What does “just and equitable” mean in the context of property division?

spools.jpgPhoto cred: Roman Kraft

In any Minnesota divorce, marital assets will be eligible for just and equitable distribution. This means that the assets accumulated during your marriage will be split in a manner deemed equitable, or fair.

However, what’s “fair” can mean different things to different people. Because of this subjectivity, the process of equitably dividing assets can be far more complicated than you might expect. Below, we look at some elements of equitable distribution, as well as how you can secure a fair settlement.

The difference between equitable and equal

Courts in Minnesota are not obligated to award each person equal portions of the marital estate. Rather, they strive to divide assets in the most equitable manner possible. In many cases, the process will result in a split that is roughly 50/50 if both spouses have similar resources and made similar contributions to the marriage, but divorcing spouses and/or the courts can adjust this balance if it is unfair.

What the courts consider when determining what is fair

Courts can award more to one party if he or she is going to be at a financial disadvantage after the divorce. To determine this, Minnesota statutes dictate that courts consider, among other things:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s age and health
  • Each spouse’s income; vocational skills; employability
  • How much of the marital debt each party has assumed
  • The needs of each party

Note that marital misconduct is not a factor the courts take into account when it comes to dividing assets.

How to secure a fair settlement

In order to secure a settlement that is fair and satisfactory, you can work toward an agreement with your spouse, your attorneys and a mediator outside of court. This allows you to take more control over the situation.

If the matter goes to court, it will be up to a judge to determine what is fair. Further, understand that in some cases, the courts can order one person to give up separate property to address unfair hardships. For these reasons, it is often preferable to resolve this issue out of court.

Whether your property division case is resolved through mediation or litigation, legal representation will be critical when it comes to figuring out what is fair and what you deserve as you transition out of a marriage. This is a difficult time and a difficult process; having legal support to guide you through it and fight for what you deserve will be critical.