The primary residence is usually the most valuable asset in Minnesota divorce cases, and it is generally dealt with early in property division negotiations. If one spouse owned the property before the couple married, the residence may be viewed as separate property and not subject to division. However, separate property can become comingled if marital income is used for its upkeep or repair. In most cases, the house will have been acquired after the couple married, and there are a number of ways that it can be dealt with during a divorce.
Many divorcing couples choose to sell their primary residence and divide the proceeds. This division should generally be equitable even if the income of only one spouse was used to make mortgage payments. If the house is not sold, the spouse who chooses to remain may purchase the other spouse’s share of the property or offer assets in exchange for it during divorce negotiations. However, spouses who enter into this type of agreement should be aware that mortgage lenders may not be deterred by divorce settlements when loans go into arrears.
When couples are unable to reach an amicable agreement, family law judges may be called upon to make property division decisions. Judges could order that a property be sold and the proceeds divided, but they may be unwilling to rule in this way when children are involved. Judges may also be reluctant to award the primary residence to a spouse who does not earn enough money to pay for its maintenance and repairs.
Experienced family law attorneys may suggest postnuptial agreements to couples who wish to avoid heated arguments over marital assets. However, this is not always possible, and when negotiations are at a standstill, however, attorneys could suggest mediation.