Ending a marriage is a complicated combination of financial, emotional, and legal challenges. This can be especially true when it comes to dividing your property. Property holds economic value, certainly, but there are also emotional attachments and legal complications that can arise during asset division.
To better understand both the opportunities and obstacles that abound with property division, here are some basic facts about the process.
There are different types of property
In a divorce, parties categorize property as either “marital” or “non-marital” to determine what is eligible for division.
Marital property includes anything acquired during the marriage. Even property purchased or held in one person’s name can be a marital asset eligible for division.
Non-marital (or separate) property includes assets owned by an individual before the marriage. It can also include inheritances and gifts given to one spouse during the marriage. Individuals can generally expect to keep their non-marital property.
Some types of property can fall into both categories. For instance, a business owned by one person can be non-marital property, but the profits generated from that business during the marriage may be marital. And non-marital property can become marital property through the co-mingling of assets.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are helpful tools in defining property categorization.
Equitable vs. equal distribution
The law in Minnesota requires that the courts divide property equitably – or fairly. While this can mean dividing marital assets in half, there is no requirement that this must happen. Numerous factors will affect what the courts deem “equitable,” including:
- Length of the marriage
- Marital contributions
- Future financial prospects
- Individual needs
These and other factors will inform decisions about what is fair in terms of dividing property.
The devil is in the details
At a high level, all this can make sense. However, challenges can arise when it comes down to the details.
For instance, people can have questions about categorizing an individual asset. Valuations for a single asset can vary. Divorcing spouses can fight over who gets to keep a particular item. Parties can disagree about what is actually “fair.”