One of the most common questions people have about the divorce process is whether there is any need to go to court and see a judge if all the issues in the case are agreed upon. The answer to that question is controlled by Minnesota Statute § 518.13, Subd. 5. Minnesota Statute § 518.13, Subd. 5 states:

Approval without hearing. Proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, order for judgment, and judgment and decree must be submitted to the court for approval and filing without a final hearing in the following situations: (1) if there are no minor children of the marriage, and (i) the parties have entered into a written stipulation, or (ii) the respondent has not appeared after service duly made and proved by affidavit and at least 20 days have elapsed since the time for answering under section 518.12 expired; or (2) if there are minor children of the marriage, the parties have signed and acknowledged a stipulation, and all parties are represented by counsel. Notwithstanding clause (1) or (2), the court shall schedule the matter for hearing in any case where the proposed judgment and decree does not appear to be in the best interests of the minor children or is contrary to the interests of justice.

The central question is whether the parties have any children who are under 18 years of age. If there are no minor children, the parties may simply file a stipulation containing their agreements about their divorce. If the parties have children, they will need to attend a final hearing unless they are both represented by attorneys. However, things are not always that simple. Note that the last paragraph of Subdivision 5 states that the court may still require a final hearing if the court has concerns that the parties’ stipulation is not in the children’s best interests or “contrary to the interests of justice.” Another common reason a judge might require a final hearing, regardless of whether the parties have children, is if the judge has concerns about the way the stipulation is drafted. Ultimately, the judge has the final word about whether to hold a hearing or not.

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