Marital Property Division
Litigation, whether it’s about a business dispute, an auto accident or some other issue, is expensive and time-consuming. More often than not, the parties come away exhausted by the experience, and neither is typically completely satisfied with the outcome. It’s no different in divorce cases; even under Michigan’s “no fault” divorce law, issues concerning custody and visitation of minor children, child support, alimony and division of marital assets must still be resolved. If you’re seeking a divorce, the experienced lawyers at Lucido and Manzella will therefore always encourage you to consider the possibility that you and your spouse can agree on issues beyond the divorce itself.
But even if you have no kids (or they’re grown) you’ve probably accumulated during your marriage at least some real and personal property (Michigan law calls this the “marital estate”), and we know that reaching an agreement regarding the division of these assets can often be difficult and emotional for all involved. Sometimes, it’s necessary to let the court decide. In this case, Lucido & Manzella lawyers will fight to be sure you receive a fair allocation of the wealth you helped to accumulate.
Michigan is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. In California and other so-called “community property” states, the court will generally try to achieve as close to an equal distribution of property as possible, regardless of the wealth or need of either spouse. By contrast, a Michigan judge is required to divide the marital estate in a way that is equitable (that is , fair) to both parties. As you might imagine, this is more art than science, though the law does provide for some guidance.
The court will first decide whether any portion of the estate is “separate property”. These are assets that are not considered part of the marital estate and therefore not subject to division. One common example is property a spouse inherited from a parent or other person.
The court will then divide the marital estate, taking into account a number of factors, including:
- How long the couple was married
- The sizes of parties’ respective contributions to the marital estate
- Their ages and health status
- The ability of each to earn a sufficient income, considering education, work history and the job market
And, while Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state, the cause of the divorce, if it was the conduct of one spouse (such as adultery or mental or physical cruelty) can still be considered when dividing the marital estate.
Property is divided “in kind” – that is, simply split as directed by the court between the spouses, or by one party giving up an asset in exchange for another of equal value. Thus, a bank account can readily be divided in kind, while the equity in a home may be exchanged for other property of comparable value.
Responsibility for Debts
Debts, like assets, are ordinarily required to be divided equitably. In general, this means that divorcing spouses will be required to share responsibility for debts incurred jointly during the marriage. Debts incurred by one spouse for his or her own purposes, though, will usually remain his or her sole responsibility.
Pensions and Retirement Accounts
Michigan residents, like all Americans, are not only living longer than ever before, we’re also getting divorced at ages that would have been almost unheard of a generation ago. While this often means that the frequently difficult issues concerning minor children are not involved, it’s often true that an older spouse will have accumulated substantial pension or other retirement benefits. In general, the amount of any private, government, or military pension hat has earned income from the time of your marriage until the time of your divorce is subject to equitable division.
Getting Solid Legal Advice
The division of your marital assets can have a long-lasting impact on your post-divorce quality of life. By the same token, each couple’s situation and each marital estate is unique. If you’re a Macomb County resident who’s considering divorce, we at Lucido and Manzella P.C. encourage you to speak with one of our knowledgeable and experienced lawyers about your case. We’ll give you a fair and honest assessment of what we believe you realistically can expect to receive when the divorce is final. Contact us today at (586) 842-0198 to work with one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys.