Selecting the Right Property Division Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer

The marriage dissolution rate has fallen steadily since the 1980s. Some experts predict that it may soon bottom out at around 33 percent. Part of that decline is due to a lower marriage rate. Many couples have fewer debts and more assets when they get married. So, the divorce rate may be lower, but the divorces themselves are more complex, especially with regard to property division.

In this economic and social environment, a prenuptial agreement is usually a good idea. Prenups eliminate money fights before they start and also make a future divorce much less emotionally taxing. They are basically whole life insurance policies which both build equity and help couples prepare for the unexpected.

Premarital agreement or not, a good Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer is essential. Without such representation, there will be no one to stand up for your legal and financial rights during a property division proceeding.

Experience in Property Division Matters

In equitable distribution states like Minnesota, property division is not simply a matter of dividing everything by two. First, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must distinguish marital and nonmarital property. This process is usually not easy, particularly after a lengthy marriage. Next, the property settlement must equitably divide marital property. “Equitable” is not necessarily the same thing as “equal.”

Given these complexities, your divorce is no time for on-the-job training. So, there is no substitute for experience. There are many aspects of divorce law that cannot be learned in law school.

During the attorney search process, it’s important to take a close look at experience. Years of experience often tell only part of the story. In Minnesota and other no-fault states, many divorces are not much more than paperwork. If you have a significant estate to divide, like a small business, you do not need a paper-pusher. You need a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer who is experienced in property division matters. Do not be afraid to ask for some examples of prior cases.

Accessibility

A new restaurant may have five stars, but if there is a two-hour wait for a table, it’s probably better to go somewhere else. On the other end of the spectrum, if the new restaurant has no cars in the parking lot, that’s usually a bad sign.

These same issues arise with Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers. If you must wait several weeks for an appointment, that may mean the attorney is too busy to give your case the attention it deserves. That delay may also mean that an associate lawyer, or even a paralegal, might do most of the work.

Conversely, if the attorney always has time to see you and/or personally answers the phone on the first or second ring, that probably means the lawyer has few clients and few staff resources. Such lawyers can easily handle uncontested divorces, but they may not be equipped to deal with complex property divisions.

A Dedicated Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyer

Family law is under the litigation umbrella. But divorce property division is a lot different from contract disputes and some other forms of litigation. Dedication to the craft may be key.

The late Grant Cooper, who represented Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, might be a good example of a solid yet undedicated litigator. Cooper had solid credentials. In the early 1960s, he was President of the American College of Trial Lawyers. But Cooper was a celebrity lawyer and not a criminal lawyer. According to many people, he left some stones unturned during the Sirhan defense. Maybe his lack of dedication affected the outcome, and maybe it did not. However, we do know for sure that Sirhan is still in prison over fifty years later.

Additionally, a good murder defense lawyer is more than a good courtroom advocate. Such professionals must also have some forensic and investigative skills, which Cooper may have lacked. Likewise, a good Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer is not just a good courtroom advocate. These professionals must also be good negotiators. Most marriage dissolution matters settle out of court. And, in the property division context, some accounting and other skills are necessary as well.

Location

“Divorce lawyer near me” is not just a phrase that people type into search bars. A nearby location is often a critical quality in a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer.

The attorney-client relationship should be more than provider and customer. Attorneys and clients are more like partners. A close working relationship typically yields the best results. These relationships are difficult if the lawyer is on the other side of town.

Many Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers are mobile, so this factor is not as important as it once was. Attorneys can meet with clients in library study rooms, coffee houses, and other such places. All relevant information is probably on a laptop, so these conferences are more efficient than they were in ye olden days.

Price

Legal fees should probably be the least important consideration in your quest for the best Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer. You are not buying a washing machine. Divorce property division is your financial future.

However, as it does in many other areas, price is usually an indication of quality. You get what you pay for, as the old saying goes. If the fees are very low, the attorney is usually understaffed and inexperienced. But there is an upper limit. Many times, extraordinarily high fees do not mean that lawyer is the best available. Those high fees just mean the lawyer thinks s/he is the best one available. There’s a big difference.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

The right legal representation might be the most important decision you make in a marriage dissolution matter. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Property Division

Almost without exception, property division is the simplest component of a marriage dissolution in Wright County, or it is the most complex portion of the proceeding.

If the couple was married only briefly, there may not be very many assets and debts to divide. Most property is probably nonmarital. These divisions are also usually straightforward if the couple had a prenuptial agreement. These pacts classify and divide property in advance, thus avoiding costly and time-consuming litigation.

Litigation avoidance is one reason more people are getting prenuptial agreements. There are other reasons as well, but they are the subject of another blog.

In other cases, property division is extremely complex. Assume Louis and Marie buy a new car after several years of marriage. Marie drives for Uber and she places her earnings in a separate account. Louis finds out, hits the roof, and files for divorce. The Uber money could be Marie’s nonmarital property or marital property subject to division. Likewise, the remaining car payments could be Marie’s separate obligation or a joint debt.

Intricate issues like these are especially difficult for Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers to unravel because the division also presents some emotional issues (i.e. this is my side hustle).

