Legal Separation

A legal separation involves all of the issues in a divorce except the marriage is not dissolved. The couple remains married until the parties go through the divorce proceeding. Should the parties wish to divorce, the terms of the legal separation are put aside and all the issues of legal and physical custody of the children, spousal maintenance, division of debts, and so on, must be resolved.


Common Questions about Legal Separation

What is a legal separation/what does legally separated mean/what constitutes legal separation?

In Minnesota, a legal separation is a court process when one person in a marriage decides to make a major change to the status of the marriage. One of the spouses completes and files documents in a court saying he or she wants to legally be apart. At least one court hearing is necessary. In this sort of case, the parties divide the marital assets and debts and address legal custody, physical child custody, and parenting time

A legal separation does not divorce the parties, however. They remain married.

How to file for legal separation in Minnesota/how to get a legal separation?

This is one court process that requires an attorney because the Minnesota court system does not provide forms for a couple to begin and complete a legal separation on their own. A person considering a legal separation should consult with a family law attorney to discuss whether a legal separation is the best legal choice and how to be best legally positioned because most legal separations eventually lead to a divorce. 

How to legally separate?

A legal separation requires retaining a divorce attorney to complete all the documents necessary for a legal separation to occur. There is one mandatory court hearing for a judge to discuss with the couple how they to legally separate. One spouse may want a legal separation and the other spouse wants a divorce instead. In this case, the legal separation becomes a divorce case. In another scenario, should one spouse contest a legal separation it is very difficult to complete as there is no mutual agreement to be apart legally? Legal separations in the Duluth area are rare. This legal process is best done when the spouses each agree to it and its terms.

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

There is one very significant difference – divorce is a court process that ends a marriage while a legal separation is a court process that divides marital assets and debts, details the couple’s agreement about custody and parenting time of their children but the marriage does not end.

How much does a legal separation cost?

The cost of a legal separation is nearly identical to the cost of a divorce. Both require the same court filing fee which is $375.00 in the Duluth area. Both require legal documents drafted by a divorce attorney to start and finish the legal case. A couple may opt to attend mediation to reach an agreement in both of these situations. Unlike with divorce, Trials are not used in legal separations as they require both parties to agree on mutually agreeable terms on how to move on separately from one another.

How does a legal separation work?

It is a process in Minnesota where the couple reaches an agreement on how to divide the assets and debts of the marriage as well as custody and parenting time matters if they have minor children. Once the parties come to an agreement on these issues, they formally live separate lives. Occasionally a legally separated couple continues living together. More often than not they live apart with new significant others.

How long can you be legally separated?

There is no timeline in Minnesota. Once a judge grants a legal separation, it is indefinite.

Can you date someone if you’re legally separated?

Yes. There is no legal requirement in Minnesota prohibiting a person from legally separating from dating people or even being in a serious relationship and living with that new significant other. The only life choice a legal separation affects is remarriage.

Can I change the reason for legal separation?

Yes, a person can change the reason why he or she wants a legal separation if the judge has not signed the final Order granting a legal separation. However, once a judge signs an order finalizing a legal separation then the reason or reasons for it no longer matters because the legal case is concluded.

How do I change the reason for legal separation?

In Minnesota, the person initiating the legal separation would need to file an Amended Petition for Legal Separation, one of the two forms that initiate this sort of court case, before the judge signs the final Order granting the legal separation. The reason for a legal separation no longer matters when it is done.

If you would like to schedule a consultation with divorce lawyer Jessica Sterle, please schedule an initial consultation appointment online and fill out the Consultation Intake Form.