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How Are Assets Divided in a Divorce?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, both marriage and divorce rates have been declining nationwide, as well as in Minnesota. The latest statistics show a marriage rate in Minnesota of 16.9 per 1,000 women 15 years of age or older, and a divorce rate of 7.1 per 1,000 (nationally, 16.6 and 7.7). This is a decrease from a decade earlier when the state marriage rate was 18.0 for marriage and 9.1 for divorce (17.9 and 10.5 nationally). However, while the percentage of failed marriages has slightly declined, nearly half of all marriages still end up in divorce proceedings.

What happens to assets when a couple decides to divorce? A lot may depend on whether the husband and wife agree on the terms of the divorce, resulting in an uncontested settlement, or whether they can’t agree and it goes to court to be contested.

If you are contemplating divorce, have filed for divorce, or been served divorce papers in or around Minnetonka, Minnesota, you can rely on The Law Office of Glen A. Norton to look out for your best interest. With his three decades of experience, Family Law Attorney Glen Norton will serve as a trusted guide for you and your family. He believes, and has shown through the years, that collaboration leads to a better result than going to court.

Understanding Minnesota Law
and the Definition of Property

In contemplating divorce, it is important to understand Minnesota law and how it views possessions. Generally, what is termed “marital property'' refers to assets that are obtained jointly during a marriage, and is thus subject to division during a divorce. In contrast, personal property (or separate property) is that which was acquired before the marriage, received as a personal gift, inherited individually from a relative, or awarded by a court.

Marital property can include houses and property purchased jointly, including furniture, automobiles, and other assets of joint ownership and use, including bank accounts and other financial instruments. Personal property, as mentioned, is generally property that is acquired individually, before or during the marriage. An automobile bought by one party with personally inherited money can be considered personal property.

In some cases, personal and marital property can become commingled (a legal term) when, for instance, a business started before the marriage is sustained by the marriage. As property can be both marital and personal, so too can debt, which can also become commingled even when initiated by one party. In most situations, however, debt personally acquired by one partner does not become an obligation to the other partner upon divorce.

How Division of Property
Works in Minnesota

Minnesota is not a community property state where all property is simply split in half upon divorce. Instead, like most states, Minnesota employs the concept of equitable distribution when a divorce ends up in what is called family court.

Under equitable distribution, the judge will decide what is equitable, or fair, for both parties. Factors to be considered include the financial standing of each partner and their sources of income, the length of the marriage, and whether children are involved and who has custody.

At the end of the court proceeding, the judge dissolves or ends the marriage by issuing a Judgment and Decree, setting forth all conditions and distribution of assets.

Contested vs. Uncontested
Divorce Agreements

The family court proceedings described above refer to what happens when a couple can’t agree on the terms of the divorce and the division of assets. The divorce thus becomes contested and lands in the hands of a judge.

In contrast, uncontested divorces are hashed out by the couple involved, generally with the help of a family law attorney, or attorneys.

Divorce in Minnesota is called dissolution of marriage, and there are two legal means to dissolving a marriage in an uncontested fashion. A Summary Dissolution is a streamlined process involving couples without children who own little property. No court appearance is necessary. Alternatively, a Dissolution by Joint Petition generally involves real estate, children, and other significant assets. In this scenario, the parties must file a petition in court to set forth their proposed agreement.

Why the Collaborative Approach
Often Yields Better Results

Attorney Norton has been helping couples resolve family life issues in Minnetonka, Hennepin County, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Wayzata, and Eden Prairie, Minnesota, throughout his career. He believes collaborative divorces lead to much better results and are more beneficial to the parties involved.

Collaborative divorces allow each of the partners to express their needs and desires and to share more control over the process, rather than relying on a judge to decide for them. Collaboration also costs less and consumes less time. In addition, the help of other collaborative professionals is readily available, including financial planners, divorce coaches, and child therapists. The options are clearly superior to a contested proceeding in court.

Whether you’re thinking about divorce or the process has begun, call The Law Office of Glen A. Norton today to discuss how a collaborative divorce will achieve a mutually beneficial ending to the marriage for both of you.