How Does Property Division Work in a Divorce?

Property is something that we continually acquire, from large items such as our homes and vehicles, to simply trinkets and clothing, nearly all of our possessions may be considered as a distributable asset. When it comes to property and divorce there are community property states and common law, otherwise known as equitable distribution states. The majority of states, including Michigan, follow an equitable distribution model for property, which is what we will focus on in this post.

Michigan is an equitable distribution state when it comes to marital assets. This does not necessarily mean that property will be divided equally, but rather that it will instead be divided equitably. The only two ways that property can be divided is by the court or by agreement of the parties. The court has great discretion when deciding who gets what in a contested divorce action, judges aim to be fair, but even so- this does not usually mean a 50/50 split of assets.

It is most always advantageous for the parties of a divorce action to try and work together when it comes to property distribution, because when the decisions come down to the court the outcome can often be unfavorable to one or both parties.

All marital assets are subject to distribution, which would be property acquired or earned during the marriage. Keep in mind, that under specific circumstances property acquired outside the marriage or by non-typical means, can become marital property when certain requirements are met.

Separate property such as property acquired before marriage, inheritances, and gifts are generally considered as being separate property. Yet, they may become marital property if they are commingled with martial assets and the parties treat such property as a marital asset. If the property awarded to one party is not sufficient for the party or children,if children are involved, separate property can be awarded to a party. Also, if the other party contributed to the improvement or accumulation of the property these “separate” assets can be deemed to be marital property.

If the parties are unable or unwilling to agree on how property will be distributed then it will be up to the court to decide who gets what. When determining a fair and equitable distribution of assets the court must consider the following factors:

1. The contributions of the parties to the marital estate.

2. The health of the parties.

3. The age of each party.

4. The past relations of the parties with regard to infidelity- including who was at fault.

5. The earning abilities of the parties.

6. The life status of the parties.

7. General principles of equity and fairness with regard to each party.

8. The necessities and circumstances of the parties.

9. The duration of the marriage.

As you can see, complex issues can often arise when parties are seeking a divorce and are unable to come to an agreement to the distribution of marital assets. It is important to speak with an experienced attorney, to ask them questions, and to gain insight as to the options and possible outcomes of your specific case. We welcome you to contact us here at The Mitten Law Firm with question, concerns, or doubts that you may have about the process of asset distribution in Michigan.