What’s Equitable Division And How Does It Work In A Minnesota Divorce Case?

August 6, 2013

in Minnesota Divorce

Minnesota House of Representatives - Flanders Law Firm LLCOnce you’ve made the decision to move forward with a Minnesota divorce, the difficult task of splitting up your accumulated possessions begins. This can be an especially difficult and emotionally fraught process. Dividing everything that you and your spouse spent years working for takes a toll on everyone and can lead to a lot of confusion among those who are (thankfully) unfamiliar with the Minnesota family law process.

One of the most confusing concepts encountered in a typical divorce case is the notion of “equitable distribution.” This concept is essential to understand given that it will determine which of your possessions you ultimately walk away with.

Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property

In the United States there are two approaches to dividing marital assets and debts in a divorce. Nine states, including California, follow the community property approach. The second is what’s known as the equitable distribution approach, which is followed in 41 states, including here in Minnesota. Equitable distribution is discussed in Section 518.575 of Minnesota Statutes.

What Does Equitable Distribution Mean?

So now that we know what approach used in Minnesota, what on earth does it mean? If you live in an equitable distribution state it means that family law courts view your marital property, meaning all assets and liabilities, as a pot that must be equitably, though not necessarily equally, divided. There is no fixed standard for dividing property under such a scheme and it is possible for 50-50 division or even a 100-0 split. The aim is fairness, not strict equality.

How Do You Decide What Is Equitable?

Courts in Minnesota consider a multitude of factors when determining how to split a couple’s assets, including the length of the marriage, what each person brought into the marriage, the current earning power of each spouse, who has responsibilities for children, debt, etc. The hope is that by considering many factors, judges are able to understand the dynamics of the relationship and get a better sense of who should walk with which assets, ultimately leading to a more fair and equitable divorce.

How Does Equitable Distribution Work?

It’s important to understand that equitable distribution applies only to a couple’s “marital estate.” What is that exactly? Well, marital property includes all property that was obtained during the course of a marriage, regardless of who paid for it. The only exceptions to this rule include property that was acquired prior to the marriage, property that was received by one spouse as a gift or property that was received as part of an inheritance. This property is instead viewed as the separate, personal property of that spouse and does not figure into the equitable distribution process.

Once you have excluded any personal property from the pool, it is now time to divide everything else, meaning houses, cars, furniture, appliances, stocks, bonds, jewels, bank accounts, retirement plans, IRAs, even the pets. Accounts can be split, houses sold, cars refinanced and many other trades made to ensure that each party walks away with their fair share of the marital pie.

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues and helping negotiate a child custody arrangement. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.

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Joseph Flanders of Flanders Law Firm LLC is a family law and estate planning lawyer. For further information, check out his website or you can contact him by sending an email

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