What You Need to Know About Legal Separation in Minnesota?

Wife takes off wedding ring because she wants to separate from her husband

A legal separation in MN is a process of parting from your spouse without terminating the marriage officially. Unlike physical separation, which implies stopping cohabitation with your partner, legal separation requires spouses to file the petition with the court, prepare a written separation agreement if they are cooperative, and have it approved by the judge. This way, they will get a court order on their legal rights and responsibilities concerning property division, child custody and support, alimony, etc., while being separated.

Quite often, a legal separation is a kind of flexible alternative to a Minnesota no-fault divorce. However, while dissolution is a formal marriage ending, legal separation lacks that sense of finality. Couples opt for legal separation for different reasons, the most common of which are described below.

Reasons for a Legal Separation in Minnesota

While such legal action isn’t very common in Minnesota, some spouses choose to be legally separated because of:

  • Religious and moral beliefs. Couples that believe in the sanctity and permanence of marriage may apply for legal separation as a way to live apart without being officially divorced.
  • Hope for reconciliation. Partners that undergo crisis in their marital life may want to have some time apart and seek counseling to resolve disputes and eventually reconcile.
  • Financial concerns & insurance benefits. While being legally separated, one spouse can still take advantage of the other’s health insurance coverage and be eligible for Social Security benefits based on the partner’s work history.
  • Less social pressure. In some communities, a divorce may be treated as something shameful, so spouses choose legal separation to avoid possible social disapproval.
  • Sense of stability for children. Legal separation can provide structure and stability for children, preserving a sense of family unity.

Requirements for a Legal Separation in Minnesota

Woman checking requirements for legal separation in Minnesota
Meeting the requirements for legal separation in Minnesota can involve legal complexities, including the need to address financial and child-related matters.

Though legal separation is different from a divorce, mainly in terms of marital status, the requirements for spouses considering legal separation are similar to those specified in the divorce laws in MN:

  1. At least one spouse must have been a state resident, domiciled, or stationed in Minnesota for 180 days before submitting forms to the court.
  2. A couple should create a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the separation. They can contact a mediator or an attorney for assistance. However, keep in mind that a mediator can’t provide clients with legal advice.
  3. A petitioner has to file the petition for legal separation and other necessary papers in the district court of the county where either party lives, paying a filing fee of $335.

What Issues Are Covered in a Legal Separation?

A legal separation contract will serve as guidelines on different matters for spouses who are living apart. Therefore, it is important to make it as detailed and accurate as possible, specifying such issues as:

  • Child Custody and Visitation. Spouses must indicate which parent children will live with and how often a noncustodial parent can visit them. These agreements can also address decision-making authority and communication between parents regarding their children.
  • Child Support. Spouses need to define a support amount, payment schedule, and how children’s expenses are divided between parents. When making calculations, they need to follow state guidelines.
  • Spousal Maintenance. If one spouse is financially dependent on the other, the terms for spousal maintenance, including the amount, duration, and any conditions for modifying or terminating payments, must be included in their agreement.
  • Division of Property and Debts. Partners should specify how real estate, bank accounts, investments, and other joint items will be divided. The court adheres to the principle of equitable distribution in the state.
  • Living Arrangements. Spouses have to determine who will remain in the marital home, whether one spouse will pay rent to the other, and how shared expenses will be managed.
  • Case-Specific Issues. Depending on the case, spouses may need to focus on other topics. For instance, if a couple owns a family business together, the agreement can specify how the business will be managed and whether one spouse will retain ownership.

How Do I Choose Between a Legal Separation and Divorce?

It is difficult to say what will be a more suitable option in the case – divorce or separation – since each family situation is unique. However, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when comparing legal separation vs divorce to ensure you’ll make a proper choice.

When to Choose Legal Separation over Divorce

Filing for separation instead of divorce is a reasonable option if:

  • Spouses are uncertain about the future of their relationship and need some time to figure it out;
  • Partners want to preserve social security, pension, and insurance benefits;
  • One spouse is not a US citizen and wants to prevent possible immigration issues;
  • A couple doesn’t see a future together but decides to be legally separated permanently to come to an agreement on child-related issues.

In terms of expenses, a legal separation cost can be similar to a divorce price. So, money-saving reasoning rarely plays a role when spouses choose between legal separation and marriage dissolution.

When to Choose Divorce over Legal Separation

The couple decided to divorce in Minnesota
Choosing divorce may be a viable option when efforts at reconciliation have been exhausted, and both parties agree that ending the marriage is in their best interests.

Filing for divorce in MN is suitable for couples who:

  • Completed a legal separation period and don’t want to reconcile;
  • Have to be divorced to remarry in the future;
  • Wish to spend money on paperwork and filing fees once instead of doing so both during legal separation and divorce processes.
  • Would like to have a sense of finality and start a new life chapter.


A legal separation can be an alternative for spouses who, for some reason, cannot file for a divorce. It allows couples to manage the unique circumstances of their family situation while remaining married. Whether motivated by moral beliefs, financial considerations, or the hope for reconciliation, a couple can, through legal separation, develop a clear framework to navigate complex issues, respecting each other choices and priorities.

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