In Minnesota, filing for a divorce is legally referred to as dissolution of marriage. Most Buffalo, Minnesota couples are eligible for dissolution of marriage as long as one or more spouses has been a resident for at least 180 days or about six months. The one exception to the 180-day rule is if one spouse is a Minnesota resident but is discharged in the army.
It’s recommended that divorcing couples seek legal representation. However, Minnesota does allow for pro se representation in a dissolution of marriage cases. That means you don’t have to hire a divorce attorney to dissolve your marriage; you could technically represent yourself.
To start the dissolution of marriage process, you or your attorney must file for divorce. And this is where fees start to come into play. Whether you hire a lawyer or not, you must pay a filing fee to start the divorce process.
In general, your divorce could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. The exact cost will vary based on a number of factors, including whether your divorce is joint or not and if it’s contested or uncontested.
What other factors determine the total cost of divorce, and is there anything you can do to save money? We’re guiding you through these questions and more next, so keep reading for everything you need to know.
Factors Influencing the Cost of Divorce in MN
Divorce is a lengthier and more complicated process than getting married. And believe it or not, getting your marriage dissolved in Minnesota can cost even more than your wedding. This is especially true when the divorce isn’t joint, meaning only one spouse wants to file.
Divorce Filing Fee Costs in Minnesota
As we’ve mentioned, each spouse must pay a fee to file for divorce. Each spouse must pay a separate fee, regardless of whether the divorce is joint or not.
You have to file at your county court, and your local court will have its own filing fees. In general, filing for divorce in Minnesota costs about $365, and filing for legal separation or annulment costs $335.
What happens if you can’t afford this filing fee? The state of Minnesota does offer Fee Waivers for some low-income individuals, which allows you to fully or partially waive the filing fee. To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your income is 125% below the Federal poverty line, which you can access here
- You can prove that you can’t afford filing for a divorce using bank statements, your paycheck, public assistance documents, and/or tax returns
You can learn more about the fees to file for divorce at this link. Make sure to choose your county from the dropdown menu to find the correct divorce filing fees.
The Cost to Serve in Minnesota
When only one spouse files for divorce, he or she must have divorce papers served to the other partner. Under Minnesota law, anyone over the age of 18 counts as a process server. Process servers don’t have to be licensed.
In some cases, you may be able to find an adult who will serve the papers for you. That’s the ideal situation because, for example, if you ask a friend or family member for help, you won’t have to pay them.
Otherwise, you will have to pay someone to serve your spouse’s divorce papers. In earlier research, we found that the average process server costs $53.99 while Minnesota county sheriffs charge an average of $75 to serve. Your divorce lawyer may also offer serving services, so make sure to ask him or her during your initial consultation.
Court Fees in Minnesota
Do you and your partner have significant assets or debts? Do you and your partner share children born out of the marriage? And most importantly, is your divorce going to be contested?
If the answer to these questions is yes, your divorce will have to go to trial.
Minnesota marriage dissolutions only go to trial when two spouses can’t agree on one or more divorce terms. This is also known as a contested divorce. In court, the judge overseeing your case will then make decisions about these important matters for you.
Going to divorce court gives spouses less control over their divorce, but it also increases the total cost for divorce. Each time you or your spouse can’t agree on an issue, you’ll have to file a motion with the court. At $75 per motion and $55 to file a return, court fees can start to add up.
Minnesota Divorce Attorney Rates
By now, you may be thinking: there’s no way I can get a divorce for less than $1,000! Well, you’d be correct because the most significant cost factor in Minnesota divorces is your divorce attorney’s fees.
The total cost of representation for your divorce will depend on various factors. These factors include the type of fee your lawyer charges and how many issues you and your spouse can’t agree on.
Contingent fees aren’t common in divorces, especially when you and your spouse don’t have significant assets at stake. In Minnesota, it’s actually illegal to collect any fee in domestic relations matters, including divorce.
Instead, divorce attorneys typically charge hourly or flat fees. Flat fees often mean a lower cost of divorce because the lawyer will quote you the total cost of representation upfront.
But if your divorce is relatively uncomplicated, you may prefer to go with an attorney who charges by the hour. Why? When there are lots of issues you and your spouse need to contest, your divorce will take longer, and your attorney will clock more hours.
In sum, flat fees are better for complicated divorces, while hourly fees may help cut costs during joint divorces. What exactly are joint divorces in Minnesota? We’re defining them for you next.
What Makes Joint Divorce Less Expensive Than Regular Divorce?
Joint divorce occurs when two spouses agree to the dissolution of marriage. Though not required, joint divorcees may also be uncontested. In other words, both spouses agree to compromise on the terms of the dissolution instead of going to court.
As you can imagine, joint, uncontested divorces can cost much less than regular divorces. For one, you don’t have to hire someone to serve divorce papers to the other spouse. Plus, if you can both agree to compromise on things like division of assets and child custody, you’ll also save on court fees.
And we haven’t even mentioned the attorney fees you’ll cut down on by keeping your divorce amicable. Joint divorces allow spouses to enter alternative divorce processes like mediation. In mediation, you and your spouse only need one legal professional — the third-party neutral mediator.
How to Reduce Costs in a Minnesota Divorce
A joint, amicable divorce is preferential. Yet, not all of us have reasonable spouses. Some divorces are bound to end up in court no matter how hard you try.
If this happens to you, you can still cut costs on your divorce. Here are three tips for doing just that.
Keep Appraisal Services to a Minimum
In more complicated divorces, spouses have significant assets on the line. And when these spouses don’t work together, they may argue about the value of these assets. Then, each spouse might hire a professional to appraise their property.
Avoid paying for appraisers at all costs. These professionals can be expensive, adding unnecessary charges to your divorce bill. Instead, try using resources like Kelly Blue Book and your local realtor for free appraising.
Compromise as Often as Possible
Even if you and your spouse aren’t divorcing amicably, we can’t stress enough that you and your spouse should compromise whenever possible. Why? Compromise will keep you out of court, which equates to fewer motion filing fees and lower attorney costs.
Compromising also means your divorce will take less time to finalize. You and your spouse will spend less time arguing and more time getting on with your lives.
Get Your Finances in Order
Did you know that about 50% of a divorce attorney’s job is understanding your finances? This is why a great way to save money on divorce is to organize your finances before you give them to your attorney.
You might gather your latest tax returns and pay stubs. Download electronic bank and credit card statements, relevant loan documents, statements for your investment accounts, and relevant deed and/or title documents. Doing this can literally save you thousands on attorney fees.
Choose the Right Lawyers for Divorce
If the most significant divorce cost is a divorce attorney, then it stands to reason that the best way to save money is to find an affordable attorney. At the same time, you don’t just want the cheapest lawyer out there.
Affordability often translates to a lack of experience or a poor success rate. Instead, choose an experienced divorce lawyer that offers free consultations and flat fees.
Call the Best Divorce Attorney in Buffalo, Minnesota
Getting a divorce in Minnesota is expensive. So, we hope this guide has helped you discover some ways to cut costs on your divorce, whether you’re getting a contested or uncontested divorce.
Are you searching for an affordable and experienced divorce attorney in Buffalo, Minnesota? Schedule a free consultation with Carlson & Jones today and speak to our attorneys about how to reduce costs in your Minnesota divorce.