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Why divorce is different for Vikings and Packers fans

Although some Vikings or Packers fans might disagree with this assessment, Minnesota's rivalry with its nearest neighbor to the east is generally a pretty friendly one. Many people live in one state and commute to work in the other, or live in one and have a cabin in the other. Some may not even think very often about which state they're in until it's time to pay taxes or vote. There can be a big difference between the two states at those times.

There can also be a big difference between the two states when it comes to divorce. Minnesota and most other states follow a property division rule known as equitable distribution. Wisconsin, however, is a community property state.

In equitable division states, the two parties to a divorce list all their assets, divide their separate property from marital property (for the most part, this means they divide property they obtained before the marriage from property obtained during the marriage) and then divide the marital property in a way that meets standards of fairness set forth in state guidelines. Generally, the court has a wide degree of discretion in these cases, so judges can decide if it seems fairer to divide the marital assets 60-40 rather than 50-50.

However, in a minority of states, this process is simplified under a system called community property. Marital property in these states is split right down the middle. Most of these states are in the West, but Wisconsin joined their ranks about 30 years ago.

None of this necessarily means that a divorce will be quicker, easier and cheaper in Wisconsin in than it would be in Minnesota. Under either type of system, it can be difficult to tell where separate property ends and marital property begins, especially in cases involving complex assets such as ownership of a business.

Under either type of system, people going through a divorce do not necessarily have to accept the state's rules. Most divorces are settled by the parties themselves after negotiating a settlement that makes sense to them.

This process can be further simplified if the parties executed a prenuptial agreement. These agreements are essentially contracts between the parties that can decide property division matters, or many other types of issues, before the marriage takes place.

It's important for Minnesota residents going through a divorce to understand how state laws apply to their situation. Those who are about to get married may not want to think about these issues, but it's a good idea for them to know a little about equitable division before they tie the knot.


Source: Huffington Post, "Why Where You Divorce Matters; Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property," David Centeno, Aug. 28, 2013

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