Minnesota is a "no-fault" divorce state, and has been since the mid 1970's. Typical issues involved in a divorce include custody, child support, property division and spousal maintenance. While some divorces come to conclusion following a trial, the vast majority of cases resolve outside of the courtroom.

You often hear that you “marry the family.” A divorce means you may have to maintain a relationship with your ex-in-laws for the sake of the children. You also might like your ex-in-laws and want to keep in touch with them. It is possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-in-laws if you use the right approach.

Prepare Yourself

You were close to your in-laws prior to divorce. Or maybe you didn’t like your in-laws prior to divorce. Regardless, your relationship will change despite your past or present feelings. Your ex-spouse may say negative things about you to your ex-in-laws or even your children. You can reach for some level of closeness, but never expect things to be the same.

Put in the Extra Effort

You may already be feeling stretched thin, but a good relationship with your ex-in-laws requires extra legwork. Be direct with them: “We’ve been family. I want to keep it that way. What can I do to make this work?” Your ex-in-laws may or may not respond to your overture. Be prepared for either response, and don’t take it personally.

Think of Your Children

Maybe your relationship with the in-laws was always fractious. It may be tempting to let things fall apart. Think of your children, and work towards a good relationship for their sake.

Avoid Negativity

Avoid saying anything negative about your ex-spouse or anyone else. Request your ex-in-laws to remain positive and avoid name-calling. Make sure this rule applies around your children. Is there some hostility? Consider having a therapist or other third-party involved to negotiate the relationship. Gently remind your ex-in-laws that everyone has a duty to the children.

Include Them

Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex-in-laws means involving them in your children’s lives. Invite them to help plan birthday parties, host holidays, and participate in family outings.

Be Patient

Mending a relationship takes time. You need time to process your divorce. Your ex-in-laws also need time to process. Give them time to heal, and don’t expect too much at first. Remain diligent and positive. You can have a relationship with those you used to call family.

Getting married these days is expensive enough, with some even modest weddings costing six figures. Divorce can likewise be expensive, uncomfortable and messy. Understandably, many people want to shortcut the process to conserve resources and speed things up. In light of these economic realities, it’s probably not that surprising that a strange new phenomenon is gaining traction – the online divorce.

Can couples really dissolve a marriage by getting it done online?

Unfortunately, yes.

The process is often much cheaper than using an attorney (at least in the short term). It’s also faster. But it also carries tremendous risks and can, ironically, backfire and lead to months or years of expensive legal fighting.

If you and your partner agree on everything regarding your separation – division of assets, child custody arrangements, spousal support, etc. – then it is at least theoretically possible that you could get an online divorce and get through the process without bad repercussions. According to reports, you simply tell the divorce service what you want, and they draw up the paperwork.

Why Using an Attorney is Generally Much Better Than Relying on an Online Divorce Service

If you and your spouse disagree on financial matters, child custody arrangements, or basically anything, then you will almost certainly want to discuss your situation with an attorney. As a skeptical article in the Financial Times put it: “Would you do your own plumbing, pull out your own teeth, or self-diagnose an illness?”

The article continued with a cautionary tale from across the pond:

“A case in point is Andrew McLeod-Baikie, a 52-year-old father-of-four, who paid £600 to get an online divorce
from his wife Susan in 2011, according to reports of a magistrates’ court hearing. Mr McLeod-Baikie, however, did not obtain the decree absolute, which makes a divorce official, before marrying again. His first wife alerted the authorities when she saw pictures of his second wedding on Facebook.  Mr McLeod-Baikie, of Cresselly, Pembrokeshire, pleaded guilty to bigamy. Magistrates at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, fined him £400 and ordered him to pay £400 in costs, according to a report of the hearing in the Daily Telegraph.”

An attorney can fight for your rights in the divorce and seek to get you a fair outcome. With an online divorce service, meanwhile, you may never even speak to an attorney. Your paperwork will simply be a cookie-cutter form that may have been prepared by an attorney, but it will be in no way customized for your unique situation. By hiring an attorney to handle your divorce, you ensure that you have an advocate who will speak for you in the legal system.

