How Long Do I Have to Reopen a Divorce?

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There's something so final about receiving your signed Minnesota divorce decree, like a gavel striking a table. It's over. It's done.

Of course, certain aspects of your decree can be modified, and often should, like child support, custody, parenting time, and spousal maintenance. Your children's needs, or those of you or your spouse, may change, making it appropriate to be able to modify these things.

Other aspects of your divorce, however, really are permanent, most notably things like property division and waiving spousal maintenance in a Karon waiver. Is there any way to reopen a divorce case to change the decree regarding these issues? The answer is maybe—but it won't be easy.

Reopening a Minnesota Divorce

How long do you have to reopen a Minnesota divorce? We had a woman call our office looking to do just that. Unfortunately, her divorce decree was 20 years old. Even if Minnesota law permitted it, no judge would likely be willing to go back and try to right a wrong that was that old, no matter how egregious. People need to be able to rely on the finality of their divorce judgments. That's why, with extremely limited exception, Minnesota divorces cannot be reopened more than a year beyond entry of the divorce judgment.

Even within the one-year window, it may not be possible to reopen your divorce. The grounds for reopening a divorce in Minnesota are limited. They include:

  • mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
  • newly discovered evidence which could not reasonably have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under the Rules of Civil Procedure;
  • fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of the other party;
  • the judgment and decree or order is void; or
  • the judgment has been satisfied or it is no longer equitable that the judgment and decree or order should apply going forward.

In most cases in which a divorce is reopened in Minnesota, it's because someone discovered that their ex-spouse had concealed assets, which were not uncovered until after the divorce became final. Sometimes it's because a party decided to save money by not having a lawyer and got tricked into agreeing to something they didn't fully understand. Either way, the assistance of an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney is invaluable.

How to Avoid Needing to Reopen Your Divorce

The takeaway from all of this is that your best option is to plan your divorce so carefully that you can avoid the need to reopen it at all. If something is important to you, negotiate for it up front; don't count on being able to fix it later, because you very likely won't be.

Most importantly, don't skimp on getting a good attorney. A good attorney isn't necessarily the most expensive one in town, but one with extensive experience in Minnesota divorce matters. The money you spend on attorney fees is an investment in getting the most favorable possible divorce judgment. In the end, the money you save by paying less support (or receiving more), or getting a better property settlement, may more than offset your attorney fees.

Take steps to protect your interests in divorce. We invite you to contact us at Mundahl Law to learn more about how we can you negotiate the best property settlement and divorce for your needs.

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