Other than issues that affect the children, issues related to property division are some of the most contentious in divorces. Many Minnesota couples spend countless hours coming to an agreement on how to divide their property. Their decisions aren’t easy, and they’re often made more difficult by the emotions and financial challenges that come with property division.
Of course, having an experienced lawyer on your side can make things easier. Your attorney can explain how the law should apply and can make sure that your interests are protected. At White & Associates, that’s what we do for our clients.
The Meaning of “Equitable Division”
We often begin by explaining how the law in Minnesota says that courts should make a “just and equitable division of the marital property.” This doesn’t necessarily mean equally; it means fair.
The court considers many different things when deciding what is fair. These include the length of the marriage, the situation of each spouse—factors such as your age, health, occupation, sources of income and skills—and the contributions you made when acquiring and maintaining property.
What doesn’t the court consider? For one thing: marital misconduct. In Minnesota, misconduct such as adultery does not necessarily mean that a spouse will be denied property in a divorce.
Marital Versus Non-Marital Property
Deciding what is and is not marital property can be challenging. In Minnesota, all property acquired during the marriage by either spouse is presumed to be marital property. This includes pensions and retirement investments that accrued during your marriage. It also includes property that increased in value throughout that time.
Property that was acquired before your marriage is generally thought to be non-marital. So is property or an inheritance that was given as a gift to one spouse but not the other. Under the law, only marital property is divided. Non-marital property belongs wholly to the person who acquired it.
This is an important distinction, but it can get tricky—especially when non-marital property changes form during the marriage. For example, imagine that as a young, single person you buy a condo. You live in the condo and pay on the mortgage for years. However, after you get married you decide that you need to sell the condo and use the proceeds to help buy a single family home for your growing family. During your divorce years later, courts will attempt to determine how much of the marital home actually represents the value of your non-marital condo.
Working With Financial Experts
When proper considerations are more complex, attorneys will often partner with experts who can appraise real estate, collectables or artwork; evaluate a family business; or follow a paper trail. The expert’s professional opinion can help you negotiate a fair resolution with your spouse or assist the court in protecting your interests.
Each situation is different, though, so it’s important to talk with a lawyer about your situation before making big decisions. At White & Associates, we encourage people to contact us as soon as possible—even before the divorce process officially begins. Early action can be the best way to help protect your interests in property during a divorce.