Minnesota: A "No-Fault" Divorce State
September 22, 2011 - by Eric Anderson
Minnesota is considered a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that a divorce can be obtained without one spouse having to prove that there was some sort of marital misconduct or fault. Instead of having to prove fault, the parties simply have to acknowledge that there has been an "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage relationship. It doesn't matter who or what caused the marriage to fail in the eyes of the law. The "no-fault" policy serves purposes such as alleviating backlog in the court system by avoiding marital misconduct trials. The policy also helps save people from having to publicly air their "dirty laundry."
However, fault is not completely absent from divorce proceedings. Factors that were "at fault" for the divorce can become relevant and potentially have a significant impact if certain divorce issues become contested. For instance, things such as alcoholism, gambling addiction, adultery, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and criminal behavior are all common reasons for divorce. They can also be relevant factors that a court takes into account when making a custody determination in the best interests of a minor child.
Regarding marital property division in a divorce, Minn. Stat. Section 518.58 states that the Court is required to make "a just and equitable division of the marital property of the parties without regard to marital misconduct." Yet, fault can still play a role in property division, especially when the parties negotiate an agreement between themselves or in mediation. For example, one spouse may feel guilty over their conduct during the marriage and therefore, may make large concessions that a court might not see as equitable.
Minnesota's "no-fault" divorce policy provides the opportunity for couples to obtain a divorce without going through a messy, public divorce proceeding. Spouses understandably want to tell their side of the story to the court, place blame, and "win" the divorce. While that might be satisfying at the time, it is not recommended because of the negative long term ramifications, especially when there are children involved. The sooner that both spouses can accept the divorce, learn to live separately, and cooperate for the benefit of their children, the better it is for all those affected.