If My Spouse and I Agree To an Uncontested Divorce, Do We Still Have To Go To Court?
The answer is “yes”… sort of. If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on the terms, such an uncontested divorce can spare you the expense, time commitment, and emotional conflict so common in a contested divorce. In Minnesota, a decree of dissolution (a divorce) is granted only by a county or district court.1. This means that a divorce can only be granted by going to the courthouse and getting a judge to grant that divorce. However, there are several ways of getting a judge to issue the divorce; which sometimes does not even require a trip to the courthouse.
Already have an agreement? Present it to a judge.
If a husband and wife have a complete agreement to dissolve the terms of their marriage, there is a good chance the court will accept that agreement and grant the divorce. A district court has the discretion to accept the terms of an agreement, including divorce agreements. However, to be acceptable to a court, the agreement cannot be contrary to the interests of the parties, and cannot be contrary to public policy. In the case of a divorce, that normally means:
- The agreement must serves the best interests of the parties’ minor children (if there are any).2;
- The division of property, debt, and assets must be fair and equitable.3;
- The husband and wife must demonstrate an understanding of the terms of the agreement; and
- The husband and wife must enter into the agreement of their own free will.
There are other factors too, but, if the above conditions are present, an agreement between a husband and wife to dissolve the terms of their marriage will be considered by the court to be a binding contact and once accepted by a court, a party cannot later repudiate or withdraw from that agreement. The agreement, once approved by the court, is final, binding and enforceable by law. An uncontested divorce is final. But, how does an agreement approved by the court?
In order to get the court to accept a divorce agreement, the wife and husband normally must present their agreement to the court in writing, at a formal hearing where both husband and wife appear before a judge. After taking an oath to speak honestly, they explain what the terms of their agreement are. The judge then decides whether to accept the agreement or not. Once accepted, a decree of dissolution is granted and the divorce is final.
Isn’t there an easier way?
It does not always have to be this formal. There are some few instances in which a husband and wife can submit their divorce agreement to the court, without the need to make an appearance before a judge. In those cases the judge simply reviews the parties’ signed agreement in his office, and, if approved by the judge, a decree of dissolution is issued to the parties by mail, without anyone ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.
Generally, the divorces that do not require a trip to the courthouse are those where there is complete agreement between the parties, and:
- If there are minor children of the marriage, both husband and wife have signed the agreement with their own lawyers; or
- There are no minor children of the marriage and the parties have signed their agreement (with or without lawyers).
Still have questions?
The requirements of an uncontested divorce can be more complicated than it appears. If you are wondering whether your divorce is one that can be completed without having to make a court appearance, or if you have other questions about the divorce process at all, please call our Minnesota Divorce Attorneys anytime at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form.