One of the most overwhelming aspects of divorce and separation is determining which spouse gets to keep which property. While it is ideal for couples to reach a consensual agreement about how to divide their property, this is unfortunately not always the case. Negotiating such sensitive topics as who gets to keep a home or business, or how to divide your life savings, can be an extremely emotionally draining process for the entire family. We work closely with our clients to understand their unique situation and fight for the most favorable asset evaluation and distribution possible. At Melissa Pearce & Associates, we believe that divorce does not always have to be contentious and heated. We maintain a calm and focused voice during negotiations. This is critical in helping our clients reach a property agreement that is fair and equitable to all parties involved.
When a couple divorces, all of the property and debts that they incurred during their marriage must be divided and distributed between them. Michigan law requires the equitable division of marital property upon divorce or separation. “Equitable” means what is fair under the circumstances. In other words, the division of marital property will not always be 50/50 between the ex-spouses. The division of marital property may ultimately be influenced by a number of factors.
Marital property includes any tangible and intangible assets either spouse acquired while married. Some common examples of marital property include:
By definition, marital property excludes each spouse’s “separate” property. This includes any property the spouse acquired before the marriage, or that was acquired by inheritance or gift. Courts are generally not at liberty to divide and distribute spouses’ separate property, unless the spouse commingled their separate property with the marital property. It is in your best interest to speak with an experienced Michigan family lawyer to determine which assets may be subject to equitable distribution.
If the parties cannot agree on how to divide their assets, a court will decide for them. When determining an equitable division of assets, a court may consider numerous factors, including:
This list is not exhaustive. Each divorce is unique, and no two asset divisions will be the same. The court weighs these factors to try to reach a fair agreement. For example, in a short-lived marriage, a court may be more inclined to distribute each spouse’s contribution to the marital property accordingly. If one spouse starts a business, and the other spouse seeks a divorce after only a year of marriage, a court may decide that the spouse who invested their time and money into the business gets to keep it. On the other hand, for longer marriages, the assets are likely to have become more intertwined, so the courts may divide them more evenly or according to each spouse’s unique needs.
Couples commonly incur debts alongside assets during their marriage. Often, one or both spouses bring prior debt into the marriage. These will be considered to be separate and are not part of the equitable distribution process. Debts incurred during a marriage, such as mortgages or credit card debt, generally need to be divided equitably between the parties. Generally, debts will be distributed with the assets with which they are associated. For instance, if one spouse receives a car in the divorce, they will usually be responsible for the car payments. However, both spouses may retain responsibility for debts that are linked to a joint account, such as a credit card, after the divorce.
The asset evaluation and distribution process can be daunting. Not only do couples need to inventory their joint assets, but they also need to determine their worth. After all of these administrative difficulties comes the difficult part: negotiating how they will be divided. The experienced Michigan family law attorneys at Melissa Pearce & Associates have represented many clients through this process, and we may be able to support you too. You should not have to fight on your own. We pride ourselves on our ability to remain professional and thorough while defending our clients’ financial wellbeing. Contact our experienced divorce attorneys today to schedule a pre-engagement meeting. We want to hear more about your unique circumstances and see how we may be able to help you.