Thursday, November 19, 2020 6:18 PM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge has rejected a divorce settlement between former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and his wife, citing the possibility of fraud.
Washington County District Judge Juanita Freeman did not discuss motives for the divorce in her October decision to reject an agreement that transferred most of the couple’s assets to Kellie Chauvin, the Star Tribune reported. But attorneys say it adds to speculation that the Chauvins are trying to protect their assets.
Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of George Floyd, and he also faces a lawsuit from Floyd’s family. Kellie Chauvin filed for divorce on May 31, days after her husband was charged.
Freeman wrote that judges can deny an uncontested agreement between a couple if “the transfer features ‘badges of fraud.’”
“The Court has a duty to ensure that marriage dissolution agreements are fair and equitable,” Freeman wrote. “One badge of fraud is a party’s transfer of ‘substantially all’ of his or her assets.”
The terms of Derek and Kellie Chauvin’s agreement have been heavily redacted. Freeman wrote that under the agreement, Kellie Chauvin would have received all equity in the couple’s two homes, all the money in their bank and investment accounts and all the money from Derek Chauvin’s pension and retirement accounts.
Marc Beyer, a divorce attorney not representing either party in the Chauvin case, said it's possible the agreement was created to get assets out of Derek Chauvin's name before a possible civil judgment against him. The lawsuit against Chauvin and three other officers accused of aiding and abetting did not specify damages, but family attorney Benjamin Crump has said they would seek “a precedent that makes it financially prohibitive for police to wrongfully kill marginalized people.”
Kellie Chauvin’s attorney, Amanda Mason-Sekula, did not return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press. Derek Chauvin has no attorney listed in the divorce case. His criminal attorney, Eric Nelson, did not return a message.
Another divorce attorney, Victoria Brenner, said it's unusual for a judge to reject a stipulated agreement. Brenner said it could be argued that Kellie Chauvin needs more assets as her husband faces potential prison time. But, she said Derek Chauvin will need assets too.
The Chauvins could submit a revised agreement but if none is reached and approved, the case could go to trial. Freeman could also divide the assets.