Michigan Law on Divorce Settlements

By Beverly Bird

Michigan is one of the few states where judges can consider marital misconduct when dividing property in a divorce. Spouses can avoid a judge taking fault into consideration at trial by negotiating their own divorce settlement, called a property settlement agreement in Michigan. However, Michigan law regarding these settlements is somewhat complicated.

Court Approval

You can draft a property settlement agreement and submit it in written form to the court, or you and your spouse can appear in court and tell the judge the terms of your agreement. Under most circumstances, the judge will approve it. Now you -- or your attorney -- have a choice to make. You can merge your agreement with your divorce judgment in Michigan, or you can let it stand as a separate legal document. Your divorce judgment includes language indicating whether your agreement merges with it.

Merged Vs. Not Merged

If you merge your settlement agreement with your divorce judgment, your judgment is the legal document that sets the terms of your divorce. If you don't merge it, your property settlement agreement is a contract. Both are binding on you and your spouse, and both are enforceable, but in different ways and with different limitations. Michigan divorce courts do not have jurisdiction over your agreement if you don't merge it with your judgment -- they can't make any further rulings regarding it.

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

Enforceability

If you don't merge your settlement agreement with your judgment, and if your spouse doesn't abide by the terms of your agreement, you would have to enforce it in civil court as a legally biding contract. If you merge it, you can go back to family court if your spouse doesn't pay child support or alimony, or if he refuses to honor any other terms of your agreement.

Changing Your Agreement

As a contract, a property settlement agreement is virtually unmodifiable. The court can't legally change terms that you and your spouse agreed to. Exceptions exist only if the agreement includes a clerical error, such as a typo that changes its meaning, or in cases of fraud, such as if you or your spouse lied about something that materially affects the agreement. However, if you merge your agreement with your judgment, a family court judge can modify its terms. If your circumstances change and the terms of your agreement are no longer appropriate for you and your family, you can ask a family court judge to alter them.

Statutes of Limitations

Michigan law allows you to go back to civil court to break or undo your contractual agreement for up to six years. If you discover your spouse hid assets, you can reopen your settlement agreement in civil court until this statute of limitations expires. However, if you merge your agreement with your judgment, you only have 18 months to raise issues of fraud.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Happens in Texas if a Petitioner Refuses to Follow the Divorce Decree for Property Settlement?
 

References

Related articles

Can a Man Give Away Marital Assets Without the Consent of a Wife in Michigan?

As long as you’re married, the court has no jurisdiction over your property, in Michigan or elsewhere. The law doesn’t and can’t govern what private citizens do with their assets -- unless fraud is involved. Even then, the court won’t intervene unless someone, usually the injured party, opens a lawsuit asking a judge to make the situation right. A divorce is one such litigation.

Types of Pleadings in a Divorce

Like any legal matter, divorces can generate reams of paperwork. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially when terminology and requirements vary from state to state. The good news is that most states follow similar guidelines for pleadings. The bad news is that individual states sometimes call the same pleadings by different names.

How to Reverse a Divorce Settlement

While you may have no regrets about ending your marriage, you could have them regarding the marital settlement agreement your have with your ex-spouse. During and after your breakup, a number of circumstantial changes and new discoveries can occur that may cause you to rethink earlier decisions. It is not always possible to modify the terms of a marital settlement agreement – courts are reluctant to modify contractual terms without the parties' mutual consent – but you can sometimes have some or all of your settlement set aside. The exact procedure will vary depending upon your state.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How Long Does Divorce Take in Michigan if You Have No Children?

Establishing custody and support for a minor child can be a time-consuming aspect of the divorce process. These matters ...

How to Undo Custody Arrangements in New Jersey

The divorce process can be a bumpy road. You may think you have certain issues resolved, such as custody, but then ...

Statute of Limitations on Separation Agreements

Contracts don't typically expire unless an expiration date is included as a provision, or the law imposes a statute of ...

Unconscionable Divorce Agreement

Most states prefer that spouses negotiate a marital settlement agreement on their own when they divorce, rather than ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED