What is a dissolution of marriage proceeding, and how does it differ from a legal separation?
Minnesota Statute Section 518.06 defines a legal separation as “a court determination of the rights and responsibilities of a husband and wife arising out of the marital relationship. A decree of legal separation does not terminate the marital status of the parties.” The statute defines the dissolution of marriage as “the termination of the marital relationship between a husband and wife. A decree of dissolution completely terminates the marital status of both parties.”
A legal separation is a determination at a given point in time of the legal rights of persons who are married but are or will be living separately. It is not, as is commonly believed, a “trial separation” period during which parties contemplate a possible dissolution of marriage, but also not a “final” determination. A dissolution of marriage proceeding terminates the marriage; it is a divorce which is final. The objective of each proceeding is to disentangle the finances of the two parties, determination of child custody and support, if applicable, and so forth. A dissolution of marriage proceeding is the most common approach to resolve these issues. Legal separations are uncommon, as there are other options available for obtaining a temporary order from the court, and a dissolution of marriage proceeding may later be needed, at additional time and expense, to provide finality.