Burnsville, MN Family Law Attorney, Merlyn Meinerts, addresses questions clients might ask in the section of property division when going through a divorce.
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The first step in dividing property in a divorce relates to the appropriate identification of assets and liabilities and that amounts to really, just recreating a marital balance sheet of what do the parties own, what do they owe, and who is likely to be awarded that property. In some cases that’s easy identifiable, for example, a retirement account can have a recent retirement account statement to verify a balance.
In other cases, some more detailed research needs to be done. For example, if someone owns a closely held business the process of doing a business valuation would be undertaken to figure out that key piece of the puzzle. Real estate, for example, can sometimes be difficult to appraise in value. Otherwise, where those are easily identified assets they appear on a balance sheet and the task is then to create a just and equitable division of that property. Most of the time, just and equitable means an equal division but there are those cases where some other result seems more fair to the parties.
It’s also important to note that before marital property is divided, non-marital property must be excluded. So non-marital property would include anything that was owned before the marriage that was received as a gift or as an inheritance. That comes off the table is not subject to division generally between the parties. You can imagine the task if someone comes into a marriage after 30 or 40 years having owned something prior to the marriage the type of conundrum that is oftentimes faced with trying to recreate the financial records to be able to determine the value of that property today. Similarly with inheritances or gifts if there’s co-mingling of those assets with other marital assets things become intertwined and indistinguishable one from the other that can present a challenge as well.
The standard for division of marital property in the state of Minnesota is a just and equitable division. There’s not a specific formula, a fractional component, or a percentage that’s assigned to that but rather, what seems reasonable and fair under the circumstance. More often than not, that’s a simple 50-50 division of assets but sometimes people are free to contact between themselves what seems just and equitable to them under the circumstances. It’s perfectly justified as long as people are represented and understand the nature of that outcome.