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How is debt handled during divorce in Minnesota?

A big part of many divorce cases is figuring out who gets to keep what among the marital assets. The flip side to this important issue is, who has to shoulder the couple’s debts?

Numerous Minnesotans have significant debt. Things such as credit cards, unpaid medical bills, car loans and second -- or third -- mortgages on your house can be big drains on your finances.

In divorce, Minnesota law treats debts similarly to how it deals with assets like bank accounts and the family home. Minnesota is an equitable property division state, which means that the judge is supposed to divide marital property between the spouses in a fair manner. What constitutes an “equitable” distribution of assets generally depends on each particular case.

Similarly, if the spouses cannot agree on how to split up their debts, the court must determine how much of it is marital debt and distribute it equitably. Just as not all property is considered to be marital property, not all debts are marital. For instance, student loans are often the sole responsibility of the person who took them out.

Protecting non-marital assets from division, and getting a fair share of the marital property, can have a significant impact on your financial future after the divorce is final and you are on your own. So too can the distribution of debts affect your future plans.

If the spouses can still be cordial, it may be possible to negotiate a settlement that avoids a trial. But if not, an experienced divorce attorney will advocate on his or her client’s behalf to get as much of the assets -- and as little of the debt -- as the client deserves.

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