An uncontested divorce in Minnesota can take as little as four weeks, although 60 days more likely. More difficult divorce cases – where the parties disagree on many issues – can end up taking years. The surest way to get a quick divorce in Minnesota is to not contest it. An uncontested divorce is a divorce where one party files for the divorce, and the other party doesn’t try to convince anyone that the divorce should not take place, nor does the defending spouse attempt to argue about division of assets. If you agree on everything, the divorce will happen quickly.

Most divorces, however, do not end that quickly. Even with the best of intentions at the beginning, it can be surprisingly hard to get both spouses to agree on subtle features of the separation. Simple seeming cases, even when skillfully and mindfully guided by a competent attorney, can surprisingly evolve into more complicated disputes that cost money and time.

Factors That Determine How Long a Minnesota Divorce Takes

How long it takes to complete a divorce from the time it is filed depends on a number of factors. In Minnesota, those factors include:

•    How cooperative you are with your spouse. Do you argue with their point of view every step of the way or give into their wishes?
•    How cooperative is your spouse with you? Do they argue with you over details; fight to keep you from getting what you want; or battle tooth and nail to get what they want?
•    How well your attorney protects your rights while facilitating the settlement.
•    The philosophy, actions and reactions of your spouse’s attorney .
•    The number and complexity of disagreements between you and your spouse. Do you fight over custody of the children, division of assets, spousal maintenance, visitation rights, etc.?

If you want your Minnesota divorce to go smoothly, work with your attorney to develop creative negotiating strategies, and figure out how and under what circumstances you will be willing to compromise on your vision for what you want. Some luck is also required. If your spouse is unwilling or unable to compromise or negotiate in good faith, or if his or her lawyer adopts an uncompromising stance, you will likely struggle to reach an equitable agreement, and litigation may be inevitable.

An Emory University study suggests a huge age gap increases the likelihood of divorce. The study indicates that a five-year age gap increases the likelihood of divorce by 18 percent. A 10-year age difference, meanwhile, increases that rate to 39 percent. Add another 10-year difference, and the chance of divorce is 95 percent. On the flip side, the longer the couple stays together, the less likely they’ll end up divorced. One decade together can nearly cancel out the added risk of divorce for couples 20 years apart in age.

Divorce Statistics: What Factors Weigh More Heavily for Staying Together?

As any statistics boffin will tell you, correlation does not mean causation. Couples should be self-aware and keep the lines of communication open rather than let numbers dictate their fates.

One way to think about this is to ask: what do you and your spouse have in common? If you are close in age, you will be more likely to have more in common. A couple with a 20 year age difference may have different tastes in music, food, fashion, and other lifestyle choices. Those differences don’t necessarily spell divorce in all situations, but if you have little in common with your spouse (regardless of ages), you’ll have a difficult time building a relationship on anything substantive.

You can be friends with someone of another generation, but if you find that you don’t have much in common, then consider marrying someone closer to your age… or at least someone with whom you have more in common.

The myth that half of all marriages today end in divorce is a throw-back to the 1980s, when the divorce rate was at its highest. Since then, the divorce rate has steadily dropped. Recent statistical analyses offer insight into the factors that indicate the likelihood of divorce – or happily ever after.

The Education Factor

The divorce rate for men with a high school degree or less is 39%. For women with a similar education level, the divorce rate is 37%. For people who have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, the divorce rate drops to 28% for men and 29% for women.

The Race Factor

Native Americans have the highest divorce rate: 44% for men and 45% for women. Black Americans are next – the divorce rate in that community, according to relatively recent data, is about 42% for both men and women. Among white Americans, 36% of men and 38% of women divorce. Hispanic-Americans have an even lower divorce rate: 27% for men and 30% for women. Asian-Americans have the lowest divorce rate: 16% for men and 18% for women.

Reasons for Divorce

Every couple faces challenges, but just a handful of problems cause most divorces. These include:

•    Marrying for the Wrong Reasons. Many people get divorced because their reasons for marrying never added up in the first place and/or because these reasons ultimately stopped inspiring progress and growth in the relationship.

