Hi - my name is XXXXX XXXXX X'm a Family Law litigation attorney here to assist you.
Minnesota is referred to as an "equitable distribution" state. This means that you and your wife will be given an opportunity to settle on property division - including the house. You may have to offer to buy her out or give up other things to get her to agree to give you the house.
If you are unable to reach a settlement, the District Court will take the following approach to dividing the assets; First, it will go through a discovery process to classify which property and debt is to be considered marital. Next, it will assign a monetary value on the marital property and debt. Last, it will distribute the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is deemed by the District Court to be fair.
Here's a link to the property division statute: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=518
If both of you dig in your heels with regard to the house, the judge can order that it be sold and that the proceeds be split between you both after retiring the mortgage. If this happens, you will be able to buy the property at the public sale, but you'll pay a premium at this stage. Thus, you're better off to try and settle on this with her without the court getting involved.
I bought the land the house sits on before we were married. Do you think that may help me in court? What does a buy out mean?
Even if you bought the land before you were married, the property and the house became marital property if the house was your marital residence. Thus, it is unlikely that this will make a great deal of difference to the judge.
"Buy out" means that you will pay your wife for her 1/2 interest in the house. Usually, the judge will order an appraisal of the property, and it is likely that the judge will apportion ownership at 50/50.
If the house is worth $400,000, each of your equitable interests would be $200,000. If you owe $200,000 on the house, you would have to assume her liability for the note ($100,000) and then pay her the equity ($100,000) she's entitled to in order to buy her out.
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