Outside of child custody disputes, one of the most difficult issues to resolve in any divorce is property division. To be able to move forward from your divorce, you want to reach a fair result in the division of your marital property. After all, once your divorce is finalized, you will likely have fewer assets than you did before your divorce.
Attorney Francie L. Novar has helped countless spouses throughout Washtenaw, Wayne and surrounding counties achieve their goals in marital property division. She takes great pride in offering aggressive legal representation with integrity. Her legal approach is particularly helpful in marital property division issues, including situations where one spouse has hidden or failed to disclose significant assets.
Don’t let your spouse take advantage of the marital property. Schedule a free consultation with Francie L. Novar to discuss your legal options today.
In Michigan, the Court will divide marital property in a just and fair manner. Courts will begin by assigning property as either marital property or separate property. Generally, any property acquired by either party prior to the marriage is separate property, as well as any assets acquired by gift or inheritance. However, under certain circumstances, separate property may be considered marital property. In other circumstances, a spouse may be entitled to invade their spouse’s separate property as part of the marital property settlement.
While judges often order a 50/50 split of all marital assets and debt, courts are technically free to order a different division as equity, or fairness, requires. In some situations, a court may deviate from a 50/50 division. When making a decision on property distribution, a judge will consider several factors, including:
- the length of the marriage;
- the spouses' contributions to the marital estate;
- the spouses' ages and health;
- the life status of the spouses;
- the spouses' necessities, financial needs, and circumstances;
- the earning abilities of the spouses (how much income each spouse could earn based on education, job skills, work history, and employment opportunities);
- the spouses' past relations and conduct; and
- general principles of equity (fairness).
For spouses with children together, one of the more contentious pieces of property to be divided is the marital home. The easiest way to resolve the division of the marital home is for the couple to agree to sell the property and divide the proceeds.
However, it is often the case that the custodial parent will want to stay in the marital home for the children’s wellbeing (e.g., it is close to their school). If there are enough joint assets available, the spouse who wants to remain in the house can buy out the other spouse's interest. Alternatively, amicable spouses might agree to keep the house in both names while only one party resides there until a certain date, such as when the youngest child completes high school.
If the couple cannot agree on what to do with the home, and how to divide their assets in general, the judge will decide based on the above criteria.
Can Separate Property Be Distributed to the Nonowner Spouse?
As discussed earlier, separate property is property one spouse owns and that typically cannot be divided. However, under Michigan law, separate property can be divided under two circumstances:
1. the marital estate is insufficient for the “suitable support” of the nonowner spouse and children; or
2. the nonowner spouse contributed (directly or indirectly) to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property.
Can Separate Property Become Marital Property?
If a spouse commingles their separate property with marital property, the separate property then becomes marital property up for division. For example, if a spouse deposits their inheritance into a joint marital bank account, the court will likely could deem all the funds in that account marital property.
Appreciation or income traceable to a spouse’s separate property may also be deemed marital if a parties’ efforts during the marriage increased the asset’s income or value (“active appreciation”).
There can be any number of unique issues in the division of marital property. For instance, when one or both spouses own a business, it is necessary to determine the value of the business. Spouses may have vastly different opinions on what a business is worth. In other cases, particularly when one spouse handles most of the finances, one spouse may hide assets from the other. Francie L. Novar, PLLC understands what to look for in these situations, and we will do all that we can to make sure all marital property is discovered. You can trust us to handle your case with integrity and honesty, ensuring that your property interests are being adequately protected.
Whatever the specific circumstances of your case, know that Attorney Francie L. Novar will protect your rights in negotiations, mediation, and when necessary, trial. Schedule a free consultation to get started today.