•    Losing Individual Identity. Married people who sacrifice or ignore their own interests often end up feeling as if they don’t know themselves. The resentment and other negative emotions that flow from this fundamental problem break down the relationship.

•    Having Different Concepts of Success. For some people, success means acquiring a big house, an expensive car, fine clothes, country club memberships, boats and other worldly goods and social status. For others, success means security to travel freely and pursue artistic ambitions. Debates about the fundamentals of “a good life” – for instance, arguments over when or whether to have children – can lead to the end of a relationship.

•    Dwindling Intimacy. Exhaustion from work, childcare, and other obligations can understandably have a negative impact on a couple’s intimacy. A lack of physical connection can degrade the couple’s sexual relationship, paving the way for dissatisfaction and divorce.

•    Struggling to Resolve Conflicts. Couples who learn how to fight constructively – that is, who know how to resolve disputes effectively and let go of annoyances that are beyond control – tend to stay married longer than do couples who react in passive aggressive fashion or who hold grudges.

This may seem odd coming from a divorce lawyer…but there are many resources throughout the Twin Cities for those who are aiming to reconcile, or avoid divorce. Church groups, individual pastoral care, counseling, marriage courses, books and podcasts may be beneficial to you.

Divorcing your spouse because s/he broke a law in Minnesota may have some sticky implications, depending on which laws were broken and how the guilty was punished. Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, so the facts of your spouse’s criminal case may or may not be relevant to your divorce. Consider the following before pursuing divorce based on criminal conduct:

1. If your spouse has been accused of a crime but has not yet been convicted, you can’t call them a criminal in divorce court. Even if you believe they are guilty, in the eyes of the law, they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

2. Being a criminal doesn’t make a person a bad parent. If a court found your spouse guilty of a crime, they may still have parenting time rights – and may even be rewarded joint custody of your child(red). The court will consider all evidence concerning your and your spouse’s character.

3. A conviction may or may not lead to jail time. Don’t assume that your spouse will not be able to contact you, or visit your children. If you fear retribution or domestic violence, take precautionary measures, and protect yourself and your child(red) from a spouse who is a violent offender.

4. If you believe your spouse committed a crime for which s/he has not been charged, report the alleged crime before filing for divorce. If you are the victim of the crime, file a police report.

5. Divorce court is not criminal court. Don’t file for divorce hoping to get the conviction your spouse didn’t get in criminal court. If you believe the crime your spouse committed is cause for divorce, make your case before the judge, but do it knowing the judge may not punish your spouse criminally.

What happens when a married couple in Minnesota files for divorce, and one of them receives disability benefits? How will spousal maintenance, child support and the disability benefits themselves be affected? The outcome depends on the definition of marital property, how that marital property will be divided and the nature of the benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is considered household income under Minnesota law, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not. This distinction comes into play in certain circumstances regarding spousal maintenance and child support.

SSDI, SSI and Marital Property in Minnesota

Since Minnesota is not a community property state, how disability benefits are split when a marriage dissolves depends on a number of factors. These include:

•    Both spouse’s financial standing;
•    Each spouse’s sources of income;
•    How long the couple was married; and
•    Who ends up with custody of the children

Other factors may also come into play – for instance, if these are any special needs children in the family who also receive benefits.

Disability Benefits and Spousal Maintenance

A spouse receiving SSI benefits may see a reduction in benefits if they receive spousal maintenance. SSDI is generally not affected by alimony. For that reason, you might consider other equitable distribution options, such as adjustments to other property awards.

On August 1, 2016, a Minnesota law went into effect that reduces or terminates spousal maintenance if the receiving spouse cohabitates with another partner after the divorce.

SSI, SSDI and Child Support

Child support offers its own challenges. For instance, let’s say a child receives SSI, and the spouse with custody is awarded child support. That arrangement will affect the child’s SSI benefits. As an alternative, you could ask that child support be placed in a special needs trust (SNT). If a child receives SSDI based on a parent’s disability, the court will likely take that factor into account when establishing child support.

