People sometimes assume that their marital property must be divided evenly or equally. They think that getting divorced will be as simple as splitting their bank accounts in half for selling their home and splitting up the money that they earn.
That is how it sometimes works in a community property state that takes a 50/50 approach to litigated divorces. But Minnesota is not a community property state, so it does not use equal division. Instead, the state uses an equitable division approach. How is this different?
Dividing things in a “just” manner
Equitable division just means that things may not be equal, but the court will work to make them fair. As the law states: “The court shall make a just and equitable division of the marital property of the parties.”
This does mean that the value of your marital estate could be split up evenly, but that is not necessarily the goal. If you litigate your divorce and the court thinks that it is fairer for your ex to get more of the marital assets than you, then that may be how they rule (or vice versa). It is also worth remembering that if you and your spouse can reach an agreement out of court, you can divide your property however you please.
How does the court determine what is fair or just?
To decide how to fairly divide assets, the court is going to consider a lot of different factors relating to the marriage. Every situation is unique. It is going to examine these factors to find out what would work best for a couple per its specific situation. Some of the factors that the court may consider include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age of the individuals
- Any prior marriage of either party
- Each person’s health
- Their station and occupation
- Each party’s vocational skills and employability
- Any liabilities and debts
- The amount of income each person has, along with their sources of income
- The opportunity for future asset acquisitions or income
For example, maybe one spouse is a full-time worker with a steady job. The other spouse left the workforce a few years ago to raise a family. Splitting things up equally may not be seen as fair because one person’s earning potential is so much higher than the other’s.
Considering your options
This does mean that property division in Minnesota can be a bit more complicated and even contentious, compared to other states. Take the time to carefully consider your options and all of your legal rights. Seeking legal guidance proactively can help you to safeguard your interests as you approach the property division process.