When you end a marriage, you understandably face a myriad of emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, grief – and possibly even relief. The emotional turmoil that you face can mean that your decision-making skills sometimes suffer. However, you cannot afford to let your feelings rule you during this critical time, since your financial future could depend on the decisions you make.

Smart Practices for Protecting Your Property and Other Assets

Quantify the marital assets. Make sure you and the other spouse account for all property that might be relevant, so everyone is upfront and fair.

Have patience. A best-case scenario might mean that both parties agree on property division, even if it takes time to work out differences.

Look hard for solutions. Even if you begin the process with numerous disputes and wind up litigating, the courts will finalize your divorce sooner if you can negotiate elements of property division without help from a judge.

Consider using an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) approach, like mediation, to find ‘win-wins’ regarding property distribution. Another option in Minnesota, Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE), uses independent experts who help both parties negotiate financial matters.

Understand the law. Minnesota uses equitable distribution rules, which means that even if property is held in one spouse’s name, it may still be counted as marital property, because it was acquired during the marriage. Minnesota views non-marital property as assets that do not jointly belong to the couple, usually acquired apart from the marital union.

Understand the relevant factors. The courts consider various factors before deciding on an equitable distribution, including the following:

  • Which person has the greater need for assets;
  • Each person’s marketable job skills;
  • Each person’s earning potential; and
  • Who contributed to the acquisition of the property.

The courts place value on one partner’s care for children and/or the home. For example, if you acquire minimal assets during the marriage and have minimal assets to split, you might be left with next-to-nothing after the divorce. The courts can decide to rectify this by directing your soon-to-be ex to transfer non-marital assets to you.

Understand how property is classified in Minnesota. Non-marital, or exempt property, belongs to you if you brought it into the marriage or acquired it after the marriage dissolution. Retirement benefits, gifts, inheritances and other earnings or assets can fall under this designation. While some states use the final date of the divorce decree to determine what is classified as marital property, Minnesota uses a relatively early date in the process, which varies by county.

Having a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement can help. The courts have wide latitude in property division in equitable distribution jurisdictions, which means that you may need to be on the defensive if you brought significant assets to the union.