“Hoist with his own petard” is a phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, referring to a bomb maker being harmed by his own creation. Though Minnesota divorces are not intended to end in such tragedy; there are cases where a litigant’s misconduct becomes their own ‘petard’ to which they fall victim.

The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure afford parties to divorce a right to exchange information needed to make a ‘fair and equitable’ division of a married couple’s assets. This exchange of information is called ‘discovery’, a process regulated by Rules 26 to 37 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Rules give courts broad authority to regulate discovery in a divorce. For good reason; courts want parties to cooperate. For example, Rule 37 of the Rules of Civil Procedure allows a Court to ‘sanction’ a party failing to cooperate with discovery. Sanctions can include:

  1. making ‘assumptions’ at trial in favor of the prejudiced party;
  2. prohibiting the offending party from raising claims or defenses at trial;
  3. striking the offending party’s pleadings; or
  4. defaulting the offending party

Any of these sanctions would be devastating to a party in a divorce. Take a recent Minnesota divorce, where a court sanctioned an uncooperative husband who was refusing to provide information to his wife during the divorce.

The couple owned a huge estate, worth more than 8 million; much of it owned by husband from before marriage. Husband had wife sign a pre-nuptial agreement, allowing husband to keep his assets in a divorce. And, had husband been cooperative in the divorce, the pre-nup might have fulfilled its purpose.

Instead, husband defied the court’s orders to share information with wife, and ultimately led to the court to default him, preventing him from asserting the protections of his pre-nuptial agreement. Husband was ordered to pay over 2 million dollars to his ex-wife, representing the majority of the parties’ verifiable assets.

Husband was the victim of his own misconduct, and would likely have benefited from the protections of his pre-nuptial agreement, had he respected the court’s authority in regulating discovery. Instead, he learned as Hamlet taught us centuries ago, to not be ‘hoisted by your own petard’.

Meet Tim Simonson

Tim has been practicing for more than twenty (20) years now, He's handled divorce, child support, child custody, third party and grandparent rights, domestic abuse, parenting time, and many other areas of family law. He always enjoys the chance to meet people and see whether he can help find solutions to their legal problems.

Contact Beyer & Simonson

If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.

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