Procedures associated with marriage dissolution proceedings, a form of civil litigation, are complex and can be a little tricky. They are found in statutes and in rules. One attempting to represent himself or herself (referred to as "appearing Pro Se") is required to be just as familiar with these rules and statutes as are the attorneys who practice exclusively in this field.
The only meaningful ground for terminating a marriage in Minnesota is "an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship". contrary to popular belief, fault is not a factor the court can consider on any issue in Minnesota divorce cases. In certain instances, conduct of a spouse might be relevant in child custody and parenting time determinations.
A summons and petition for dissolution of marriage must be prepared and properly signed. The summons merely states the case name (the parties' names), specifies the court (the local district court where the parties reside is most common), and states there is a 30 day period within which action must be taken. There are also several notifications, including the notification that neither spouse is to sell or dispose of assets, change insurance, etc. The petition is a document which contains names, ages, birth dates, etc., for the family. It is a kind of "non-adversarial" document which states in general terms that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship and indicates what relief is requested.
Minnesota State Law provides that a copy of a summons and a petition must be served upon one of the parties. There are several ways this can be done. One party may not serve the other party, it is common that service be done by sending the documents to the attorney for the other spouse, if that attorney's name is known. Sometimes, spouses will stop by the office of their spouse's attorney to merely pick up a copy of the papers there. Of course, it is also possible to have the summons and petition served personally on the other spouse at home, at a place of employment or recreations, etc. Service by mail is a little tricky and requires a consenting document to be signed by the person being served. One party may not personally serve the other spouse.
Unless both parties agree, it will be heard in the district court of the county in which one or both of you live. Having the case heard elsewhere requires some special effort.
There is no simple answer to this question. The case will be much shorter if the spouses can agree on the terms of the dissolution. In a very simple case, this could be just a matter of a few days.
In complex cases, involving child custody, property division, and/or spousal maintenance issues, if the parties cannot reach agreement, the case could extend for several months, up to and beyond a year, depending upon the facts of each case.
A court appearance is not required if the agreement document is properly notarized, the parties are represented by counsel, or if there are no minor children.
A formal courtroom appearance involving the parties and their respective attorneys. It often takes most of a day and may extend for several days. During the trial, each of the parties testifies under oath and is cross-examined. Other witnesses may also be presented to testify and be cross-examined. Documents (referred to as "exhibits") must be formally presented and accepted into evidence if they are relevant to the issues being presented.