Classifying Property in a Wright County Divorce

The Uber dispute is an example of commingled property. Over time, the distinctions between yours, mine, and ours become blurred.

This example also includes a transmutation problem. Louis and Marie bought the car after the marriage, so it was clearly a marital debt at the time. But since Marie used the car in her side business, she may be responsible for future car payments. That’s especially true if, as is probably the case, she primarily drove the car at all times.

Classification could be a financial issue as well. Many times, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers partner with forensic accountants and other professionals who trace spending and receipts to determine ownership. If you think this process sounds time-consuming and expensive, you are right. However, it is also a necessary part of a divorce. Unless property is classified properly, it is impossible to divide it equitably, and that is the next step.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Marital Property Division

Minnesota is an equitable division state. Note that “equitable” is not necessarily synonymous with “equal.” The Wright County judge must divide property in such a way that it represents a just and right division of the marital estate and the divorce is not an unfair financial burden on either party. Some factors to consider include:

  • Length of the Marriage: The relationship’s length is basically a multiplier or a divider. The longer the marriage lasted, the more pronounced the following factors become. Conversely, shorter marriages diminish these factors, especially the noneconomic contributions to a marriage.
  • Any Prior Marriages: Previous property divisions, and previous property awards, could affect current property distributions. That’s especially true with regard to home equity amounts and retirement accounts.
  • Relative Age, Health, and Occupational History: In many respects, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers must divide property so each spouse can live basically the same lifestyle. Young and healthy people with strong job backgrounds can usually earn more money than people who do not have these traits.
  • Economic Contributions to the Marriage: These contributions are usually easy to ascertain, especially with the help of a financial professional.
  • Noneconomic Contributions: This factor may be the property division wild card. If one spouse gave up a lucrative career to be a caregiver, this factor may be substantial, especially if the couple had young children. In other cases, however, the so-called “homemaker factor” may be negligible or even nonexistent.

Wright County family law judges usually approve any agreements between the parties, as long as the agreement is roughly in line with the aforementioned factors.

Property division, unlike alimony or child support, is usually a one-time matter. Once the court divides property, it is almost impossible to reconsider the division. This fact is especially important with regard to revenue-producing property. If Marie’s side hustle is marital property, Louis is entitled to a proportionate share of not only past income, but also any future income. So, it is important for a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer to be very thorough and get things right the first time.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

Complex property division matters often involve both financial and emotional considerations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Hutchinson Family Law Attorneys and Property Classification

Minnesota family law mandates a property division which is not an unfair financial burden on either party. Divorce almost always constitutes a serious financial burden, but neither the husband nor the wife can carry too much of the load. Unless the parties have a premarital agreement, the classification and division process can be rather long and cumbersome.

A relatively even distribution of marital assets and debts is complex enough. Many assets, such as retirement accounts and houses, have emotional values in addition to their financial values. If the parties have been married for more than a few years, the division is even more intricate. In fact, Hutchinson family law attorneys must address a threshold issue before they even begin splitting up the marital estate.

Is the Property Distribution Always 50-50?

There is a strong presumption in favor of a 50-50 division. However, it’s only a presumption. To overcome it, the challenging party must normally present substantial evidence of inequity.

Unequal property distribution questions are ripe for mediation. Indeed, many McLeod County judges order parties to complete mediation before they set the case for trial. At mediation, the parties exchange settlement offers and counter-offers until they reach an agreed resolution.

Classifying Marital Property in a Minnesota Divorce

Equitable divisions are quite challenging in many cases. Long marriages often involve ownership issues, specifically with regard to commingled property. Assume Wife bought a new car the day before her wedding. Over the course of the marriage, she pays a total of $45,000 on the vehicle note ($750 a month for sixty months). She uses money from her paycheck, which is marital property, to pay the car loan, which is a non-marital debt.

If she and her husband divorce, Husband may be entitled to $22,500. That sum represents his share of the marital funds Wife spent in satisfaction of her non-marital debt. The actual division may vary based on a number of factors. Some of these factors are outlined below.

Resolving commingled property issues with regard to debts is often a fairly straightforward process. It may just be a matter of doing the math. However, if the comingling involved a revenue-producing asset, things are much more complex.

Now assume Wife purchased a rental house while she was single. Husband received a wedding gift from his parents, and he uses the gift to find improvements at the rent house. If the couple divorces, one of two things could happen:

  • If the gift was a small one which funded things like new carpet or new landscaping, Husband’s gift might have little or no effect on property ownership. The house, and all income it produced, would still belong exclusively to Wife.
  • On the other hand, if Husband’s large cash infusion funded major improvements, like foundation work, a McLeod County family law judge could declare that Husband’s gift transmuted the property from Wife’s nonmarital asset to a marital asset. If that’s the case, Husband would be entitled to half the house and also half the income from the house, beginning at the transmutation date. Husband’s argument for transmutation is stronger if the house was uninhabitable prior to the improvements.

In these situations, Hutchinson family law attorneys often partner with financial professionals who trace payments and perform a forensic accounting.

