Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal ending, or dissolution, of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states like Minnesota commonly grant divorces because to force a couple to stay married would go against public policy.
"No-fault" and "fault" are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, such as Minnesota, no-fault is the only suitable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds exist within the marriage. Other states allow the parties to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. Lawyers.com gives a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in the state of Minnesota.
The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all of the states currently allow for some variation of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, one another for the divorce. Some examples of the justifications for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” One spouse cannot generally stop a no-fault divorce, simply because when one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse does not, this constitutes irreconcilable differences, which justifies a no-fault divorce.
The justification for a no-fault divorce in Minnesota is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. According to Minnesota Statutes - Chapter: 518.06, an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship is characterized by living separate and apart for a period of 180 days or proof of serious marital discord, which is adversely affecting the spouses, and therefore the marital relationship.
The legal divorce process in Minnesota begins when the petitioning spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage with the appropriate district court. The spouse who files for divorce must have lived in the state of Minnesota for at least 180 days. The other spouse is then served with the divorce paperwork and given time to respond. If the parties are in agreement about property and debt division, as well as child custody and child support matters, the divorce can be finalized without a trial. If the parties do not agree, then the court will then set a time for a hearing, and may suggest that the parties seek counseling.
Many states require a “cooling-off” period of separation for a specific period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will be permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. In Minnesota, the divorce decree is made final immediately upon the finding of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, although the judgment is subject to appeal.
Divorce laws in general, as well as the specific grounds required for divorce vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Minnesota, can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of a Minnesota Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.