Factors Used in Dividing Marital Property
There is no fixed percentage or mathematical formula applied to the division of a marital estate upon divorce in Michigan. Courts are obligated to consider many factors in deciding how to allocate or divide a marital estate in the case of divorce. While the court is not required to consider every issue in every case, they must look at any issues which are relevant.
The factors most often considered are set forth in Michigan case law, and include:
(1) the length of the marriage;
(2) the contribution of each party to the marital estate;
(3) the needs of the parties;
(4) the needs of the children;
(5) the parties’ earning ability, age, and health;
(6) fault or past misconduct of the parties; and
(7) any other equitable factors the Court finds relevant.
The court is obligated to strive for a fair division of the assets of the marriage. This must take into account the appreciation of assets that may have been owned prior to the marriage but that increased in value during the marriage as a result of the efforts of the parties.
How Courts Divide Marital Property
In its most basic form, the division of a marital estate is a three step inquiry, and the Courts will focus on these questions:
(1) What is the scope of the marital estate? The Court will examine and pool together all of the assets owned by the parties as a couple.
(2) What is the value of the entire collection of assets? This is an attempt to place a monetary value on each item in the collection of assets, which will enable the Court to make an equitable split of the property.
(3) How can the property be divided to provide both parties with a fair share?
These basic questions will be applied regardless of the size of the estate. However, even if these questions can be answered in their basic form, a number of subissues typically arise in any given case. For example, courts will often be called upon to determine how to categorize property that was owned by one party prior to the marriage and subsequently brought into the marriage property, or inheritance left to one individual during the marriage.
Determining Marital vs. Separate Property
The length of the marriage and the co-mingling of assets during the marriage are pivotal when considering the issue of whether property is marital or non-marital. Ordinarily, all assets acquired during the marriage by either party are marital.
In addition, assets owned by either party prior to the marriage which appreciated in value during the marriage as a result of the efforts of both parties will be considered marital in nature. Assets (or parts of assets) owned by one party prior to the marriage which may have been kept separate or segregated during the marriage may not be considered marital assets.