Going through a divorce can be an emotionally difficult and complex process. When a marriage ends, one of the most important steps is determining how assets and debts will be divided between spouses as part of the divorce settlement. This process is known as property division or equitable distribution.
In Minnesota, the default is that marital property will be divided equitably between spouses. However, the specifics of property division depend on the unique circumstances of each divorcing couple. There are many factors courts consider when determining what a wife may be entitled to in a Minnesota divorce settlement.
So, what exactly is a wife entitled to in a Minnesota divorce? Here’s an overview of how assets may be divided and what wives can expect during property division.
How Marital Property is Divided in Minnesota
In Minnesota, all property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, regardless of which spouse’s name is on the title. This includes things like:
- The marital home
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Business interests
- Personal property
- Debt accrued during marriage
Marital property is divided fairly between spouses during divorce, which does not always translate to an equal 50/50 distribution. The court will aim to divide property fairly based on each spouse’s contributions to acquiring assets, as well as other factors.
Importantly, any property owned by a spouse prior to marriage is considered “non-marital property.” This separate property remains with the original owning spouse after the divorce. However, if the value of separate property increases during marriage, the increase may be considered marital property.
Gifts and inheritances are generally separate property as well, though this depends on the specific circumstances. Overall, there is a presumption that assets acquired during a marriage are marital property subject to division in divorce.
Is a Wife Automatically Entitled to Half?
There is a common misconception that wives are automatically entitled to receive half of all marital property in a Minnesota divorce. However, equitable distribution laws do not guarantee an even 50/50 split.
Rather, the court divides property in a way that considers the total circumstances of the marriage. A judge determines what is fair by looking at:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s income and financial needs
- Contributions each spouse made toward acquiring assets
- Caring for children and the home
- Age, health, and employability of each spouse
- Estate plans and prenuptial agreements
- Tax consequences
While equal division is common, it is not guaranteed. The court has the discretion to divide property equitably based on what is fair given the details of the marriage.
What Can a Wife Expect for Property Division?
There are certain assets a wife is very likely to receive a share of in a Minnesota divorce settlement:
The Marital Home
The marital home is often one of the largest assets to divide. Typically, the house will be sold, and proceeds split. Sometimes, one spouse keeps the home and compensates the other spouse for their share with other assets or a cash payment.
Retirement assets like 401(k)s and pensions accumulated during marriage are always divided between spouses. The court determines fair percentages based on the length of marriage and contributions.
Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles owned jointly or individually during marriage are usually divided evenly or close to it.
Bank Accounts and Investments
Accounts like checking, savings, stocks, and bonds are allocated equitably based on each spouse’s financial situation.
In certain situations, one spouse may be required to provide spousal maintenance if there exists a significant income disparity. This provides financial support for an economically disadvantaged spouse.
The Role of Fault in Property Division and Alimony Awards
Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state. This means neither spouse has to prove fault or wrongdoing by the other spouse as grounds for divorce. The sole requirement is that the marriage is irreparably damaged.
While fault cannot be used as the basis for obtaining a divorce, marital misconduct can sometimes be a factor when determining property division and alimony. Examples of fault or misconduct the court might consider include:
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Substance abuse
- Reckless spending or wasting of marital assets
- Refusal to work or pay child support
However, the court’s objective is to achieve an equitable distribution first and foremost. Fault is not given primary importance and does not guarantee a spouse will receive a more favorable settlement.
How Child Custody is Determined in Minnesota Divorce
When divorcing parents have minor children, custody and parenting time must be decided as part of the divorce process. In Minnesota, the default presumption is that both parents are awarded joint legal and joint physical custody.
Joint legal custody implies that both parents share an equal right to make significant decisions regarding the children’s health, education, and overall well-being. Joint physical custody involves the children splitting time between both parents’ homes.
If parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, the court determines custody based on the “best interests of the child.” Relevant factors examined include:
- The child’s relationship and preference, if the child is mature enough to express a preference
- Each parent’s wishes
- The child’s primary caretaker
- Each parent’s role in the child’s upbringing
- Stability of each parent’s home environment
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- History of domestic abuse, if any
- The child’s relationship with siblings and other people significant to them
- Each parent’s ability to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and other basic needs
- The child’s education and community ties
Sole legal and physical custody to one parent is possible if it is found to be in the child’s best interests. However, courts generally favor joint custody so the child maintains a relationship with both parents.
How to Ensure a Fair Settlement
The division of assets and debts in a divorce must be agreed to mutually or ordered by a judge. It’s critical for both spouses to negotiate firmly and compromise when needed to reach an equitable settlement. Expenses must be fully disclosed, and property valued accurately.
Consulting an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer is highly recommended to protect your rights. An attorney can help ensure you receive a fair and lawful share of marital property based on your unique situation. With legal guidance, you are more likely to get what you deserve in your divorce settlement.
Let a Knowledgeable Divorce Lawyer Help You Get What You’re Entitled To
The divorce attorneys at Martine Law have extensive experience representing clients in Minnesota property division cases. They serve individuals across the Twin Cities metro area and understand the marital asset division’s complexities.
During a divorce consultation, a lawyer will review your assets and debts, explain your property rights, and build a strategy to reach a favorable settlement. They handle negotiations firmly but fairly, aiming to help both parties move forward. With a family law attorney on your side, you can feel confident you will receive an equitable share of marital property.
Don’t assume you are automatically entitled to half of your divorce. Consult a divorce attorney from Martine Law to safeguard your financial future and get what you deserve. Call today for a consultation.