What is The Marital Estate in Minnesota and How is it Divided in a Divorce?
In Minnesota, the marital estate is made up of all assets and debts that were acquired during the course of the marriage. No matter who an asset is titled to, each spouse holds an equal interest. This means that your marital estate may include your 401(k) account as well as credit card debt that is in only your spouse’s name. The law in Minneapolis, MN considers marriage a civil partnership similar to a business partnership. When you join a partnership, each partner takes an equal interest in the ownership of the business and takes on an equal share of the liabilities of the business, even if only one partner incurred the business’s debt.
When there is a dispute over dividing property in a divorce case, judges often find themselves required to get creative with their solutions. With smaller items such as household furnishings, the parties may be asked to simply make a list of all their property and take turns choosing an asset from the list. In other cases, parties may be allowed to bid on each item and the highest bidder will then have that item credited to him or her in the property division. Mediation can be an extremely helpful tool when it comes to dividing property.
What are Non-Marital Assets?
Certain assets are able to be excluded from the marital estate when a divorced couple is dividing property. These excluded assets are known as non-marital assets. Any non-marital assets that you brought into the marriage will remain yours and any non-marital assets your spouse brought into the marriage will remain theirs. Under Minnesota law, non-marital assets may include:
- Any asset that was acquired by one spouse or the other before the marriage
- Any asset legally excluded by an existing valid prenuptial agreement
- Personal injury claim settlements
- Gifts given only to one spouse
It is very important to note that all assets will be considered part of the marital estate by the court unless they are able to be proven otherwise by one of the parties, by a preponderance of the evidence. All documents of title, receipts, bills of sale, or canceled checks that prove an asset is non-marital must be provided to the judge as evidence. If the property is not proven to be non-marital in nature, then it may be required to be included when the couple is dividing property.
Many married couples and individuals in Minneapolis, MN are unaware of the fact that the law states a non-marital assets can lose its non-marital status in the following manners:
- Co-mingling of assets: If non-marital and marital funds are mixed together to the extent that it has become difficult to identify the non-marital funds versus the marital funds, those non-marital funds may no longer be considered non-marital.
- Marital improvements: Spending any amount of money that was earned by either spouse during the course of the marriage on improving a non-marital asset can turn that asset into a marital one by increasing the value of that asset with marital funds.
- Active appreciation of assets: Active appreciation happens when the value of a non-marital asset increases due to an act taken by either one of the spouses during the course of the marriage.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney When my Spouse and I are Diving Assets?
While you may not be required by the court to be represented by an attorney when dividing assets or during any particular phase of the divorce process in Minnesota, it would certainly be a mistake to therefore assume that this means that you do not need one. The laws that regulate dividing property in a divorce are complex and subject to change suddenly, without any real warning. An experienced divorce attorney is prepared for these changes and remains knowledgeable of the laws that must guide you and your spouse through the process of dividing property.
Your attorney has been hired by you to act as an advocate for your legal rights and will be there to make sure that you are being treated fairly by the court and that your interests are being adequately represented. Often, one spouse will be tempted to sacrifice assets that they feel they are entitled to simply in the interest of moving the divorce process along more quickly. He or she may then later feel a deep sense of regret over the loss of their property. A skilled divorce attorney can steer you away from these types of irrational decisions and keep you on a guided course that will result in the fairest possible division of property for you and your future interests, so that you may move on and begin a new chapter of your life.
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