Divorce (called "dissolution of marriage" in Minnesota law) doesn't have to be a contentious and expensive process. You can get an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse agree on how you will handle all the legal and financial issues involved in ending your marriage, such as:
If you and your spouse never manage to agree on all of the relevant issues in your divorce, you'll have to go to court and have a judge make a decision for you. Divorce trials are expensive and time consuming. But even if you ultimately avoid a trial, the longer it takes you to reach a comprehensive settlement agreement, the more you'll pay for things like attorney's fees and other expert help. (Learn more about how contested issues raise the cost of divorce.)
However, if you and your spouse can agree on all the issues before you actually begin the legal divorce process, Minnesota offers two types of uncontested divorce that are much simpler and less expensive than traditional dissolution proceedings:
Each of these has different requirements, which we'll explain below. Many couples are able to use one of these methods to get a DIY divorce, either completely on their own or with the help of an online divorce service.
Summary dissolution is a streamlined, expedited process in Minnesota that allows you to get a divorce within 30 days after you file a divorce petition—without ever appearing in a courtroom—if you meet the strict requirements. To qualify for a summary dissolution, all of the following must be true:
To start the process, you and your spouse must jointly complete all of the required forms (which you can download, along with instructions and worksheets, from the Minnesota Judicial Branch website). The main summary dissolution form will require you to provide detailed information:
Minnesota does not rule out payment of alimony when couples get a summary dissolution. Instead, they must confirm their understanding that the issue of spousal maintenance (as it's known in Minnesota law) is reserved, which means that either of them could request it at some point in the future.
After you file the completed and signed summary dissolution forms with your local district court (more on that below), the court administrator will determine whether you've met all the requirements and, if so, will make your divorce official by entering your decree of dissolution within 30 days. You will not have to appear at a hearing before a judge. (Minn. Stat. § 518.195 (2021).)
If you and your spouse have agreed about the issues in your divorce but don't meet the strict qualifications for summary dissolution—for instance, because you have significant assets or children—you may still get an uncontested divorce in Minnesota through a relatively streamlined procedure known as dissolution by joint petition.
As with a summary dissolution, you and your spouse must complete and sign the paperwork together. Depending on whether you do or do not have minor children, there are separate packets of forms (and instructions) for a joint divorce petition, available online for download.
The main joint petition form incorporates your settlement agreement, along with the judgment and dissolution decree. You and your spouse will need to provide details about your finances and other matters, including:
The joint petition for couples with children also requires details such as:
You may need to include financial documentation if you're requesting spousal maintenance or if you have children (even if you've agreed to waive child support).
After you complete, sign, and file the forms, the court administrator will put your case on the court calendar. If you have minor children, a judge will hold a hearing to review your agreement and determine whether it appears to be in the best interests of your children. If so, the judge will approve your agreement and issue your final dissolution decree. A hearing may not be required if both spouses are represented by lawyers of if they don't have children, unless the judge believes that the agreement is "contrary to the interests of justice." (Minn. Stat. § 518.13, Minn. R. Gen. Prac., Rule 302.01 (2021).)
The dissolution forms must be filed in the district court of the county where one of the spouses lives. All Minnesota counties allow electronic filing, but you may instead go to the courthouse and file in person (unless you are represented by an attorney). You can find the district court in any county with this map and search tool.
If you need help with the forms or the filing process, you can find FAQs and other information, including contact information for Minnesota Self-Help Centers, on the Minnesota Courts Divorce/Dissolution page. Note that self-help staff members may not provide legal advice or do legal research for you. You can find information on laws and factsheets through the Minnesota State Law Library: Divorce Topics and Law Help Minnesota.
However, if you don't have the time or simply aren't up to the task of completing all the right forms correctly, you might look into using an online divorce service. Typically, these services will provide and complete the proper forms for your situation after you answer a series of questions, and most of them guarantee that the court will accept the forms.
You will have to pay a filing fee when you submit your paperwork. Filing fees vary by county; you can use this search tool to find the current filing fees in your county. For instance, the filing fee in Hennepin County for dissolution of marriage is $377 (as of May 2021). Unlike traditional divorces, where both spouses have to pay separate filing fees for the petition and answer, Minnesota couples who use either summary dissolution or dissolution by joint petition can split a single filing fee. If you can't afford to pay the filing fee, you can request a fee waiver. You will need to submit the waiver form, along with proof of your financial need.
There might be other costs involved in an uncontested divorce. If you're having trouble agreeing with your spouse about all of the issues in your divorce, you might decide to get help from a mediator. You'll have to pay a private mediator, but it will still be considerably less expensive than the cost of a traditional divorce if the mediation allows you to reach a comprehensive settlement and proceed with a dissolution by joint petition or a summary dissolution. (Learn more about the cost of divorce mediation.)
Also, it's generally a good idea for each spouse to have a lawyer review any settlement agreement to make sure that it protects your rights and interests—particularly if you have children and/or complex assets like real estate or retirement accounts. You should be able to pay a consulting lawyer just to handle this task (often referred to as unbundled legal services or limited scope representation.)
Finally, if you use an online divorce service, the fee will typically be somewhere between $100 and $500, depending on the provider and the level of service included.