I am occasionally asked how long it takes to get divorced in Minnesota. The answer is “It depends.” It can take anywhere from about 6 weeks to a year and a half or more, depending upon whether the parties can cooperate, and depending upon the issues involved.
First, in order to begin a divorce proceeding in Minnesota, one of the spouses has to have lived in Minnesota for the previous 6 months. If you or your spouse have not yet resided in Minnesota for 6 months, you cannot start a divorce proceeding. If you have recently moved, once you have lived in Minnesota for 6 months you can start a divorce proceeding in a Minnesota court. Typically, a divorce proceeding takes place in the county in which one of the spouses resides. (Note that this is not an absolute requirement. Very rarely there may be a reason to start a family court proceeding in a county other than that in which one of the parties resides.)
In Minnesota, a divorce proceeding is commenced by personal service of a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. “Personal service” means tht the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage are personally handed to the opposing party by someone, just like on TV. The person doing the serving cannot be a party to the proceeding and it should not be a child. It is usually either a deputy sheriff or a professional process server. The opposing party may agree to waive personal service by signing an Admission of Service.
It takes time for parties to reach an agreement. This is true even when both parties reach an agreement on the “important” issues. Usually there are issues that parties do not think about when they negotiate an agreement by themselves. The Marital Termination Agreements that my office prepares can be 10 pzges or longer. If parties reach an agreement quickly, the divorce process moves quickly.
Technically, courts are not supposed to grant divorces until at least 30 days has lapsed since the date of service of the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. And, if a party is in default, after the 30 days has lapsed there is an additional 20 day waiting requirment. But, if the parties have an agreement, they should expect the process to take at least six weeks, minimum. However, in Minnesota counties with large populations (Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Anoka County, for example) it can take a lot longer for a divorce to be concluded. This is because the courts in these counties have a high number of divorce cases spread out between a small number of judicial officers. It just takes longer.
If the parties do not have an agreement early on in the proceeding, the mediation process can take several months. If the parties go to trial, it would be rare for a trial to occur sooner than nine months after the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage have been served.