Property Settlements in Macomb County Divorce
You have worked hard to get the things you have: your home, your car, etc. But a divorce can suddenly change everything. The division of property and assets (home, cars, bank accounts, etc.) during a divorce can have very serious financial and emotional consequences. Similarly, the responsibility for a couple’s debt can also have serious consequences.
Our experienced Macomb County divorce lawyers are here to help you understand how the division of assets (division of property) and division of debt works in a Michigan divorce – and to aggressively fight for your rights to ensure that you receive your fair share.
Understanding Michigan Property Division Law –
Generally, if two spouses can work out an agreement regarding the division of their assets and debts the Court will approve their agreement. However, when a divorcing couple cannot reach an agreement on their own, the judge will have to determine “who gets what.”
When Parties Cannot Agree on Property Division –
First the judge will need to determine which portions of the spouses’ assets are each spouse’s “separate property”, and which assets are part of the “marital estate”. Assets (and debts) that are part of the marital estate will be divided between the two spouses – but any assets or debts considered to be “separate property” will not have to be divided.
Separate Property includes any assets owned by one spouse prior to the marriage – such as a business, or perhaps an inherited building in another state, or a vacation home they bought before the marriage. Separate debt may be a student loan or large credit card or medical bills that one party incurred before the marriage. Separate assets and debts such as these generally will not be divided between the two spouses by the judge.
However, there is a very big exception to this rule. If the separate property (asset) that was owned before the marriage was ‘merged’ into the marital estate it will have to be divided. For example: if a spouse owned a business before the marriage – but then the non-owning spouse helped run the business for several years after the marriage – it will likely have to be divided.
Additionally, in some situations, a judge may deem that it is necessary to “invade” one spouse’s separate property (and order that it be split) to provide for “adequate post-divorce support” of the other spouse.
Inheritances are also generally considered to be the separate property of the spouse who received the inheritance. However, if the inheritance is “merged”’ into the marital estate, it may also have to be divided between the spouses. For example, if inherited money is put in the spouses’ joint bank account and used to pay household bills, it will likely be considered “merged” and will have to be “split.”
How is Property Divided in a Divorce in Michigan? Macomb County Attorney
The marital home, bank accounts, savings, cars, other personal property, and debt acquired during the marriage are typically going to be considered “marital property” by the Court – and will therefore be split between the parties.
Also subject to division by the Court are assets such as 401Ks and pensions. The general rule is that the spouse is only entitled to ½ of the portion of the 401K or pension that accrued (was built up) during the course of the marriage.
The parties are free to agree to any division of marital assets that they see fit. But if they cannot agree, the judge’s starting point – or “rule of thumb” – is that marital assets are split equally (50 /50). But this is only a “starting point”. The judge will also take into consideration a long list of factors (listed below) to determine “who gets what” as well as “who gets how much.”
Factors considered by Michigan judges when dividing marital assets:
· The spouses past relations and conduct;
· The duration (length of time) of the marriage;
· The original source of property (gift, inheritance, purchase, etc.);
· Each of the parties’ contribution towards the property;
· The parties’ earning ability (are they retired, disabled, unemployed, etc.);
· The cause for divorce (this is where “fault” can be considered);
· The age of the parties;
· The parties’ health and/or illnesses or disabilities (if any);
· The parties’ life status;
· The individual spouse’s needs, necessities & circumstances;
· General principles of fairness; and,
· ANY additional factors deemed relevant to a particular case.
Will a Lawyer Get a Better Property Settlement in My Divorce? Attorney
As you can see from the previous section, the division of a divorcing couple’s property and debts is not a clear cut formula. Rather, property division is a complex procedure that gives the judge considerable discretion to rule in favor of one spouse or the other. For this reason it is essential that you have an aggressive and experienced divorce attorney who understands Michigan law, and who will fight to protect your interests.