A Washington County judge approved the divorce of Derek and Kellie Chauvin this week under secret terms due to the heavy redaction of court documents.
Washington County District Judge Juanita Freeman issued her order Tuesday under seal; a redacted version was made public Thursday.
Freeman ordered redactions in the case because of harassment and financial fraud allegations Kellie and Derek Chauvin faced. Most divorces and their settlements are public record unless a judge approves the parties' request to seal the documents.
The proceeding came under scrutiny after Kellie Chauvin filed for divorce two days after Derek Chauvin was charged with killing George Floyd on May 25, sparking speculation that it was a move to protect assets from civil litigation.
Two months later, attorneys for Floyd's family filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis, Chauvin and three of his former colleagues who assisted in Floyd's arrest: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
That same month, the Washington County Attorney's Office charged Derek and Kellie Chauvin with nine felony counts each for allegedly failing to claim $464,433 in joint income dating back to 2014. They are scheduled to be tried in that case June 30.
Last October, Freeman rejected the first proposed divorce settlement drafted by Kellie and Derek Chauvin, citing possible fraud and noting that giving "substantially all" of one's assets to the other spouse can be an indication of such activity.
The proposal was heavily redacted under parameters Freeman set out last year to protect sensitive information in the divorce documents.
Kellie Chauvin's attorney, Amanda Mason-Sekula did not return a message seeking comment; she has not publicly addressed the matter. Derek Chauvin does not have an attorney in the case, and could not be reached for comment. He is out on bond in the Floyd case.
"Judge Freeman is placed in a difficult position," said divorce attorney Jack De Walt, who is not involved in the case but has reviewed the latest documents and previous filings. "On the one hand, you have a case that clearly has larger implications on both a state and national level. … On the other hand, you have two parties seeking a divorce, and the [judge] must have felt that the revised proposal … adequately addressed her previous concerns."
The judge's ruling this week was accompanied by a "stipulated findings of fact" document outlining the division of assets she approved. It was heavily redacted, making it impossible to determine the terms of the settlement.
However, the document shares the same date as a second proposed settlement filed by Kellie and Derek Chauvin in December that had been briefly made public. That proposal would have awarded Kellie Chauvin about two-thirds of their marital and nonmarital assets, including their homes in Oakdale and Florida. It would have awarded her all of their marital assets — money and assets each earned during their marriage that state law encourages be divided in a "fair and equitable" manner.
Divorce attorney Marc Beyer, who is not involved but has reviewed documents in the case, said Freeman likely approved the December proposal. Court records show that Kellie and Derek Chauvin did not file another settlement plan.
"Either the court approves of the settlement or it doesn't," Beyer said. "If it doesn't, the matter would be set on for a contested hearing or further proceedings of some kind."
Veteran divorce attorneys have said an equal 50-50 split of marital assets is not required by law, and that judges have wide discretion.
"This Agreement was executed free from any duress, coercion, collusion or undue influence," said the document with Freeman's ruling.
State laws and policies promote settlements, which eliminate the need for court hearings and a trial, thereby saving the court time and money.
According to the December proposal: Kellie Chauvin's share of marital assets was $658,461; Derek Chauvin's share was an $8,862 debt.
Nonmarital assets, money and property earned before marriage, are commonly awarded to the earner. Derek Chauvin's nonmarital award was $429,630; Kellie Chauvin's share was $45,256.
Kellie Chauvin would receive $754,911 from Derek Chauvin's pension and three of his other accounts. He would receive $452,524 in nonmarital assets from the same accounts.
Derek and Kellie Chauvin married in 2010 and have no children together. They previously noted that they were not seeking spousal maintenance.
After all assets and debts are factored in, Kellie Chauvin would receive $703,717; Derek Chauvin would receive $420,768.
"On its face, you could say that it's surprising in that most people would advocate for a more equal division of the marital estate," Beyer said of the proposed settlement. "[Derek Chauvin] certainly could have gotten more of the assets had he pursued it, but I don't know what's motivating [him] right now."
Beyer said the judge could have been persuaded to award Kellie Chauvin more marital assets because of the amount of Derek Chauvin's nonmarital award and the impact his criminal case had on her.
The fact that Kellie Chauvin is not seeking spousal maintenance from Derek Chauvin could also factor into how marital assets were divided, De Walt said.
"It is hard to know what other conclusions to draw without seeing more the actual terms of the decree," De Walt said.
The December proposal said Kellie Chauvin lost her job as a Realtor last May and has been unable to work because of safety concerns. People protested outside their Oakdale and Florida homes and vandalized the properties. Kellie and Derek Chauvin were also stalked and were the victims of financial fraud, according to court documents.
The proposal said Kellie Chauvin received $12,996 in net profits from the sale of their Oakdale home, and was expected to incur unknown costs from vandalism to their Florida townhouse and other buildings in their association.
It also noted that she planned to legally change her name.
"The name change request is being made due to Petitioner's safety being put in jeopardy," court documents said.
Derek Chauvin is scheduled to be tried on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges March 8. Kueng, Lane and Thao are expected to be tried in one trial on Aug. 23. All four are out on bond.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708