Minnesota law categorizes property as marital or non-marital.
Marital property is usually divided equally while non-marital property is allocated entirely to the party who maintains the non-marital interest. Non-marital property involves the interest a party has in property accumulated prior to a marriage or property received as a gift or inheritence by one spouse, individually, during a marriage. Marital property involves any property that the parties accumulate during their marriage, including home equity, retirement assets, business interests, bank accounts, investments, motor vehicles and other property of value.
In order to ascertain the value of property, experts are typically retained. These include real estate appraisers, actuaries, business valuators and other individuals with specialized knowledge in determining the market value of various assets. These experts can be retained by one or both of the parties.
Once all property interests are valued, a balance sheet is put together to reflect the allocation each party will receive. Naturally, one party will receive more property than the other as items are divided. When this occurs, a cash payment (equalization) is typically made from the spouse receiving more property to the spouse receiving less property in order to equalize the cumulative value of the assets they receive as a result of the dissolution of marriage.
Debts are typically treated the same way as assets. Quite often, the court will allocate all debts incurred during the marriage equally. Debts that remain from a time preceding the marriage are typically allocated to the party incurring the debt. The same is true for debts incurred post-separation. The value of a particular debt is usually verified through a recent statement. Typically, if the party is allocated an asset they will take any debt that accompanies it. A prime example involves an automobile. If one spouse takes a car, they will likely have to accept responsibility for the debt associated with it.