What is a Dissolution of Marriage?

Divorce concept

A Dissolution of Marriage, also known as a divorce, is a legal process to end a marital relationship. In Minnesota, there is only one ground for a Dissolution of Marriage: the irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship. This means that there is no prospect of the parties putting aside their differences and the marriage cannot be saved. Before a dissolution can start in Minnesota, the party starting the divorce must live in the state for at least 180 days. A dissolution is not valid until a Judgement and Decree is entered in the court records. The amount time it takes from serving the first papers to the Judgement and Decree varies widely. The length of time depends on the complexity of the case, the ability of the parties to compromise on issues of property and support, and the other matters before the court.

The parties can decide who will take care of the minor children. They can agree to sole custody, where one parent has primary responsibility for the children, or joint custody, where both parents share in the responsibility for the children. If the parties agree to joint custody, they can decide to have legal custody, physical custody, or both. In joint legal custody, both parents are involved in making choices about the children, like where they will go to school. In joint physical custody, the children can spend time living with each parent regularly. The time spent with each parent does not have to be equal, but it usual is. If the parties cannot decide on custody, the court will determine custody based on what’s in the best interest of the children. Besides custody, a court order can establish child visitation and financial support for a party with child custody. Child support payments are not deductible for the paying party and are not considered income to the receiving party.

If there is a need for spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, the court can award payment of money regularly from one party to the other. The amount is determined by what one party needs for financial support. Spousal maintenance can be temporary, for a couple of months to a couple of years, or it can be permanent, for as long as the party receiving the spousal maintenance is alive. The party paying support may take a tax deduction, and the party receiving maintenance must report it as taxable income.

The court can also reasonably, not always equally, divide the property between the parties. Generally, all the parties’ property, which includes pension plans, is subject to division. However, the property that was owned by one party before the marriage is not usually subject to division and is called non-marital property. Only in certain circumstances does the court divide non-marital property. If the parties can’t agree on how to divide the marital property, the court will determine the division. Its determination will be based on the amount and type of assets, the earnings of the parties, their earning ability, their debt, child custody, the length of the marriage, and physical/mental health of the parties.

Each party in a dissolution should have their own attorney. Even if the parties agree on all issues, they cannot have the same lawyer. Sometimes one party will be represented by a lawyer, and the other party will represent himself or herself.  Generally, each party is responsible for his or her own legal costs and attorney’s fees. However, under certain circumstances, the court will order one party to pay part or all of the other’s attorney’s fees.

SELF HELP SERVICES:  Family Courts in St.  Paul and Minneapolis each have an exclusive “Self Help Service Center” if you want to do your dissolution yourself.   The number in St. Paul is 651-266-5125.  The number in Minneapolis is 612-752-6677.  Keep in mind that some of the reasons to hire an attorney are not only their knowledge of the law but their ability to look for solutions without the cloud of your emotions.


If you are interested in getting a Dissolution of Marriage, please fill out the intake form below for a quote.


The material on this page is provided for general information purposes only; it is not intended to constitute legal advice.

Information on Dissolution of Marriage is in part from the Minnesota State Bar Association public service pamphlet published in 1991.

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