While not all couples will deal with alimony and issues related to minor children, most parties in a Michigan divorce case must address property division. Often, they can reach an agreement on how to divide some or all of their assets, either on their own or through the divorce mediation process. In the event of disputes on how to divvy up real estate and personal property, the parties must go to court and conduct a hearing on the issue. The judge will apply the principles of Michigan’s equitable distribution statute to divide assets, and enter the corresponding order.
However, a fundamental starting point is that only marital property is subject to asset division. Certain items are excluded from the analysis, at times creating confusion about how the laws apply to inheritances. If you have assets that your first ex left to you, you may wonder whether your current husband can claim them in divorce. You should trust a Michigan property division attorney for specifics, though an overview of the basics is helpful.
Default Rules on Equitable Distribution
There are two different approaches on handling property in divorce: Community property and equitable division. Michigan falls in the latter category, so the analysis of asset division works as follows:
- The court will first determine which items are marital assets, and items will typically be designated as such if they were acquired during the marriage. All other property is non-marital or separate, and it belongs to the individual spouse.
- Once assets are designated as marital or nonmarital, the judge will distribute them to each party according to the interests of fairness. This may not result in a 50-50 split, as the goal is equity.
Note that debts also receive the same treatment under Michigan divorce laws. They will also be separated into marital versus non-marital obligations before applying the equitable distribution concepts.
Exceptions to Property Division Laws
The default rules notwithstanding, the distinction between marital and nonmarital assets is not determined on the basis of the wedding date alone. The laws provide exceptions under certain circumstances. You could receive something after getting married, but it would still be considered non-marital property and your own to keep in divorce. For instance, when you receive a gift, the presumption is that it was intended for you. Keep in mind that this may not be the case for wedding gifts or presents to both of you, however.
Inheritances are treated similarly for purposes of equitable distribution laws. It does not matter when you married your current husband: Any assets left to you by your ex are part of the inheritance from your ex-husband and will not be divided by the court.
Consult with a Michigan Property Division Lawyer About Your Rights
As you can see, there are many subtleties under Michigan divorce laws on asset distribution, which is why retaining experienced legal representation is critical. To set up a consultation with a skilled property division attorney, please contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins today.