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How property is divided in a divorce?

Throughout marriages in Michigan couples can acquire significant amounts of property. People may grow retirement accounts, purchase homes and other real estate, have collections, buy stock and have other investments and own many other types of property. Couples may also have certain debts their incur as well such as credit card debt, mortgages, car loans and other types of debts.

The law deems that the couple owns the property together regardless of whose name is on the title or on the account. This means that if a couple divorces they will need to divide the property and debt they acquired during the marriage and the law requires that this is done fairly. Below we will discuss how this is done.

Marital Property and Debt vs. Separate Property and Debt

The first step in the process of dividing property and debt is determining which property is marital property. This is generally defined as property or debts acquired during the marriage. However, generally gifts and inheritances given to only one spouse will remain separate property.

For the most part property or debt acquired by a spouse prior to the marriage is separate property and debt and generally will be award to the spouse who owned it or incurred it prior to the marriage.

However, if the spouse puts separate property into a joint account or the couple improves separate property during the marriage and increase its value, separate property can become marital property and will need to be divided during the divorce.

Factors Used in Determining Fair Division of Marital Property

In making determinations regarding the division of marital property and debt, there are certain factors that judges use and these factors will also be helpful in guiding couples as they discuss potential settlement options. The factors include, but are not limited to, the length of the marriage, contributions by the spouses in acquiring the property, each spouse’s ability to earn income, each spouse’s financial needs, fault of each spouse in leading to divorce and other relevant factors.

The division of property is one of many decisions that must be made during a divorce in Michigan. It can be a complicated one as well depending on the amount and types of property people own. This is especially true since the division only needs to be fair and there is not a clear rule about what is fair in each individual divorce. Experienced attorneys understand the complications that can arise and may be able to guide one through the process.