He Said, She Said—But Does It Matter?
As much as you might be itching to get into court and explain, in the harshest detail, why it is that your ex was responsible for the breakdown of your marriage and why you should therefore receive more of your joint property, this isn’t the way Minnesota’s divorce laws work. Instead, we have what is called a no-fault divorce rule.
This means a couple of things. First, neither of you needs to prove that the other did something wrong—like had an affair or abandoned you—in order to get a divorce. A Minnesota court will grant a divorce when it finds there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage. This can be a fairly broad standard, such as one of you testifying that you want the marriage to end and that you see no prospect of reconciliation, if the other doesn’t offer any evidence in opposition to this. That doesn’t mean you are entitled to “divorce on demand” though; there must be some evidence of marital discord and no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
The concept of no-fault has another implication in a divorce. Under prior law, the courts could, and did, consider fault in property division. For example, if your spouse was cheating on you then you could possibly receive more property as a way for the court to punish your spouse for breaking his marital contract. However, the law was later revised and under current Minnesota law, the court will not consider marital misconduct in awarding spousal maintenance or in dividing property. There are only a couple of exceptions to this. First, the court can consider a spouse’s waste of material assets. For example, in one divorce case, the court considered the wife’s gambling addiction in making a property division, since the wife had lost a significant amount of money and the parties’ credit card debt was primarily a result of the wife’s gambling. Another exception is where one spouse’s misconduct results in the other spouse having a limited ability to provide for themselves, such as if the husband was physically abusive to the wife, causing her a serious injury which in turn limited her employment prospects. Or, in another case, the wife was Taiwanese and had married the husband (and immigrated to the United States) after responding to a newspaper ad placed by the husband to find a bride. The court noted the fact that the husband was responsible for getting the wife to come to a country where she did not speak the language and could not support herself.
If the court won’t generally consider fault in dividing property or awarding support, what WILL it consider? There are several factors listed in Minnesota law; they include the length of the marriage, and your and your ex-spouse’s ages, health, occupations, and source of income. These issues are what you will need to focus your arguments on, not whether your ex was the one who started the most arguments between you two.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or email me at Jkohlmeyer@rokolaw.com
Rosengren Kohlmeyer, Law Office