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Separate property may be subject to division in Michigan divorce

Keeping separate property protected from division is an important thing to consider in marriage preparation for couples who bring significant assets to the table. The reason for this is that, although Michigan law generally protects separate property from division in divorce, it can happen that a non-owner spouse is able to claim a portion of separate property for one reason or another.

Michigan’s overall approach to property division is that of equitable distribution. Readers may be aware that, under this approach, judges are given the discretion to divide marital property with an eye toward achieving a fair result, considering all relevant factors. Generally speaking, separate property is awarded to its owner in divorce, but there are some cases where separate property may be awarded to a non-owner spouse. 

One situation in which separate property may be subject to division is when the non-owner spouse is able to show that he or she contributed to the "acquisition, improvement or accumulation" of that separate property. This can happen when one party brings real estate to a marriage and their spouse helps make improvements or additions to that property. The same thing can happen with businesses brought to a marriage. Many couples make joint contributions to a separately-owned business, and this can complicate the issue when it is time to account for those assets in property division.

Another situation where Michigan courts may subject separate property to division in divorce is after a judgment of divorce or spousal maintenance has been entered, when it is determined that either party’s award does not constitute "suitable support." What exactly this means is not always easy to say with clarity and it is important to be represented by a knowledgeable attorney to ensure one’s interests are protected.

In our next post, we’ll focus this discussion on the issue of inherited assets, and look at some ways owners of inherited assets may protect inherited property from division in the event of divorce

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Separate property may be subject to division in Michigan divorce | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC