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Determining an Equitable Division of Assets
The state of Michigan is considered an equitable division state, meaning that the courts strive to distribute assets equitably and fairly during a divorce. Marital property is divided using the theory of “equitable distribution,” which divides property as close to 50/50 as possible.
Michigan family law is fairly straightforward, and it is illegal for one spouse to hide marital assets during the divorce process. Assets must be disclosed. This certainly makes divorce a less strenuous and financially devastating affair for many couples, especially when working with a reliable family law attorney.
However, further confusion typically tends to arise when you get into the details: what is considered “marital property,” ie. shared property, or “separate property,” which one partner brought into the marriage?
What is Marital Property?
Michigan divorce laws define marital property as the property that comprises the marital estate. This includes every asset acquired during the marriage, including, but not limited to, the following common examples:
- Home furnishings and furniture
- Retirement savings accounts
- Bank accounts
- Pension plans
Which spouse technically earns the asset is irrelevant. The law still considers all of this marital property. This means that each partner is legally allowed equitable distribution as close to half as possible.
What is Separate Property?
While marital property is comprised of assets earned during the marriage, separate property includes any and all assets earned before the marriage. Of course, in some cases one spouse has considerably more assets prior to marriage—but this does not mean the other spouse is entitled to half. A business registered prior to marriage, for instance, still legally belongs to the partner who founded it. However, any growth in the business during the marriage could be considered a marital asset.
Another circumstance represented by separate property division is a gift or inheritance given to one partner, such as following the death of a relative. This is usually considered separate property, according to the Michigan legal system. However, there are a few exceptions to the general rule.
If you are concerned that your spouse may be illegally hiding marital assets, or you are uncertain which of your assets are separate, you would greatly benefit from a conversation with a reputable Grand Rapids attorney, experienced in the nuances and details of family law, like Beth Striegle.