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Minnesota freezes assets during divorce

Before a divorce can be finalized in Minnesota, the parties must divide their marital property. Each spouse must list all his or her assets, and the parties must decide from there what's separate and what's marital property. This can be a long process, and it's especially difficult in high net worth divorce, in which the martial property consists of complex assets such as stock options, ownership in a family business or pensions. It can also be a time when a lot of shenanigans go on.

While it's illegal to do so, some sneaky individuals try to hide their assets from the other party and the court so that they don't have share as much with an ex. This may be especially common in high asset divorces, which tend to involve financially savvy individuals who have multiple investment accounts.

To combat this problem, Minnesota requires an automatic temporary restraining order, which is meant to prohibit people from liquidating or hiding their assets after the divorce process has begun. The restraining order can prevent greedy people from hiding their assets in a divorce, but it can also make it difficult for law-abiding Minnesotans to get access to their bank accounts once a divorce petition has been filed.

The problem is easy to see in joint accounts. Generally, each spouse has a right to half of the funds that the spouses share in a joint account but once a divorce action has been filed, it may be difficult for either one to withdraw any funds. This can make it hard to meet daily expenses, especially as the parties move on to new homes. The good news is that courts will usually allow the parties to alter the terms of the restraining order to make sure that each side can at least get enough out of joint accounts to meet reasonable expenses.

Minnesotans contemplating divorce should get help understanding their legal options. They also should not forget to get help with their finances.

Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women: When Can You Withdraw Funds From Joint Accounts?" Jeff Landers, Sept. 17, 2013

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