Property division is often a major point of contention or at least focus during a divorce. There can be a great deal of conflict over assets.
Michigan is not a community property state where judges simply split everything in half. Instead, it is an equitable distribution state, meaning they consider many factors to determine what constitutes a fair division.
The difference between marital and separate property
Not all property is subject to division, only marital property. This generally includes property acquired after marriage. Separate property, which usually includes what each person came into the marriage with, inheritance or gifts intended for only one spouse and anything protected by a prenuptial agreement. It remains with the original owner after the divorce. Debts fall under the same classification and distribution policy.
What judges look at when determining what is “fair”
Factors courts may consider include each spouse’s role in the household (stay-at-home parent versus breadwinner, for example), education level, work experience, health and age. They may also look at past bad behaviors, including adultery, gambling addictions and alcoholism. While these are only part of the equation, their presence may tip the scales more in favor of one party during the division process, especially if the offending individual squandered marital assets in the course of carrying out his or her misconduct. For instance, the judge may look at if one of the spouses blew a significant amount of marital funds on expensive gifts or fancy dates for his or her affair partner.
Property division is not solely a matter of equality in Michigan. Courts take into account many factors and then distribute only shared property in an equitable manner.