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How Does Michigan Law Divide Assets in Divorce Cases?

Marriage is a complicated set of legal rights and obligations, including the presumed joint ownership of property acquired during the marriage. In a divorce, Michigan law provides for division of marital property according to the principle of equitable distribution, which may not necessarily be a 50/50 split. There are numerous factors a court will weigh in deciding how to achieve a fair division of wealth.

The first step in equitable distribution is to figure out what assets may be considered marital property, as opposed to property that is separately owned and thus is not subject to division. Generally, marital property includes anything the couple earned or acquired during their marriage. Common examples are the marital home and financial assets like bank accounts, investments and pensions. Assets acquired before marriage are usually considered separately owned, as are gifts and inheritances received by either spouse during the marriage.

However, property that started out as separate can become marital in nature. For example, the wife owned a house solely in her name prior to the marriage. Over the course of the marriage, the husband started paying the mortgage. He also helped pay for renovations made to the house. In this case, the house’s appreciation in value may be considered marital property. In addition, funds that started out as separate may be commingled in jointly owned and managed accounts and so become marital.

Once marital property is identified, the court must determine its value before dividing it between the spouses. The family home and other real estate must be appraised and the value of other assets must be measured according to market value. This may include either spouse’s ownership stake in a small business, which can in some circumstances be considered marital property.

Carrying out equitable distribution requires the court to look at a number of factors that determine each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, economic and otherwise. These include:

  • How long the parties were married
  • The health and ages of the parties
  • The financial needs and condition of the parties
  • The current health and life status of the parties
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity and potential
  • Both spouses’ past behavior, including marital misconduct

Fortunately, you may not have to rely on the court to decide how your property will be divided. Reaching an agreement with your spouse, with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer, is a more affordable and less time-consuming option that puts control of the property distribution process in your hands.

At Shatzman & Shatzman, we can help you navigate complex property distribution issues in your Michigan divorce. We serve individuals throughout Shelby Township, Chesterfield Township, St. Clair Shores, and the greater Detroit area. To schedule your free consultation, call 586-800-3018 or contact us online.