Whether you are in the early stages of considering divorce or you are actively planning to file for divorce in Michigan, it is essential to understand how your property is likely to be divided in your case. You might already know that, according to Michigan divorce law, Michigan is an “equitable distribution” state when it comes to the division of marital property. Accordingly, all marital property owned by a married couple will be divided between them in a way that the court determines to be fair to both spouses as opposed to equally. Equitable means fair and does not mean equal (although in some cases, dividing the property equally between the spouses ultimately could be what is most equitable or fair to both parties). Yet equitable distribution is only one element of the property division process.
There are various steps that take place in the division of marital property in Michigan, and we want to make sure you understand how it works.
Classification of Marital and Separate Property
The first step in any property division case is the classification of marital and separate property. Separate property typically includes any property acquired prior to the date of the marriage. Marital property typically includes all assets and debts acquired by either party after the date of the marriage, unless one of the following is true:
- Property is excluded from divisible marital property through a valid prenuptial or premarital agreement
- Property was inherited by only one of the spouses during the marriage
- Property was received by only one spouse as a gift
- Property was acquired by one of the spouses with that spouse’s separate property
Once property is accurately classified, the case can move forward.
Consideration of Commingled Property
Before marital property is divided between the parties, the court will need to consider commingled property. Commingled property included any assets or debts that have elements of both separate and marital property. For example, under Michigan law, assets that initially would have been separate property but that increased in value due to the support or investment of the other spouse may be divisible.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Property Based on Facts of the Case
Once all property, including commingled property, has been identified and classified, the court can divide marital assets and debts equitably between the spouses. The court can consider a variety of factors that are relevant to the particular married couple in determining what is equitable, such as the length of the marriage, the health and age of each spouse, the employability of each spouse, the standard of living established during the marriage, and other relevant factors.
Marital Settlement Agreement as an Alternative
If you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement about how marital property will be divided in your divorce, through family mediation or other negotiation methods, you can enter into a marital settlement agreement. The Michigan Courts provide general forms for marital settlement agreements, and you can work with your Michigan divorce attorney to ensure that you supply all required documentation to the court. Keep in mind that you can attempt to reach an agreement with your spouse through divorce mediation, and if you cannot agree to a settlement, you can always take your case to court and ask the judge to determine how marital property will be equitably distributed between you and your spouse.
Contact a Divorce Attorney in Michigan
If you are thinking about divorce, it is important to seek advice from one of our Michigan divorce attorneys as soon as you can. By planning ahead and considering various issues pertaining to property division in the state, you can ensure that your case will go as smoothly as possible. Contact Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC today for more information.