Property Division

Jennifer M Paine

"Equitable distribution" governs property division in Michigan.

The court starts with the presumption that the parties should each receive a "roughly congruent" share of the marital property.

Marital property is undefined by statute, but case law defines it as any property (including debt) acquired during the marriage, from any source, but excludes property acquired during the marriage and any increased in value so long as the increase was passive. However, special rules apply to gifts (whether they were for the marriage or for the individual), inheritances, and commingled property, and you should consult with a lawyer to determine what your particular county and/or judge considers marital and separate property.

There is no "bright-line" rule to divide property; instead, the court considers several factors, including the length of the marriage, the parties' needs, age, the value of the property, and so forth.

Fault is, in general, relevant if the fault that caused the breakdown of the marriage is related to marital property (e.g., your spouse had a gambling habit and, as a result, acquired substantial debt by refinancing your marital home). The court may also invade each party's separate property if the other party contributed to the increase in value of that property or if the other party "needs" a share of the property, using the same multi-factored analysis.

In the final divorce judgment, the court is required to divide the parties' marital property, stating specifically how to divide pensions, annuities, and other retirement accounts, that were acquired or accrued value during the marriage.