Hutchinson Family Law Attorneys and the Property Division Process

After clarifying ownership interests, the real work begins. The property division process usually involves the factors set forth in Minnesota law. Technically, all these factors have roughly equal weight. But pragmatically, some are more important than others.

  • Agreements Between the Parties: Minnesota family law judges almost always approve premarital agreements if they were voluntary and not entirely one-sided. So, especially with regards to complex issues like the aforementioned rent house, a premarital agreement can be the stitch in time that saves nine.
  • Noneconomic Contributions to the Marriage: Some relationships feature a “caregiver” spouse and a “breadwinner” spouse. If the caregiver spouse forsook carrer advancement to look after multiple children, the caregiver spouse may be entitled to a disproportionate share of marital property. In the alternative, the caregiver might receive additional alimony payments.
  • Future Economic Prospects: In general, young and healthy people can earn more money than old and sickly people. Therefore, if there is a significant age and health discrepancy between the spouses, this factor might be a consideration.

Almost all property divisions are subject to modification later. For example, if Husband remarried and began receiving substantial financial support from his new wife, a Hutchinson family law attorney could convince a court to reconsider the rent house ownership question.

Count on Experienced Lawyers

Property classification and division is often the most time-consuming portion of a divorce case. For a freeconsultationn with an experienced Hutchinson family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Six Property Division Factors in a McLeod County Divorce

Minnesota is an equitable division state. During marriage dissolution proceedings, the judge must divide property and debt equitably, which is not necessarily the same thing as equally.

Nevertheless, there is a very strong presumption in favor of a 50-50 division. To overcome this presumption, Hutchinson lawyers may use one of the following factors. Since the presumption is so strong, the evidence on these points must be substantial. Even then, great disparities are not very common.

Technically, the burden of proof in these matters is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). However, given the strong 50-50 presumption, spouses seeking unequal divisions may need to present clear and convincing evidence that an equal split is not an equitable division. This evidence usually involves one of the factors discussed below.

Length of the Marriage

In spousal support matters, length of the marriage is one of the leading factors, especially when it comes to determining duration of payments. In fact, nearby Illinois uses the length of the marriage to set presumptive alimony lengths. This factor is important in property distribution matters as well. The longer the relationship lasted, the greater the expectation in terms of an equal division.

But for Hutchinson lawyers who seek to divide marital property, this factor is just one of many.

Any Prior Marriages

This factor could go one of several ways. Prior marriages could mean prior property loss. For example, if Wife’s retirement account has already been divided in half once, Hutchinson lawyers may work extra hard to make sure it is not divided in half once again. It could also mean prior property awards. If Husband has a share of an income-producing rent house, that could factor into the current property division.

Prior marriages could also mean other financial obligations, like alimony or child support payments. These obligations could also affect the current divorce case.

Relative Health and Age of Each Spouse

Typically, husbands and wives are roughly the same age. So, this factor may not come into play very often.

But in some cases, there may be significant differences. May-December romances are certainly not unheard of. Moreover, illness or disability can strike any person at any time. These issues can affect a person’s ability to earn money. And, by law, a Minnesota divorce must not be an unfair financial burden for either spouse.

Health issues may also be a basis for future modification. The change could involve the sudden onset, or the sudden removal, of an illness or disability.

Vocational Skills and Economic Opportunity

This factor is closely related to the previous one. Following divorce, women’s standard of living declines quite rapidly. Furthermore, this gap usually remains for a number of years.

This argument seems convincing. However, it is only statistical and speculative. Nevertheless, if properly used or refuted, it could tip the scales one way or the other.

If the court grants an unequal distribution due to this factor, the division is usually a means to an end. Some spouses need to further their education or accept low-paying internships before they fully re-enter the workforce. The additional property gives them the additional income they need.

Agreements Between the Spouses

Hutchinson lawyers try to engineer spousal agreements whenever possible. Especially in the property distribution area, these agreements carry great weight. In fact, most Minnesota courts even uphold one-sided agreements as long as each spouse had separate counsel, neither spouse hid critical data, and the agreement was not unconscionable (e.g. one spouse gets all the property and the other one gets all the debts).

Marital agreements may be made or modified by mutual consent at any time. They are very good tools when it comes to property division issues.

Economic and Noneconomic Contributions

Although financial contributions are usually rather easy to measure, there are often complexities. Returning to the previous rent house example, Wife may have a landscaping company which services the house for free or for a reduced price.

Noneconomic contributions could be very significant or could be almost nothing. Sometimes, there is a very clear division between breadwinner spouses and caretaker spouses. Furthermore, in many cases, the caretaker spouse forgoes career opportunities to care for the home.

Other times, the “homemaker factor” is negligible at best. Many spouses share the breadwinner/caretaker roles, at least to a considerable extent. Other couples have no children or were not married long enough for this effect to truly kick in.

Call Today To Speak With A Hutchinson Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

At Carlson & Jones, P.A., our experienced Hutchinson lawyers protect your legal and financial rights throughout the divorce process. Contact us today for a free consultation. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

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