How Long Does Divorce Take After Filing Papers in Minnesota?
Even if you know divorce is the right decision for your family, the uncertainty around the legal process can add anxiety during an already difficult transition. Knowing what to expect and having a rough timeframe for when your divorce could be finalized can offer some reassurance.
In Minnesota, the length of a divorce varies quite a bit depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. The more issues you and your spouse disagree over, the longer the divorce will likely take. However, even for uncontested divorces, you should expect the divorce process to take at least 1-2 months from start to finish.
Below is an overview of the typical Minnesota divorce process, common timeline estimates, and factors that can affect how long your divorce may take.
The Legal Process to Finalize a Divorce in Minnesota
To file for divorce in Minnesota, one spouse (the petitioner) starts the legal process by preparing the initial divorce paperwork, including the Summons, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and other required Minnesota divorce forms.
Filing the Initial Divorce Paperwork
The paperwork includes information like the marriage date, names and ages of children (if applicable), proposals related to child custody and support, and more.
These initial divorce papers are then filed with the court, and a filing fee is paid (unless a fee waiver is requested). The court will issue a Summons that formally notifies your spouse that you have filed for divorce.
Serving the Divorce Papers on Your Spouse
The initial divorce paperwork must then be legally served on your spouse. This is frequently done by having a process server deliver the divorce papers.
Your Spouse’s Response
The other spouse (the respondent) has 30 days to file their response with the court. Usually, the response will be an “Answer” that addresses each allegation in the Petition, or the respondent can file a counter-petition contesting certain divorce terms.
Reaching Agreement via Mediation
Suppose the spouses disagree over important issues like child custody, support payments, or division of assets. In that case, the next step will typically be divorce mediation, where you try to negotiate a settlement with your spouse that resolves these disputes.
Going to Trial
If you can’t reach an agreement through mediation, your divorce may go to trial, where divorce lawyers will argue before a judge who will then issue final rulings on any disputed divorce issues.
Finalizing the Divorce Decree
After an agreement is reached either through uncontested divorce, settlement, or court order, a final divorce decree will be submitted to the judge for approval. Once signed by a judge and filed with the court, a legal divorce is finalized. The entire divorce process, from filing to finalization, typically takes at least 1-2 months for an uncontested divorce but can extend to 6 months to 1 year or longer if the divorce is contested.
Typical Minnesota Divorce Timeline Estimates
While every divorce is different, below are typical estimates for how long each step of the divorce process takes:
- 1-2 weeks to file initial paperwork – Prepare the Petition, summons, and other forms and file them with the court. Pay filing fees (or request a fee waiver based on low income).
- 1-2 weeks for a spouse to be served – Arrange for a process server to legally deliver divorce papers to your spouse. Your spouse has 30 days to respond once served.
- 30 days for a spouse to respond – Your spouse has 1 month to submit an Answer or Counter-petition in response to your initial divorce petition.
- 1-3 months for uncontested negotiations – For uncontested divorces, settlement negotiations can typically happen within 1-3 months through attorney correspondence or mediation sessions.
- 3-6 months for mediated settlement – For contested divorces, working through disagreements via divorce mediation typically takes at least 3-6 months.
- 6+ months if trial is required – If you cannot settle through mediation, a divorce trial will extend the timeline by 6+ months or longer in complex cases.
- 1-2 months for a final decree – After reaching an agreement, expect 1-2 months to finalize the paperwork and get a judge to approve and sign the final divorce decree.
In total, a typical uncontested divorce timeline is around 2 to 4 months from filing until finalized. For very amicable divorces with minimal assets/debts to divide, some can finalize in as little as 1-2 months.
A contested divorce timeline with disputes that require mediation or court intervention can easily extend from 6 months to 1 year. High-asset or child custody cases involving lengthy discovery and trials can sometimes take 2+ years before a divorce is final.
Factors That Impact How Long Divorce Takes in Minnesota
Many different factors influence how quickly or slowly your divorce proceedings will go. Some elements that affect the likely timeline include:
- Contested vs. uncontested – Uncontested divorces with complete spousal agreements are far faster than contested cases involving lengthy disputes.
- Assets and debts – Dividing extensive or complicated marital assets and debts adds time for appraisals, documentation, negotiations, and occasionally asset sales.
- Child custody disputes – Disputes over legal custody or physical placement of children can require home studies, guardian ad litem input, and negotiations.
- Hidden finances – A spouse hiding assets or lying about debts will delay financial disclosure and settlement.
- Temporary motions – Requests for temporary court orders (for child support, custody, etc.) add court events.
- Court backlog – Some Minnesota courts have high case volume and understaffing, leading to delays.
- Attorney responsiveness – Lawyers who do not promptly complete paperwork and respond to inquiries slow things down.
- Unpredictable events – Personal setbacks like a change of employment, illnesses, or other stresses can stall progress.
No matter what challenges arise during your divorce, an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer can guide you through the legal process. A family law attorney will fight to protect your rights while expediting resolution through productive negotiations. Although it may feel tempting to rush through divorce proceedings, it is important not to sacrifice achieving a fair settlement that protects your long-term interests, especially those related to finances and child custody arrangements.
A divorce lawyer at Martine Law can fully advise you on your options under Minnesota divorce laws and ensure your rights are secured. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation today.