are the ones that I may be able to help with. Feel free to call me at 651-699-5000 to discuss your situation.
Once the conversation has been completed to the couple’s satisfaction, either on their own, or with the help of a mediator – and assuming the couple still wants to get divorced, they’re ready for the next step, completing the paperwork.


Here’s one place to start to do the paperwork on your own. If you’d like to see the forms required in Minnesota, you can download them here. Another option is to hire a paralegal service or a lawyer to help you complete the paperwork.

How Do I Calculate Child Support in Minnesota?

It’s really up to you and your co-parent.  Yes, really.  This is different from how divorce lawyers see it, but the truth is, as long as you and your co-parent are happy with your agreement, it is completely up to the two of you (unless the person receiving child support is on public assistance, in which case the county will likely seek reimbursement from the other parent).  And if you or your co-parent are not happy with your agreement, the law isn’t very helpful, because there are so many ways for you to take out your dissatisfaction on the other parent, including by not paying, or by taking each other to court.  So the real key is to figure out how to work with your co-parent toward something you’re both happy with.  Some people find it helpful to refer to the Minnesota Child Support Calculator, available here: . But it’s always possible to argue about just how that calculation should be done and how your case calls for a deviation from it.  So the important thing is that you and your co-parent work together to find a plan acceptable to the two of you.  The Minnesota Child Support Guidelines consider some of the factors that seem relevant to most people:  how much each parent earns, and how much time the kids spend with each parent.  But the guidelines don’t take into consideration other unique aspects of your situation.  That’s why, if the calculator doesn’t make sense to you, you shoud feel free to explore other possibilities with your co-parent.

But I've Heard the Judge Has the Final Say? Isn't that True?

Not really. Judges love it if you and your co-parent figure out what works for you, since judges understand that if you’re not both satisfied, there are likely to be problems in the future. If you and your co-parent don’t agree and you ask a judge to make a ruling, the judge will do so, but you and your co-parent still have a lot of power to either follow that ruling or not, and to either take out your frustration on each other in other ways, or not. So you and your co-parent really are the ones with the final say.

Are Minnesota Divorce Lawyers Nothing But Scam Artists?

Good question. I’ve certainly seen situations where divorce lawyers seem to do much more harm than good. But I don’t think it’s intentional on their part. Having been trained in the law myself, I understand how lawyers assume that it’s helpful to advise clients about what they’re “entitled to.” And it’s natural for lawyers to disregard the unintended consequences of that advice. I recently worked with a couple that had spent over $500,000 on their divorce lawyers, and the result was that they lost two homes to foreclosure, felt they had wasted two years of their life, and hated each other more than ever. I believe all of the lawyers involved (they were “Superlawyers” even) thought they were being helpful. These lawyers probably thought they were making legitimate legal arguments; and they probably felt like they were responding to what their clients were asking for. But there’s no question that the results were devastating to the clients.
Sometimes, lawyers are helpful. They generally know how to complete the paperwork that the court requires in order to finalize a divorce. Having a lawyer do your paperwork is a legitimate choice, if you prefer not to do it yourself or to hire a paralegal to do it. But turning to a lawyer for advice about how to negotiate with your co-parent doesn’t really make sense. A lawyer has no way of understanding what matters most to you; and a lawyer tends to intimidate the other party and make them more difficult to deal with. So the best approach is to deal directly with the other party, or hire a mediator if your overwhelmed by dealing with the other party alone.