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Saint Paul Family Law Blog

What about gifts received from a spouse in case of a divorce?

Married couples often give one another gifts -- some more expensive than others. Anything gifted during a marriage will be seen as marital property in the case of a divorce. Minnesota couples considering divorce may be surprised to find that decisions regarding marital gifts may be more complex than expected.

The way courts view gifts may depend on when the gift was given. Gifts gifted before the wedding, including an engagement ring, are not considered as marital property, as they were given outside the marriage. However, if any of these gifts, especially jewelry, have been changed or improved while the couple was married, the way it is viewed changes. Gifts improved or changed are seen as marital property and can be included in the assets to be split between the divorcing partners.

Bird nest custody -- a new look at child custody

Like with just about everything else in life, aspects surrounding divorce are changing. The way in which child custody is viewed is trending toward true co-parenting. With a greater awareness of what is truly in the best interest of a child, the views of the courts as well as parents have changed over recent years.

In Minnesota and elsewhere, shared custody has become something many parents consider and courts prefer. To that end the concept of birdnesting is gaining in popularity. In this instance, children remain in one place -- usually the marital residence -- and the parents take turns to live with their children in that home. This type of custody is still quite uncommon and courts will only consider it if the parents both buy into the idea and make a formal request to that effect.

For most families in Minnesota, divorce means shared custody

When a parent considers divorce, they usually understand that their decision affects not only themselves and their spouse but also their children. In fact, many unhappily married couples remain married simply out of concern for how divorce may affect the children.

The truth is that if your marriage is unhappy, your children probably already know. It is often better for children to witness their parents having healthy relationships then to stay in the home with constant fighting and tension.

Retail therapy will not ease the emotions during a divorce

Most divorced Minnesota spouses will likely agree that ending a marriage is both financially and emotionally draining. However, it is crucial to avoid having the emotions rule the financial decisions made at this challenging time. This often happens when one spouse insists on keeping the family home after the divorce. Without proper consideration of all the factors, that person might find that the maintenance, mortgage and other house-related expenses are unaffordable on a single income. Securing a new mortgage on only one spouse's salary might be challenging.

For some people, retail therapy is the only medication for emotional trauma, but buying a new car, having plastic surgery or any other significant expenses can lead to an unmanageable debt load. Furthermore, it could adversely affect his or her credit score. Cashing in investments is another impulsive action that is best avoided because it might solve immediate problems but create future difficulties, and it might even ruin all goals and plans that person had for the future. It might be more beneficial to draft a financial plan.

Divorce while self-employed -- what now?

Being self-employed can be stressful. The idea of "you and you alone" being responsible for the financial contribution one makes to a household can be daunting because being self-employed requires financial and time sacrifices. When a divorce then becomes reality accompanied by a realization of the financial implications it brings, one may become overwhelmed.

Any self-employed person in Minnesota may benefit from considering the aspects mentioned below should he or she be in the midst of a divorce. Firstly, it is imperative to realize that there are many more options than the traditional divorce. While no option guarantees a cheap, fast and painless divorce, the right choice for one's particular situation may lessen the impact on a business.

Divorce -- how does it affect small business owners?

Establishing a business takes time and money and a lot of emotional investment. While it often becomes one's biggest financial asset, it also symbolizes personal achievement. So- what happens in the case of a divorce?

It is a fact that when one spouse owns a business, things will be more complicated and the business affected when a couple decides to part ways. The extent to which a Minnesota business may be affected in case of a divorce will differ, depends on which precautions are in place. Precautionary measures can be taken before marriage or during marriage.

The complex issue of division of marital property in a divorce

States are either considered as community property states or equitable distribution states. Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, which means that, in the case of a divorce, a judge will decide on the fairest way to distribute marital property. Ensuring a fair distribution of property is no easy feat and, very often, both parties may feel they were done in.

In coming to a decision on the fair distribution of assets, there are four issues you will have to handle. Firstly, it must be established what the assets of both spouses are. Secondly, these assets must be divided into two categories -- marital- and non-marital assets. Thirdly, each asset must be valued, and lastly, the two parties, with the help of their lawyers, must devise a way to divide the marital property according to Minnesota divorce laws.   

Are you being 'gaslighted' by your spouse?

If you and your spouse are in a volatile relationship, it's possible that your relationship could degenerate into domestic violence. Physical abuse can leave visible scars, but there is a type of psychological abuse that traumatizes its victims just the same — gaslighting.

That term is derived from a 1930s play that later became a movie. It was called Gas Light, because the plot revolved around a husband's attempt to make his wife think that she was losing her mind. He manipulated the gas-powered lights in his home to brighten and dim randomly while denying any changes were occurring in the room's illumination.

How long do alimony payments last?

Ending a marriage is typically traumatic for any Minnesota couple, and although most spouses may want to make a clean break and proceed with a new life, some connection will remain if there are children or if the court orders spousal support to be paid. The person paying alimony will likely not be keen on spending many years of supporting an ex-spouse, and, similarly, the one receiving it might want to become self-supporting as soon as possible. Both would want to know how long alimony will last.

Each case is unique, and the period of spousal support can vary widely. It will depend on state laws and also on personal circumstances. Typically, spousal support only lasts as long as it is officially needed. Lifetime alimony is no longer common since both spouses in most families are educated and able to earn an income.

How to avoid being in contempt of court in a divorce case?

Most people have something that make them see red and lose their cool. One place where even the most easygoing person can be tempted to act out is family court. In divorce proceedings, the judge may give such detailed instructions of what may and may not be done, that the recipient of the message may feel like he or she is in kindergarten.  Despite how this makes a person feel, Minnesota divorcees can only benefit from adhering to these court orders.

Not following the orders may result in a finding of contempt of court. This literally means that a person has failed to adhere to an order handed down by a judge. In the case of divorce, issues which commonly lead to contempt relate to custody, withholding financial information and ignoring restraining orders. Depending on the underlying issue, judges may give a person in contempt some time to rectify the issue, but not adhering may result in fines and even jail time.

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