At the end of a marriage, the two parties must list all their assets, divide the separate property from the marital property and then divide the marital property in a way that meets Minnesota’s standards of fairness. This is the process known as property division, and it can be the most time-consuming and demanding part of a divorce.

On paper perhaps it does not look so bad, bank accounts can be split in half , a house can be sold and the proceeds divided equally, or one ex-spouse can buy out the other’s share. In practice, property division can get much more complicated, especially when it involves complex assets such as stock options, investment portfolios or a family business. For that reason, high net worth divorce is often more time-consuming than other types of divorce.

In any kind of divorce, the parties sometimes overlook the first part of the property division process. That is, they are sometimes too quick to let the other side claim some asset as separate property. In fact, separate property is better called pre-marital property. It includes property owned by either party before the marriage, and perhaps an inheritance, a gift or part of a settlement or award from a personal injury lawsuit. Even in some of these categories, the property may be considered marital property if the assets were mingled with the marital property by, for example, depositing them in a joint bank account.

This means that everything else acquired by the couple during the marriage is marital property under Minnesota law. That includes one spouse’s 401(k) or pension account. Even a generations-old family business may be considered marital property if both spouses contributed to the growth of the business during the marriage.

There are many factors to consider when divvying up the assets at the end of a marriage. It is important for Minnesota residents going through divorce to have help understanding their rights and standing up for their interests.

Source: Forbes, “Divorcing Women: The Truth About Your Husband’s 401(k) And Other Assets,” Jeff Landers, August 8, 2013