Divorce is the process by which a marriage is formally and legally ended. It is a difficult process for most people because it involves untangling lives that have been together for years. The emotional and financial burden of making that separation can be intense. One of the trickiest problems during a contentious divorce is figuring out who gets what. This is called property division and it is often the subject of dispute during divorce proceedings.
Michigan is a fair distribution state. This means that, while maybe the court will divide marital property in half, it does not have to. The court can look to the entirety of the marriage and earning potential of the ex-spouses to determine the fairest method to divide the property.
This means that the court will look to every possible factor including: education, experience, the likelihood of outside assistance, medical issues and anything else that could impact earning potential. The court may also consider other factors like the cause for the divorce and the presence of young children and the usual primary caregiver.
The real challenge is in establishing what constitutes marital and separate property. As a general rule, all property acquired during the marriage is marital property. It is irrelevant whose name is on the title or deed. However, there are exceptions to this general rule and this is referred to as separate property. There are two primary kinds of separate property: property acquired before the marriage and property acquired during the marriage via an inheritance.
Property that is acquired before the marriage, like a business, remains separate property. This includes any increase in value during the marriage unless the increase was due to the use of marital property. For example, you own your own business before a marriage but you hire your husband to work in the company. Your husband contributes valuable skills to the company that result in an increase in value. This increase in value could be considered marital property.
Speak to an attorney to clarify which is marital or separate property. The division and calculations can become complex depending upon your assets. Retaining an experienced family law attorney is critical to protecting your rights. Divorce does not mean that your ex-spouse can take your separate property.