When 'what's mine is yours' changes to 'what's mine?'

When it comes to dividing assets in a Minnesota divorce, knowing what is and is not eligible for distribution can help you prepare for the future.

When two people get married, they typically combine assets. They often get joint bank accounts, sign mortgages together, pay off each other's student loans and get credit cards together. Bills, purchases, investments and debts from each person can fall into one pot.

The line between your contributions to the marriage and your spouse's can get blurred considerably, especially if you have been married for quite some time. This can make the prospect of dividing up the assets in a divorce overwhelming, frightening and contentious.

If you are getting divorced, it can be helpful to know what state laws say about the process so you know what to expect. To begin with, you should know that in accordance with Minnesota laws, assets are divided equitably.

What is equitable distribution?

Equitable is not the same as equal. While there are a handful of states that will divide marital property in half between each spouse, Minnesota is not one of them. In this state, courts will divide property in a way that is deemed fair. It may be close to equal or it could mean that one spouse receives a much larger portion of the marital estate.

In order to calculate this, the courts will consider several factors including how long two people were married, employability of each person, individual earning potential, contributions to the marriage and future income. The determination of how the property will be divided will reflect those factors and the contributions - financial and otherwise - made by each spouse to the marriage.

Then the courts will use that information to divide up marital property, which is different from separate property.

The difference between marital and separate property

Separate property is anything owned by just one person prior to the marriage or accumulated during the marriage by one spouse. This could include inheritances, profits from the sale of a property owned before marriage or gifts given by a third party to just one spouse.

Though there are exceptions the courts can make, separate property will typically not be eligible for distribution.

Marital property, on the other hand, belongs to both spouses and will be calculated and divided in an equitable manner. This can include real estate, bank accounts, furniture, cars and even pets.

Of course, it is not always easy to determine whether an asset is marital or separate and there may be a prenuptial agreement in place to consider, so legal support is often beneficial.

How collaboration, mediation may help during division of assets

If you are hesitant or concerned about leaving these delicate and complex decisions in the hands of the courts, you may be able to work out a resolution outside the courtroom. To do this, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can work with your attorneys, a mediator and/or a financial professional who can help you identify and calculate your marital assets and then work together to figure out how to divide marital property and debts.

Legal support can be crucial

Whether you are working toward a resolution through mediation or will be going through the courts to have property divided, it can be wise to have the guidance and support of an attorney during such a sensitive and important step of the divorce process. Working with an experienced attorney can allow you to seek what you deserve and protect your rights and future.