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Is Moving Out Of The Marital Residence Prior to a Divorce considered Abandoning Property in Minnesota?In this article, you will learn:

  • How leaving a property quickly can affect divorce proceedings
  • What to do to protect property from an abusive spouse
  • Why abuse and family law matters so closely intersect

It is important to remember that every case is a little bit different. If you were to leave your house and you were gone for decades without saying anything, that’s going to be looked at a lot differently than moving out, finding another spot, keeping in contact with the kids, and starting a divorce or a legal separation where there’s very different circumstances. But when you are married, technically, you own everything together. There are ways that you can argue that some of the property might belong to one person or the other, but generally speaking, everything you own, your spouse owns, and vice versa. Again, there are exceptions, but that is typically the rule. In a divorce, you are still entitled to the equitable division of marital assets.

In a divorce, a person who moves out is still entitled to half of all the marital assets, and if the party who stayed in the home continued to work and develop assets, we would look at the time of the separation to determine the division of assets. We can look at a couple of different valuation dates, and there are valuation dates that we can agree to, some of them being arbitrary, and some of them are less arbitrary. Typically speaking, by law, the date of valuation of the marital assets is the date of the initial court conference or the initial case management conference. On that date, we would look at everything for valuation purposes, and when we look at valuation purpose, we look at how everything gets divided. Let’s just say we have a bank account with $100,000 in it. If one of the parties continues to contribute after the separation and the other person doesn’t, maybe we value that bank account at that $100,000 mark just on the date that the parties separated. But those are things that can be agreed to, and those are things that can be argued about.

What Someone Can Do To Protect Property From Damage, Sale, Or Disposal By An Abusive Spouse If Forced To Leave The Residence Suddenly?

When we serve the divorce paperwork, as part of the summons, there is a protective order for property that protects that property from being sold or being damaged. But up until we serve the divorce papers, if we are working with an order for protection or a harassment restraining order, and the parties need to be separated because of abuse, those orders don’t necessarily apply. If you have the opportunity, I would say take pictures of the things that you are concerned about. But the truth is, that there isn’t going to be a magic protective spell over that property. You just have to remember it’s a thing, it’s replaceable, and you are not. So, when there is abuse, I would encourage you to get out and worry about the property down the road. Put yourself and your safety first.

How Often Domestic Violence Issues Intersect With Family Law Matters In Minnesota?

Domestic violence in Minnesota is generally defined as assault. If we take a look at what assault is, we are looking at somebody who hurt you, somebody put their hands on you when you didn’t want them to in a manner that was threatening, or when somebody forced themselves on you in a sexual way. Also, when somebody causes you to fear for your safety. So, considering the size of the parties, if there is significant size difference between the parties, that matters. Somebody who is 5’2” and 100 pounds threatening to throttle you when you are 6’4”, how credible is that threat? We have to consider that. On the other hand, if the situation is flipped and you are 6’4” and she is 5’, 100 pounds, and the larger party is threatening the smaller party, that’s going to be taken more seriously.

So, there’s a number of different factors that go into whether or not an assault occurred, whether or not there was fear, and whether or not that fear was reasonable. I have heard from somebody who said they were scared, but the facts of the case weren’t such that a reasonable person should be scared. It may be that she felt that way, but the facts just didn’t add up to where a reasonable person would feel scared in that circumstance. So, it is something where that fear needs to be reasonable or there needs to have been an assault, and once there is an assault, then we look at the degree of the violence. We look at the degree of the action, how much violence was done, were there broken bones, was there blood, were there cuts, were there marks, was there the shape of a handprint on somebody’s face or red marks on somebody’s neck, was that violence something that the first responders could see, was it something that you took pictures of? All of those things add up to domestic violence.

There’s also financial abuse and emotional abuse, but those things are not considered domestic violence. They are part of a cycle of abuse, but they aren’t perceived as part of the domestic violence for the purposes of the Minnesota laws. It doesn’t mean that it’s right that you can take advantage of somebody financially or emotionally, but it doesn’t add up to that domestic violence piece. How it relates to family law matters is that if there is domestic violence, you can get an order for protection, and you can get a harassment restraining order. If there is behavior that doesn’t necessarily meet that standard of domestic violence but at the same time is harassing, we were able to get a harassment restraining order.

How it relates more directly to family law is when there is domestic violence between two parties who have children together, there is a presumption against joint legal custody. The reason for that is it is a factor in how people make decisions. If you are fearing for your life, you are fearing for your child, you are fearing for anything, it’s really difficult to make a decision that’s in the best interest of the child because you have fear behind all of it. It comes out in a divorce as a dissolution, paternity case, or custody case.

For more information on Division Of Marital Property In A Divorce Case, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (763) 284-5552 today.

Kathleen Gomez

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