Property division is often a sticking point between spouses as they go through divorce proceedings in Minnesota. When divorcing spouses cannot agree to property division terms, the courts make decisions regarding debt and asset division matters. If property division and other divorce terms are going to be contentious issues in your divorce, you need a skilled and knowledgeable attorney advocating for your interests.
Minnesota law provides guidelines for property division, but family law attorneys Jennifer Nixon and Cindy Perusse know that courts are afforded discretion to determine what is equitable when making asset allocation decisions. See below for an overview of how property division is handled in Minnesota divorce cases.
Determining Marital and Non-marital Property
As part of the marital dissolution process, divorcing spouses are required to provide Minnesota courts with detailed descriptions of all assets jointly and separately owned. The court first looks at the inventory to determine which assets are marital property and which assets are non-marital property.
Divorcing spouses often disagree as to whether certain assets are marital or non-marital property. These disagreements arise because many people incorrectly believe that marital property is jointly owned by both spouses, and non-marital assets are separate property only owned by one spouse. However, this is not how the law defines marital and non-marital property.
Marital property generally consists of assets acquired by spouses during their marriage, whether in only one spouse’s name or both spouse’s names. With some exceptions, non-marital property is made up of assets acquired prior to marriage or property that individual spouses received by gift or inheritance, or property that is excluded as non-marital by a prenuptial agreement. Keep reading because separate property is not always off-limits when it comes to property division, however.
Just and Equitable Standard in Marital Property Division
Minnesota courts make property division decisions based on a just and equitable standard. This means that rather than dividing property equally between spouses, courts divide property based on what is fair to both spouses. Minnesota courts do not consider marital misconduct when dividing assets and debts.
When dividing property, the court looks to all relevant factors, which may include the following:
- Length of marriage
- Prior marriages
- Amount and sources of income
- Ability to earn a living
Dividing Non-marital Property
In many cases, non-marital property will remain separate and stay with the individual spouse. In some rare cases, a court may divide non-marital property between spouses. When a court determines that one spouse’s share of the marital property is so inadequate as to cause an unfair hardship, it may decide to award that spouse with up to ½ of the other spouse’s non-marital property.
As mentioned above, the court is not to consider marital misconduct when making property division decisions. This means that moral standards do not influence property division decisions.
However, if a spouse misspent marital funds to carry on an affair or if it was discovered that a spouse was hiding assets to deprive the other spouse of those assets, the court may find that it is just and equitable to award additional assets to the non-offending spouse.
Valid prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements that set forth property division terms will impact the court’s property division decisions. These agreements often set the rules for what is considered marital property and non-marital property and may address spousal maintenance. Marital agreements are only valid and enforceable when they comply with Minnesota marital agreement laws.
Minnesota law provides that marital agreements must be made with full disclosure. They also must be procedurally and substantively fair at the time of execution and enforcement. The fairness standard applied to marital agreements does give courts some discretion when dividing assets if the court determines that the prenuptial agreement does not meet the standards for fairness or full disclosure.
Property Division Agreement
When it comes to Minnesota’s just and equitable property division standard, divorcing spouses very often prefer to negotiate property division terms without court input. If you and your spouse can agree to property division terms on your own through collaborative divorce, mediation, or through another settlement process, you do not have to let the court make property division decisions for you.
If you are able to reach an agreement, you and your spouse can determine what is the most equitable for you instead of the court deciding what is equitable for you. An experienced attorney can help you negotiate those terms while considering the law and what is equitable for you.
Impact of Property Division Decisions
As you can see, the court’s standard for dividing property between spouses is flexible, and you should only trust an experienced Minnesota family law attorney to handle your case. Property division decisions can have significant, long-term impacts on your financial stability and well-being.
At Perusse Nixon PLLC, we understand that property division matters can be stressful and complex, and we can help. We focus exclusively on representing clients in divorce and other family law matters. Contact our office at 612-564-2075 or online to schedule a consultation.