What Happens in Minnesota If a Divorce Becomes Defaulted?
By Beverly Bird
In Minnesota, a divorce defaults when one spouse refuses or neglects to become legally involved in the process. If he is served with a divorce petition and does nothing, the divorce will eventually default. This generally means that the court will give the spouse who filed for divorce everything she requested. Ignoring divorce papers does not mean the divorce will go away. It usually means the divorce will happen more easily, because one spouse is not involved to contest any of its terms.
Time to Answer
When a spouse is served with divorce papers in Minnesota, those papers include a summons. The summons informs the spouse that he has 30 days to file an answer with the court. An answer is a legal document telling the court whether he agrees or disagrees with the information in his spouse’s petition. It also tells the court what he wants from the divorce; his spouse’s petition tells the court what she wants, such as custody of the children or all the marital property.
Read More: How to File an Answer to a Divorce Summons
Request for Default
When the 30-day period expires, and if the responding spouse has not filed an answer, the petitioning spouse can ask the court to enter a default judgment against him. She can complete a default scheduling request, available on the state’s judicial website or at any county courthouse. She then submits the request to the court, along with a copy of her petition, a proposed judgment of divorce, which would give her everything she requested in her petition, and a short legal brief called "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law." This brief summarizes the divorce litigation. In a default situation, it would simply say that she legally served her spouse with a copy of her petition and he did nothing in response. The brief would also state why the court should grant the divorce and give her everything she asked for. This is an easy matter of quoting Minnesota’s divorce default statutes, available online or at a law library.
Results of Default
When spouses have no children together, the court will often not even require the petitioning spouse to appear before a judge after submitting her default paperwork. However, if children and custody are involved, she may have to attend a hearing. The judge will ask a few questions. In most cases, he will grant everything the petitioning spouse asks for in her petition. The defending spouse gives up his right to make his own requests when he declines to answer the petition. In rare circumstances where spouses have considerable assets or debts, a judge might grant only the divorce and reserve or delay a decision regarding property or support for a subsequent trial. This would require the filing spouse to reopen the litigation at a later date. She would have to try once again to get her ex-spouse involved by serving him with notice that she’s done so. If he again fails to respond, the court would probably grant her the relief she requested in her initial divorce petition.
If the responding spouse changes his mind about not participating, or if he had a valid reason for not filing an answer, he can petition the court to set aside or vacate his spouse’s default judgment. However, to be successful, he would have to act quickly; the more time that elapses, the less likely it is that a judge will show any sympathy for him.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.