Divorce can get ugly without the complications of travel. However, if you travel a lot for business, and you find yourself involved in a divorce, you could find yourself under heavy stress. Here are five ways you can deal with your divorce and extensive business travel.

1.    Plunge ahead – If there are no children or pets involved, you could easily get away with traveling for your job. Whether you are an entrepreneur or business owner, a high-level executive, or you simply work in an occupation that requires travel (airline pilot, for instance), there is no need to change your lifestyle if your divorce won’t affect anyone but you and your spouse.

2.    Cut back on the travel – On the other hand, if you could lose custody of your children, or you are afraid your spouse may end up with custody more often, then you could strategically curb your trips. This is the course of action many entrepreneurs have taken. Being the owner of a business can be an advantage. If you’re an employee, check with your boss to see if this is an option.

3.    Change careers – If cutting back on the hours is not an option, and you want to ensure that you have joint custody of the children with your spouse, consider making an abrupt move, like changing careers or radically rethinking your position. Look for something that doesn’t require travel.

4.    Change your travel destinations – If possible, try to alter your travel destinations so that you aren’t away from home as often or for shorter periods of time. If you’re a truck driver, for instance, you might ask to make shorter runs or handle more local routes.

5.    Negotiate with your spouse – Many spouses will work with their former partners for the benefit of future relations and the sake of the children. Talk it out.

In the aftermath of a divorce, you must adjust to your new social status and lifestyle. The emotional and physical stress of the separation process can damage your health unless you take specific precautions.

Specific Health Risks

Most people experience high levels of stress during a divorce. This factor triggers many potential health issues, such as:

  1. Drastic Weight Change. Stress spikes cortisol levels and leads to other hormonal and enzymatic changes that in turn can affect metabolism and fat tissue regulation. Significant weight gain after a divorce is common and likely related to these hormonal effects, and it can lead to other ailments, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks in the worst case. Some people respond to stress by attempting to control every aspect of their life, including calorie intake. This can lead to unhealthy dieting and eating disorders. Instead of controlling calories, work with your doctor to identify underlying hormonal or diet-related issues (e.g. high insulin levels), and work to address their root causes.
  2. Cardiovascular Disease. Stress leads to inflammation throughout the body, which some researches now believe contributes to cardiovascular disease. While divorced men and women both have a higher risk of cardiac events than married couples do, divorced women are even more at risk than divorced men.
  3. Insomnia. Depression and stress often result in sleeping disorders. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalances, weight gain, attention difficulties and mood swings.
  4. Substance abuse. Divorced men are particularly at risk of becoming dependent on cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. While this behavior is physically and psychologically damaging by itself, the abuse or addiction adds more stress to an already problematic situation, and it can increase the risk of developing other physical conditions.
  5. Chronic health problems. Divorced people have 20% more chronic health ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, than married people.

Protect Your Health

How do you manage your stress and reduce the risk of developing these scary health problems after your divorce? Obviously, you need to speak with your physician – we cannot offer medical advice – but consider discussing these ideas with him or her:

  1. Stay social. Connect with people for support and encouragement. Humans are social animals, and we need to connect with others for our physical and emotional wellbeing.
  2. Exercise. The standard advice goes something like this: “Go to the gym, ride a bike, play dodgeball, or take Aikido lessons – just get moving. Physical activity reduces stress and inflammation in your body while improving respiratory and cardiac functions.” This advice probably isn’t bad, but the quality of the exercise you do may actually be quite important. For instance, when it comes to increasing insulin sensitivity, research suggests that safe weight training may actually be better than other types of exercise, such as cycling or fast walking.
  3. Get therapy from a qualified provider. Men are more likely to ignore their feelings and fail to address the psychological toll of divorce. However, both men and women can benefit from discussing their challenges with a trained professional.


As you contemplate divorce, we understand you probably feel uncertain about things. We’re here to help.

Do I need a lawyer? What if my case is uncontested? Are you an aggressive an attorney? How much will my divorce cost? How long will it take?

In this podcast, Jason Brown provides answers to the most common questions our attorneys get asked during an initial consultation.