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How is Marital Property Separated From Non-Marital Property in a Michigan Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

Michigan property division lawyerOne of the most important, and often most contentious, issues in a Michigan divorce is the process of separating a couple’s property into personal and marital property and then reaching a fair property division. While Michigan law discusses what constitutes personal and marital property, in practice assessing which is which can become quite complicated. In this blog, we offer an overview of marital and non-marital property and the overall goal of an equitable property division. Keep in mind that this is not intended to be legal advice and that a Michigan divorce attorney is the best person to answer any questions you may have. 

Marital Vs. Non-Marital Property 

As soon as a couple gets married, the income each couple earns and any assets or debt they acquire are considered marital property. This includes savings accounts, bonuses, cars, real estate, business profits, and more. While couples can protect certain belongings with a prenuptial agreement - for example, a prenup might state that all business gains and losses accrue exclusively to one partner - in general, anything acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. 

Non-marital property generally falls into one of the following categories: 

  • Gifts and inheritances, including cash, trust funds, or family heirlooms 
  • Retirement account balances that were earned before the marriage
  • Property that is protected in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

While this may seem like a fairly clear division, consider the following situation: A husband and wife have been married for fifteen years when the wife’s last living parent passes away, leaving her a sum of $250,000. The wife takes that money and places it into the couple’s joint savings account. Over the next few years, the couple pays for many things from that account that benefit the marriage - renovations to their home, which they both own; college expenses for their children; and medical expenses when the husband is diagnosed with cancer. Ten years later, when the couple gets divorced, how is the original $250,000 divided? How is the remaining amount determined? These questions can quickly become very complicated, requiring the help of experienced attorneys and financial professionals like accountants. 

Michigan Law Requires Equitable Property Distribution

In some so-called “community property” states, marital property is divided as close to 50/50 as possible. In Michigan, however, marital property must be divided equitably, or fairly. While this may sometimes result in a 50/50 division of assets, it will usually be more complex. Spouses must fully understand their financial picture and the financial contributions each spouse has made to the marriage. It is important to note that a spouse who forewent career opportunities to care for children will also be considered to have contributed financially to the marriage. 

Call an Oakland County Marital Property Division Lawyer

Ensuring that all marital properties and nonmarital properties are accounted for and fairly divided is essential for an equitable divorce decree. For assistance from an experienced Farmington Hills marital property attorney who can help you assertively negotiate for your property rights, call the team at Elkouri Heath, PLC. We offer free consultations so you can meet our staff and find out how we can help you. Call us today at 248-344-9700




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