At the end of the day, the vast majority of divorces in Minnesota result in an equal division of the marital estate (those assets and liabilities incurred, or accrued, during the marriage.
“Equal division,” however, is not the relevant standard. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. Sec. 518.58, the Court must make a “just and equitable division of the marital property of the parties.” What constitutes a “just and equitable” allocation? Well, usually equal – but not always.
In Minnesota, the family law judge has the ability to consider a number of statutory factors in dividing property unequally, including:
- The length of the parties’ marriage;
- Whether either party has been married before;
- The age, health, occupation and sources of income of each party;
- The vocational skills of each party;
- The employability of each party;
- The income of each party; and
- The nature of the marital estate (both assets and debts).
Does this happen very often? No – except for cases involving a dissipation of assets.
“Dissipation” is described by statute as “without the consent of the other party…in contemplation of divorce, separation or annulment…” transferring, encumbering (creating debt against), concealing or disposing of marital assets, except in the usual course of business or for necessities of life.
Here are a few examples of dissipation:
- Selling a motorcycle to a family member for $1.00, knowing it will be bought back for $1.00 following divorce;
- Placing large amounts of debt relative to an extra-marital affair (hotel rooms, restaurants, airline tickets) on a credit card;
- Incurring significant gambling losses;
- Destruction of items of personal property (electronics, furniture or clothing);
- Investment losses relating to an obvious scam; or
- Spending large quantities of money on drugs or alcohol.
Should dissipation occur, the Court will likely allocate assets in such a way that the non-offending spouse is put back in the position they would have been, but for the dissipation – usually by allocating other assets to them. The party claiming dissipation bears the burden of proving that it occurred.