In Minnesota, same-sex marriages have been legal since May 14, 2013, after Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill securing same-sex couples with the freedom to marry. The state started issuing marriage licenses on August 1, bounding all judges to recognize same-sex marriage and grant a gay divorce in Minnesota. Later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges made such unions legal nationwide.
Same-sex divorce in Minnesota can be obtained by any couple who meets the residency requirements and adheres to the procedure according to local rules and the Minnesota Code’s Family Law section. Common-law marriage does not exist in Minnesota but can be recognized if it was legally entered in other states.
Same-sex divorce online
For same-sex couples who want to file for divorce in Minnesota without a lawyer, there is a fast and inexpensive way — divorce over the Internet. It is a version of a do-it-yourself divorce with one difference — you do not need to collect and complete same-sex divorce papers in Minnesota by yourself. You can entrust this task to professional resources, such as onlineminnesotadivorce.com. With this website’s help, you can obtain the necessary same-sex divorce paperwork in Minnesota explicitly adjusted to your case’s circumstances. And the price for ready-made printable documents is quite affordable at only $139.
However, only spouses with an uncontested divorce are eligible for this service. Essentially, it means that you must agree with your other half about all terms of your parting (property division, child custody, alimony, etc.) before a court hearing. Contested cases are not easy to finalize, and they almost always require an attorney.
Same-sex divorce papers in Minnesota
Same-sex divorce forms in Minnesota vary depending on the type of case and whether a couple has minor children. However, in all instances, you will need to begin with a Petition for Dissolution. Other papers may include a Confidential Information Form, Combined Summons, Financial Affidavit for Child Support, etc.
Spouses have several options to collect the required packet of documents: hire a lawyer, use specialized websites, or search the information by themselves. If you cannot decide how to file a same-sex divorce in Minnesota and do not have any legal background, it is highly recommended that you choose the first two options. Even uncontested cases can be tricky at times, so be sure to get professional help.
Valid grounds for same-sex divorce in Minnesota
Same-sex couples file for divorce in Minnesota by submitting the necessary documents to the district court and stating the reason for their marriage dissolution. Minnesota law has abolished fault-based grounds and now recognizes only one no-fault reason called an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (MN Stat § 518.06). It means that a person married to a same-sex spouse can get a divorce in Minnesota without proving anyone’s fault.
However, a judge will still require that both parties affirm under oath that there is no prospect of reconciliation. Anyone can get a same-sex divorce in Minnesota even if the other party denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In this case, the court will inspect all the circumstances that led the spouse (the petitioner) to file for divorce in the first place and decide whether the marriage can be saved or not.
Custody of the Child
A divorce process in Minnesota for same-sex couples with children includes child custody determination. A judge can decide whether legal custody should be joint or sole, and which parent will receive physical custody (a child’s residence). Following the best interests of a child, joint custody is the most frequent type awarded in Minnesota courts. Couples who cannot agree on custody or parenting time must attend a parenting class, the total duration of which must be at least eight hours.
Under the law, both parents have equal rights to take care of their children. The court will additionally consider all relevant factors to allocate parental responsibilities (MN Stat § 518.17):
- the child’s needs and health condition;
- the reasonable wishes of a child who is of sufficient age and maturity;
- the child’s relationship with parents, siblings, and other significant individuals;
- whether there were instances of domestic abuse;
- each parent’s ability to provide care and meet the child’s needs;
- the effect of custody arrangements on the child’s well-being;
- the willingness of each parent to permit continuing contact of the other parent with a child;
- other factors.
Child support obligation in Minnesota is calculated according to the state guidelines based on the parent's gross monthly income and number of children. With initial pleadings, each spouse must file financial information with all gross income sources for computation of the support amount.
The court will calculate the amount of basic child support obligation by determining each parent’s monthly gross income, subtracting the credit for children from other relationships, and finding each parent’s share in the child support obligation (MN Stat § 518A.34). Basic child support includes food, education, clothing, and transportation, but does not include medical and dental costs determined in an additional child support order.
The payment of child support usually ceases when he or she turns 18 years old or graduates from high school and is 20 years old. The obligation can be extended even after a child reaches 20 years old if they are disabled and cannot provide for themselves.
Divorce laws in Minnesota concerning spousal support are the same for same-sex unions and heterosexual couples. The court may order one spouse to pay either permanent or temporary maintenance without regard to marital misconduct. For adequate and fair determination of the amount and duration of spousal support, a judge will consider all important factors (MN Stat § 518.552):
- the financial resources of the spouse asking for maintenance and the ability to provide for their needs independently;
- the time necessary to gain education or training to find employment;
- the standard of living during the marriage;
- the length of the marriage;
- age and health of the spouse asking for maintenance;
- the ability of the other party to provide support without hardships;
- each party’s contribution to acquisition and preservation of marital property;
- other relevant factors.
Unless the spouses agree otherwise in a written stipulation, either party can apply for a modification of the existing order. The maintenance payments can be terminated or modified due to the obligee’s cohabitation with another adult, remarriage, or death of the said party.
How is property divided in Minnesota for same-sex couples? In any divorce proceeding, the court shall make findings of the type and amount of marital property to divide assets and debts equitably between the spouses. Marital property includes everything acquired after the wedding, excluding inheritance and personal gifts from third parties. Pension benefits are also subject to division.
A judge will consider the following circumstances when dividing the property (MN Stat § 518.58):
- the length of the marriage;
- age and health of each party;
- prior marriages;
- sources of income and the amount of separate property;
- vocational skills and employment prospects;
- needs and liabilities of each spouse;
- each party’s contribution to the acquisition and improvement of marital property.
All divorcing couples who file for same-sex divorce in Minnesota must attend alternative dispute resolution sessions, such as mediation. Through the process of negotiation, spouses resolve their conflicts much more effectively and quickly. During the sessions, a third party will help couples reach an amicable agreement concerning several vital issues, especially child custody and support. A mediator cannot give any legal advice or explicitly tell the spouses what to do.
The significant benefits of mediation are its inexpensive cost, confidentiality, and quick result. Mediation sessions usually take 3-5 hours, during which the spouses reach a joint settlement. Also, the process is not binding, and spouses can leave their undecided issues to a judge at a divorce trial.
Filing fees for same-sex divorce in Minnesota
When spouses file for divorce in Minnesota to end their same-sex marriage, they must pay a filing fee in the amount set by the local court. In different counties, this amount ranges from $350-$400. Serving papers to your spouse also has a fee, which depends on the method you choose. There are two ways: a private process server or a sheriff’s department.
If you cannot decide how to serve your spouse, the first option can sometimes give better results, especially when the other party is willing to cooperate. The fee depends on the number of visits that a hired person makes to your spouse. Your spouse must sign an affidavit affirming that they were properly served with the papers.
How long will it take
Divorce for same-sex couples in Minnesota has no waiting period, except that one of the spouses must have lived in the state for 180 days. The length of the divorce process depends on its complexity. When there are no contested issues, a marriage dissolution will take a few weeks to a few months. On the other hand, couples with disputes will have to go through a trial that usually takes six months to a year. The location of your spouse also affects the time needed to obtain a final decree. If you are married to a same-sex spouse who is out of state, you can still get a divorce in Minnesota, but it will take more time. The best and shortest way to end a marriage is to agree with your spouse about all issues. It saves time and reduces costs and emotional strain.