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The Minnesota dissolution statutes do not allow "divorce on demand," and marriage is not a contract for purposes of the Contract Clauses of the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.
Appellant husband opposed petitioner wife's attempts to dissolve their marriage. When appellant's request for a continuance of the final dissolution hearing was denied, appellant withdrew from the courtroom and the district court took testimony from petitioner. A judgment dissolving the parties' marriage was entered, and after denial of his posttrial motion, appellant husband appealed, arguing that marriage was a contract and that Minn. Stat. § 518.06, subd. 1 (2000) allowed "divorce on demand" and interfered with his constitutional right to contract.
The appellate court held that the dissolution statutes did not allow "divorce on demand" because the statutes required proof of "no reasonable prospect of reconciliation." Appellant's withdrawal from the courtroom meant that he neither entered evidence contrary to petitioner's assertions, nor cross-examined her regarding the state of the marriage; thus, the only evidence presented was petitioner's uncontradicted testimony that the marriage was irretrievably broken. The court further held that marriage was not a contract within the meaning of the prohibition against the impairment of contracts. According to the court, the contract clause has never been understood to restrict the general right of the legislature to legislate on the subject of divorces. Accordingly, the court held that the judgment dissolving the parties' marriage was proper.