Minnesota's Family Law Blog

The Minnesota No-Fault Divorce Law, Fair or Not, It’s What We Got.

He Said, She Said—But Does It Matter?

No Fault Divorce in Minnesota | As much as you might be itching to get into court and explain, in the harshest detail, why it is that your ex was responsible for the breakdown of your marriage and why you should therefore receive more of your joint property, this isn’t the way Minnesota’s divorce laws work.  Instead, we have what is called a no-fault divorce rule.

This means a couple of things.  First, neither of you needs to prove that the other did something wrong—like had an affair or abandoned you—in order to get a divorce.  A Minnesota court will grant a divorce when it finds there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage.  This can be a fairly broad standard, such as one of you testifying that you want the marriage to end and that you see no prospect of reconciliation, if the other doesn’t offer any evidence in opposition to this.  That doesn’t mean you are entitled to “divorce on demand” though; there must be some evidence of marital discord and no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

The concept of no-fault has another implication in a divorce.  Under prior law, the courts could, and did, consider fault in property division.  For example, if your spouse was cheating on you then you could possibly receive more property as a way for the court to punish your spouse for breaking his marital contract.  However, the law was later revised and under current Minnesota law, the court will not consider marital misconduct in awarding spousal maintenance or in dividing property.  There are only a couple of exceptions to this.  First, the court can consider a spouse’s waste of material assets.  For example, in one divorce case, the court considered the wife’s gambling addiction in making a property division, since the wife had lost a significant amount of money and the parties’ credit card debt was primarily a result of the wife’s gambling.  Another exception is where one spouse’s misconduct results in the other spouse having a limited ability to provide for themselves, such as if the husband was physically abusive to the wife, causing her a serious injury which in turn limited her employment prospects.  Or, in another case, the wife was Taiwanese and had married the husband (and immigrated to the United States) after responding to a newspaper ad placed by the husband to find a bride.  The court noted the fact that the husband was responsible for getting the wife to come to a country where she did not speak the language and could not support herself.

If the court won’t generally consider fault in dividing property or awarding support, what WILL it consider?  There are several factors listed in Minnesota law; they include the length of the marriage, and your and your ex-spouse’s ages, health, occupations, and source of income.  These issues are what you will need to focus your arguments on, not whether your ex was the one who started the most arguments between you two.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-205-9736.

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Comments 8
  1. My husband of 43 years walked out without trying to work on us. We are both at fault. I made serious financial mistakes – he has a very bad temper that scared me terribly so I was afraid to talk to him. In general, we are both at fault and could not communicate. I believe a 43 year marriage deserves a try at counseling. He is a person who can never admit he has ever done anything wrong. We have had separate bank accounts for years. He is retired. I am working at a job I love and hope to work 6 more years. He has inherited 2 large sums of money from an uncle and his mother. Part of me says that his mother may have had my name on things that he some how got around, but maybe not. Our home has a mortgage of $35,000. He is making payments but I basically pay half because I am continuing his health and dental insurance. I need the house so our adult disabled daughter can continue living in the lower level. In view of the long term marriage, am I entitled to anything – the house, a cash settlement, etc.? I worked hard throughout our marriage, raised 3 children – 2 with a form of muscular dystrophy getting them to all sorts of appointments, made sure they had a social life, etc -AND I managed to work 1 or 2 jobs!!! I just don’t think he should be able to walk away leaving me with nothing. I do still love him and want to give counseling a try, even though I know he will never admit to anything.

    1. Terrible situation! I mean one of me least favorite types of divorce are very long term marriages (35+ years). It’s always a difficult day when you end a marriage with decades together.

      To answer your question re counseling, Minnesota is one of the states that does NOT require counseling. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of being a “no-fault” state is that either party can raise their hand and say I quit and that is all that is really required to start the divorce process. While you can ask him to go the court cannot order him to go to marriage counseling in an effort to try and save the marriage.

  2. My husband and I were married in Thailand and not registered in U.S., is our marriage valid in Minnesota? We have been filing our tax returns for 12 years as a married couple already, though. My questions are:

    1) If I file for a divorce, will I be entitled to spilt half of his property and assets? My husband is the bread-winner and he controls every penny he earns, we do not have any joint bank account and I simply do not have any access to any bank account he holds.

    2) he always threatens to me that he will move all his money and assets to a trust fund and so I will not get any money he owns…is it true?

    3) is it possible to fight for full child custody instead of 50/50 in Minnesota?

    4) can my husband move away or hide his money and assets after I file a divorce? Is it legal to do that? I have no idea where his money is, I want to know if a lawyer can make him be honest in declaring his assets on paper and stop him from moving money away.

    Emotionally abused,

    Teresa T.

    1. Teresa,

      Thanks for the comment. Couple of quick answers for you. The first should be yes, you are considered married in MN, despite the lack of registration.
      1) Short answer is yes, if it is marital property you should be entitled to 50% of it. There are crazy cases where this isn’t the case, but it 98% of cases yes you get 1/2. In terms of getting access, that can be done once the divorce process is started.
      2) Maybe…if he gives the money away to say a child via an irrevocable trust and uses it for that child and not for himself, then possibly. BUT, if he just creates the Billy Bob Trust and names himself trustee and treats it like a checking account, no you should get 1/2.
      3) Yes, absolutely. 50/50 custody is common but not presumed in Minnesota.
      4)short answer is yes, he can move assets and money, but a decent lawyer will be able to help find those assets. If he is willing to lie and commit perjury and you have no idea what bank or where assets are that can be tricky. BUT, there are still ways to track it down via loan documents, a credit report, etc.

      Hope that helps and good luck!

  3. I know Minnesota is no fault and I’m not trying to blame her. What I’m wondering is my wife had an affair and moved out for five months then moved back with me. Now two years later we are getting divorced. We only have one travel trailer that has any equity. She of course wants half that equity in cash. Can I offset that equity with half the money she spent on rent, electric, and so on to have her affair?

    1. Dave, great question but the short answer is a resounding no. She can have as many affairs as she wants and the can’t factor that in on the property settlement side of things. Sorry about that.

      Good luck.

  4. My husband is cheating on me he filed for divorce and is trying to take our house
    ive been paying for the house and all the bills for it 6 months. he gives no money to heelp me but only pays the car pymt. can he take it?! I receive 9 dollars an hour. he thinks he is a prophet to God and does mission trips. he can work but thinks facebook prophet is his job

    1. Sorry to hear about your situation, I’m not sure I follow the question..is can he take the house? I’ve no idea, you need to talk to your divorce lawyer about what your options are and see what can be done.

      Best of luck to you.


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