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What Does “Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage” Really Mean?

Divorces rarely play out like we see on TV and in movies. Although infidelity, abandonment and related issues may seem relevant to the wronged party, chances are that your family court judge won’t take them into account when divvying up assets and ruling on custody and support.

Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state. Either party can file for a divorce as long as they claim they have suffered an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” What does that mean for you and how do you prove it?

Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage

Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage is also referred to as “irreconcilable differences.” In short, it means that your marriage is broken beyond repair and there’s no chance you’ll get back together. Whether that’s because your spouse left one too many socks outside the hamper or they carried on an affair doesn’t matter, at least not as far as legal proceedings are concerned.

You can show there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage by proving you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least 180 days (six months) or that there is serious marital discord, which affects either or both parties’ attitudes toward the marriage. Your testimony to that effect is all that is required—even if your soon-to-be ex doesn’t want to get divorced.

Are there any situations where fault matters in a divorce?

No-fault divorce means that the court doesn’t consider fault when dividing up marital assets or deciding on support obligations. However, there is a limited exception in Minnesota. If a spouse wasted marital assets, or created a situation where the other spouse cannot support themselves after divorce, the court may take that into account.

This may happen when a spouse gambles away marital assets, or inflicts long-term injuries and/or disabilities which prevent the other spouse from working.

When you’re ready to explore your divorce options, call the skilled divorce lawyers at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. in St. Paul, MN today.

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  • "With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.

  • "Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.

  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties.Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.


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