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Divorce Basics – How does your marital property get divided?

Minnesota is an “equitable” division state.  Meaning, according to Minn. Stat. §518.58, the Court will make a “just and equitable division of the marital property of the parties.”  What does that mean?  Generally and in most cases, that means an equal division of the marital estate (i.e. assets and liabilities gathered during the marriage).  

However, the Court does have the ability to consider various statutory factors to divide the property unequally.  These factors include:

  • Length of the marriage.
  • Whether another party had been married before.
  • Age, health and income sources of each party.
  • Employment skills and employability of each party.
  • The nature of the marital estate.

Realistically, this does not happen very often.  It does sometimes happen in cases where the Court finds that one party has dissipated the marital assets.  Dissipation is described by statute as a party “…without consent of the other party…in contemplation of commencing, or during the pendency of, the current dissolution, separation, or annulment proceeding, transferred, encumbered, concealed, or disposed of marital assets except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life.”   Examples of dissipation include:

  • Selling a martial boat to a family member for $1, knowing it will be purchased back after the divorce is done for $1.
  • Gambling money away or spending large sums of money on drugs or alcohol.
  • Incurring large amounts of debts because of an extra-marital affair (i.e. hotel rooms, gifts, restaurants).
  • Destroying marital property.

If the Court finds dissipation occurred, the Court can and will likely divide the remaining marital property such that the other party becomes whole again.