Fair & Equitable
Michigan law divides property in a divorce according to the principle of equitable distribution. Basically, this means a roughly 50/50 split of property. It is always better for a couple to reach their own property settlement agreement, without going to trial. Divorce mediation can play a strong role in deciding property and debt division.
The other choice is to have the solution to your property disputes imposed by a judge, who may not share your views about division of property. If both spouses cannot reach a property settlement agreement on their own, the court will divide the marital property and debts as the parties can agree.
The judge has a great amount of discretion in dividing property, but generally the court will not grant greater than 60%-40% property division unless extreme circumstances compel the court to do so. Marital property generally includes all property or assets accumulated during the course of a marriage. This involves property gained individually and as a couple.
Marital property generally includes each parties’ income, the marital home, cottages, rental properties, personal property, vehicles, stocks, bonds, savings, retirements, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, etc. Pets are also viewed as marital property in the State of Michigan.
Separate, or “non-marital property”, is generally any asset or income accumulated by a person before the marriage, that has also been solely owned or kept exclusively in that person’s name. However, even though property may be considered separate, the court still retains discretion to consider any increase in value of the separate property to be part of the marital estate.
Generally, an inheritance is considered separate property of the spouse who inherited it however in certain cases where the other marital property is not sufficient for the other party’s support and maintenance, an inheritance can also be subject to distribution by the Court as well depending on the circumstances.
Just as a couple’s property is examined to determine what is and is not considered marital property, so too must the couples’ debts be examined. Debts will be designated as either marital or non-marital. Like property division, debts will be divided between the husband and wife according to the principles of equitable distribution.
So long as the debt was acquired during the marriage, the court will not examine which party incurred the debt, except under certain circumstances. As with separate property, there is also separate debt. This is any debt incurred before you were married that is yours alone.
To be fair and equitable, the court must consider several factors when dividing property. These factors include:
- The source of the property
- The length of the marriage
- The needs of the parties
- Each party’s contribution toward the acquisition of the property
- The earning ability of each party
- The needs of the parties’ children
- The cause, or fault, of the divorce
Property and debt division can be a contentious issue in many divorces. It can also be a very complicated effort in accounting. Barring custody, alimony or support issues, the division of property and debts are almost always the most important aspect of a divorce. Counsel from the right attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of a divorce proceeding.
A fair property settlement requires an experienced family law attorney who not only understands the amicable law and how the court tends to treat various items of property but also the accounting, property valuation, tax issues, and other financial matters.
It is important that a party knows where things stand regarding the division of property and debts. If you are considering divorce and have questions about property division contact the attorneys at Gordon & Hess, PLC without delay.
The attorneys at Gordon & Hess, PLC have handled many cases with complicated division of asset and debt issues in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Holland, Muskegon, White Cloud, Battle Creek, Van Buren, Centerville, Kalamazoo, Allegan, Hastings, Stanton, Ionia as well as other cities throughout West Michigan and can help you.
Please contact Gordon & Hess, PLC now and schedule a free ½ hour confidential consultation to meet face to face and discuss the alimony issue you are facing and to discuss the best course of action. We will stand up for your rights, to help you seek a fair and equitable distribution of the marital estate. Call now at (616) 272-3331.