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How the Minnesota courts divide property between spouses

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Family Law

For some couples, property division during a divorce is a simple process. They may have accumulated very few resources during the marriage or may have already signed an agreement outlining how they intend to divide their resources when they divorce.

Other couples may find themselves at a negotiations impasse, as they may be unable to settle their disagreements about what assets are part of the marital estate, what individual assets are worth and how to divide those resources fairly. Divorcing couples generally have the option of cooperating with one another, which could potentially lead to an uncontested divorce where they set their own terms.

When couples cannot agree on key aspects of a divorce, then they may need to litigate in front of a family law judge. What happens when a judge divides marital property as part of a Minnesota divorce?

Judges focus on fairness

The current standard for asset division in Minnesota is equitable distribution. The final property division decree should be fair given the circumstances of the marriage. Considerations ranging from the health of the spouses to their income levels can influence the most appropriate way of dividing their assets.

Judges have the authority to make determinations about both assets and debts. They can give one spouse more marital property to account for uneven economic circumstances. They could also make one spouse responsible for more of the marital debts. Judges can assign financial liability or asset ownership to either spouse. They can also potentially order the sale or liquidation of certain marital resources. The actual outcome of litigated property division proceedings is effectively impossible to predict.

So much of the final order is left to the judge’s discretion that even roughly outlining the terms of the final decree can be prohibitively difficult. For those who need to secure certain terms, settling out of court can be the best way to resolve property division matters. For others, such as those involved in high-conflict divorces, waiting for a judge’s input may be the best solution.

Understanding the rules that apply to property division proceedings in Minnesota divorces can help those in the preparation stage prior to divorce. Spouses familiar with state rules can choose the best path forward given their circumstances.