Minnesota is an equitable division state. During marriage dissolution proceedings, the judge must divide property and debt equitably, which is not necessarily the same thing as equally.
Nevertheless, there is a very strong presumption in favor of a 50-50 division. To overcome this presumption, Hutchinson lawyers may use one of the following factors. Since the presumption is so strong, the evidence on these points must be substantial. Even then, great disparities are not very common.
Technically, the burden of proof in these matters is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). However, given the strong 50-50 presumption, spouses seeking unequal divisions may need to present clear and convincing evidence that an equal split is not an equitable division. This evidence usually involves one of the factors discussed below.
Length of the Marriage
In spousal support matters, length of the marriage is one of the leading factors, especially when it comes to determining duration of payments. In fact, nearby Illinois uses the length of the marriage to set presumptive alimony lengths. This factor is important in property distribution matters as well. The longer the relationship lasted, the greater the expectation in terms of an equal division.
But for Hutchinson lawyers who seek to divide marital property, this factor is just one of many.
Any Prior Marriages
This factor could go one of several ways. Prior marriages could mean prior property loss. For example, if Wife’s retirement account has already been divided in half once, Hutchinson lawyers may work extra hard to make sure it is not divided in half once again. It could also mean prior property awards. If Husband has a share of an income-producing rent house, that could factor into the current property division.
Prior marriages could also mean other financial obligations, like alimony or child support payments. These obligations could also affect the current divorce case.
Relative Health and Age of Each Spouse
Typically, husbands and wives are roughly the same age. So, this factor may not come into play very often.
But in some cases, there may be significant differences. May-December romances are certainly not unheard of. Moreover, illness or disability can strike any person at any time. These issues can affect a person’s ability to earn money. And, by law, a Minnesota divorce must not be an unfair financial burden for either spouse.
Health issues may also be a basis for future modification. The change could involve the sudden onset, or the sudden removal, of an illness or disability.
Vocational Skills and Economic Opportunity
This factor is closely related to the previous one. Following divorce, women’s standard of living declines quite rapidly. Furthermore, this gap usually remains for a number of years.
This argument seems convincing. However, it is only statistical and speculative. Nevertheless, if properly used or refuted, it could tip the scales one way or the other.
If the court grants an unequal distribution due to this factor, the division is usually a means to an end. Some spouses need to further their education or accept low-paying internships before they fully re-enter the workforce. The additional property gives them the additional income they need.
Agreements Between the Spouses
Hutchinson lawyers try to engineer spousal agreements whenever possible. Especially in the property distribution area, these agreements carry great weight. In fact, most Minnesota courts even uphold one-sided agreements as long as each spouse had separate counsel, neither spouse hid critical data, and the agreement was not unconscionable (e.g. one spouse gets all the property and the other one gets all the debts).
Marital agreements may be made or modified by mutual consent at any time. They are very good tools when it comes to property division issues.
Economic and Noneconomic Contributions
Although financial contributions are usually rather easy to measure, there are often complexities. Returning to the previous rent house example, Wife may have a landscaping company which services the house for free or for a reduced price.
Noneconomic contributions could be very significant or could be almost nothing. Sometimes, there is a very clear division between breadwinner spouses and caretaker spouses. Furthermore, in many cases, the caretaker spouse forgoes career opportunities to care for the home.
Other times, the “homemaker factor” is negligible at best. Many spouses share the breadwinner/caretaker roles, at least to a considerable extent. Other couples have no children or were not married long enough for this effect to truly kick in.
Call Today To Speak With A Hutchinson Lawyer From Carlson & Jones
At Carlson & Jones, P.A., our experienced Hutchinson lawyers protect your legal and financial rights throughout the divorce process. Contact us today for a free consultation. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.