Divorce and Property Rights in Michigan

By Elizabeth Rayne

Understanding the rules for property division in a divorce in Michigan may help you to know what to expect before going to court and provide you with tools to negotiate your own property settlement to avoid trial. All marital property may be divided between the spouses, and Michigan courts strive to divide the property equitably. Fault does not come up when determining the grounds for divorce, but the court may consider fault when figuring out how to fairly divide the marital property.

Grounds for Divorce

Michigan allows for divorce only on the grounds that the marriage is irrevocably broken with no likelihood that the relationship can be preserved. The state laws are purely no-fault, meaning that neither spouse is assigned blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Although fault of either spouse does not come up when asserting grounds for divorce, the court may consider marital fault when it comes to property division, particularly if the marital misconduct affected the marital assets. For example, if one spouse's gambling or drug use caused the divorce, the court may award less property to the spouse who placed the financial burden on the marriage.

Settlement Agreement

As an alternative to going to court and having a judge determine the property division, many couples reach a settlement agreement. The couple has the right to decide the terms of the divorce on their own, including the division of marital assets and debt. Where a couple cannot decide, the property division will be decided by the court according to state law.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Equitable Distribution

When it is up to the court to determine the distribution of property in a divorce, Michigan courts follow the principal of equitable distribution. With equitable distribution, the property may be divided equally, but will be adjusted based on what the court deems would be fair and just for each spouse. The court will look at a number of factors to determine what would be equitable: the contributions each spouse made toward the property, each spouse's earning capabilities and each spouse's conduct during the marriage. The court will also consider the length of the marriage and how long one spouse may have depended on the support of the other, as a more financially dependent spouse may receive more property. If the court finds it relevant, it may consider the fault of either spouse in causing the divorce.

Separate and Marital Property

Michigan courts distinguish between separate property and marital property. Separate property is anything that either spouse owned before entering into the marriage, as well as property acquired during the marriage if it was given to one spouse as a gift or an inheritance. On the other hand, marital property is acquired during the marriage, generally by any means other than gifts or inheritance. Property that one spouse earns through employment may be considered marital property. Additionally, property that was at one point separate property may be transmuted into marital property if it is commingled with marital property. For example, a gift of cash to one spouse is considered separate property until she deposits the gift into the spouses' joint bank account, at which point the property is commingled and becomes marital property. In a divorce, separate property stays with the spouse who owns it, while only marital property is up for equitable distribution.

Types of Property

The types of property up for dispute in a divorce may include everything from the marital home to retirement plans. Marital property may include personal property, such as furniture and cars, as well as debt entered into during the marriage. All disputed property may be valued so that the court can determine an equitable distribution. If the couple owns a business, the spouses may determine the fair market value of the business, so that it may be divided between the spouses or offset by other awards of property.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Are the State of Wisconsin Laws on Dividing Assets After a Divorce?

References

Related articles

New Hampshire Law on Wedding Rings After Divorce

In New Hampshire, a spouse can seek either a no-fault divorce or a divorce based on the other spouse's fault. In either case, the New Hampshire court divides all of the couple's property -- whether acquired before or during the marriage -- according to an "equitable and just" standard. This includes engagement and wedding rings.

Life Estates & Divorce

One of the most important and complicated aspects of a divorce proceeding is dividing marital property, which may include property subject to a life estate. Divorces are subject to the law of the state where the proceeding is taking place, so the process of dividing up property will vary.

Divorce in Washington State With Separate Assets

Divorcing couples in Washington should be aware that the state has a somewhat unusual divorce law, in that courts are allowed to divide separate as well as community assets between spouses under certain circumstances. Washington courts distinguish between community property, acquired during the marriage, and separate property, acquired before the marriage, and will mainly divide community property between the spouses. However, what was once separate property may end up in the hands of the other spouse depending on the facts of the case.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Financial Gifts in a Divorce

In many cases, if you personally receive money as a gift, it will not be affected by a divorce. Generally, gifts made ...

South Carolina Divorce Court Ruling on a Spouse Trying to Take Everything I Worked For

Most people have heard horror stories about a spouse who seems to lose everything when he divorces, such as a large ...

How Are Assets Divided in Michigan During a Divorce?

In community property states, the law demands that courts divide marital property 50/50 when couples divorce. In ...

Jewelry in a Divorce

Jewelry, especially wedding and engagement rings, can be important symbols of a marriage as well as valuable assets, so ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED