Making the decision to divorce is always a tough one for any couple because of the far-reaching consequences for the spouses and their children. While all members of the family may be feeling insecure about their future, they may also be thinking about court proceedings that usually accompany a divorce.
Child custody, alimony, child support and property division are all decided by court order and the last one is often the toughest issue for Michigan couples. Although Michigan is an equitable distribution state, Michigan residents who have gone through divorce will agree that the state does not have clear laws that distinguish between marital and non-marital property.
Who will get what property, what is marital and what is non-marital and other relevant questions are decided by a judge who has no clear-cut property division law defining marital property and non-marital property. Property division in a divorce proceeding is completely dependent on what the judge thinks is an equitable division of property.
National family law provides two types of systems under which division of property is decided-the first is a dual-classification system and the second is an all-property system. Under the first system, the property is divided into marital and non-marital property. While non-marital property is awarded to the spouse who owns it, marital property is equitably divided between the spouses. Under the second system, the court has the power to divide all property equitably.
Michigan is the only state in the country where marital and separate properties are not defined comprehensively by any statute, which leaves judges with no option but to struggle with four distinct statutes that were passed at four different times. Michigan clearly needs statutory provisions that clearly define marital property and individual property for the purposes of divorce property settlement. In the meantime, divorcing couples should do their best to understand the law on property division and how it might apply to their case.
Source: MichBar.org, "Separate Property in Michigan," James P. Cunningham, Accessed on Jan. 23, 2015