Minnesota Divorce and Disproportionate Divisions of Property

Property division can be a tricky part of your divorce and sometimes can become a point of contention between the parties.  This is why, generally, property divisions are supposed to be equitable so that each party receives a fair amount in the division.  There are two categories of property in Minnesota, marital and non-marital.  Property that is marital is divided equitably between spouses by the court.  Property that is non-marital is awarded to the owner of the property and is usually not considered in the overall equitable division of marital property. Equitable property division is not necessarily the same thing as equal, however, most Minnesota Courts seem to order near-equal divisions of marital property.

Disproportionate Divisions of Property

Parties may also request a disproportionate division of the assets when there is a case where a disproportionate division is warranted.  Disproportionate divisions of property are when one spouse receives much more than their equitable share of the property.  This type of property division can be warranted if one spouse has lived off of the salary of another spouse for a long time and is not likely able to become self-supporting by working.

In a case, Gosse, the Court awarded an 83/17 split of the marital property.  The wife was 59, had not worked for 20 years, had bi-polar disorder, and had no other income other than minimal spousal maintenance.  The husband in this case was able to meet his needs on his monthly pension.  Because of these unique circumstances, the court found it appropriate to award the wife significantly more of the property division than the husband.  See Gosse v. Gosse, No. C9-97-1883, 1998 WL 372803 (Minn. Ct. App. July 7, 1998).

Non-Marital Assets and Disproportionate Divisions of Property

Sometimes a disproportionate division may be warranted if one spouse has an extremely large amount of non-marital assets.  Generally, the court does not consider non-marital assets when dividing marital property, but in some cases where the amount of non-marital assets heavily outweighs marital assets, it may be necessary.  For example, in Erdahl, an 89/11 split of the marital estate by the trial court was affirmed.  In this case, the parties had been married for 32 years, both parties were in their mid 50’s, and the husband’s non-marital assets were worth nearly twice that of the entire marital estate.  He was awarded his non-marital assets and 11 percent of the marital estate and still had nearly twice that of the entire marital estate. See Erdahl v. Erdahl, 384 N.W.2d 76 (Minn. Ct. App. 1986).  In this situation, a disproportionate division of the assets was appropriate because if the court had evenly split the assets, the wife would have ended up with much less of the estate than the husband due to his non-marital assets.

Unfair Disproportionate Divisions of Property

Disproportionate divisions can also be determined to be unfair to a party if the court abuses its discretion.  In a case, Carlsen v. Carlsen, wife Bonny Carlsen challenged the division of the marital property made in the judgment and decree dissolving her marriage to her husband.  They had a 24-year marriage and had acquired interests in several businesses.  The wife argued that the property division they received was not equal and therefore was not equitable, but the court rejected her argument stating that a property division does not need to be equal to be equitable. Wife also argued that the property division was inconsistent with the conclusive statutory presumption that each party made a significant contribution to the acquisition of the marital property. Minn.Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1.  The court agreed stating that the district court’s rationale for awarding husband a disproportionate share of the value of certain properties focused exclusively on wife’s recent lack of contribution to that property, rather than on her contributions during the entire 24-year marriage.  This was considered an abuse of discretion and a misapplication of the law. See Carlsen v. Carlsen, No. A09-95, 2010 WL 118980, (Minn. Ct. App. March 30, 2010).

At Lake Harriet Law Office, we provide strong legal representation for our clients who are going through divorce, and we use a data-focused approach to address the division of assets and debts.  If you are concerned about divorce and the related financial issues, please contact us to schedule a consultation at 612-750-4843.

Managing Attorney – Randall A. Smith

Student Attorney – McKenzie Harter

Student Attorney – Taylor Blatchford

Student Attorney – Katie Arndt

Published On: January 12, 2020Categories: Family Law Updates

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