The myths and mysteries of divorce have only gotten worse since the rise of the Internet and social media. Everyone has heard horror stories about what can happen to them when the divorce petition is filed, always relayed from the friend of a friend. Fortunately, the truth is somewhat less terrifying, and easier to obtain, with a visit to the local divorce specialist.
- The One Who Files First Wins. There is no benefit or detriment to being the one to file (the “petitioner”) or the one who answers (“the respondent”). Minnesota, like most U.S. states, is a “no-fault” state, meaning that the petitioner does not have to claim abuse or other reasons for wanting a divorce. All that is needed is for the marriage to be irretrievably broken.
- My Spouse Can’t Take My Property if I Have the Title. Minnesota is an “equitable distribution” state when it comes to property division in a divorce. That means that property acquired during the marriage with marital funds is divided according to what is equitable to both parties no matter who is on the title. Often this means an equal division. This may mean, for instance, that a spouse may have to buy out the other spouse’s interest in a home or vehicle.
- What If I Owned My Property Before the Marriage? Even if the property was owned before the marriage, the spouse may have some right to it in some circumstances. This is called “marital contribution.” For instance, if you had a house, and while you were married you and your spouse made some improvements that increased the value, your spouse is entitled to the increased equity as marital contribution.
- The Judge Will Decide Everything, So I Should Make My Spouse Look Bad. Friends and family sometimes tell divorcing people to air as much family dirty laundry as possible, so the judge will feel bad for them and give them what they want—the children, the house, the car, alimony. This is a mistake. The judge does not decide anything based on whether your husband drank too much on weekends, or if your wife let dishes pile up in the sink, unless these matters affect the person’s ability to parent. Unless something is relevant to the issues before the court (like custody and parenting time), dirty laundry is not something any judge wants to hear.
- I Want the Kids, So I Should Make My Spouse Look Bad. Child custody and parenting time decisions look to what is in the best interest of the child and these factors often outweigh the desires of the parent on its own. A parent who wants to maximize their time with their children should spend their time demonstrating what a good parent they are, and how good they are for the children, rather than what a rotten person their spouse is. Sadly, this is not the advice they often get from their relatives.
- Do I Really Need an Attorney? Even if you and your spouse agree on everything, it is a good idea to discuss your issues with an attorney and have the attorney draft the appropriate documents. Everything you put into the petition and final judgment will be final, and although they can be amended, it will take more trouble and be more costly than just getting it right the first time.
In the depths of a divorce, it can seem as if you feel at a loss of control. A way to sort out your issues is to go into the divorce knowing the law as it pertains to your issues. With that always in mind, you should find and retain an attorney with experience in Minnesota law who can ease your concerns and keep you and your family at the forefront no matter what happens in court.