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How does a Michigan judge divide marital property?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Divorce

People in West Michigan considering divorce often have a lot of questions. What they know about divorce may consist primarily of half-truths and urban legends. They may have heard stories online or enjoyed fictional stories featuring divorces.

The information that people share about the divorce process is often inaccurate or only accurate in one specific state. Every state has its own laws related to divorce proceedings. Even information that may be accurate in one jurisdiction can be misleading for those in other states. Many people worry intensely about the property division process in particular. Stories about uneven and unfair outcomes make people feel anxious about the need to divide their resources.

What happens if a Michigan family law judge has to divide marital property during a divorce?

Michigan’s law focuses on fairness

While it is common for people to feel as though the outcome of a divorce was patently unfair, the goal during divorce proceedings is to reach a fair and appropriate settlement. Equitable distribution can lead to significantly different outcomes from one couple to the next.

A Michigan judge handling a contested divorce case learns quite a bit about the marriage before making property division decisions. They review an inventory of assets and debts. They also learn information about the circumstances of the marriage. Those details then guide them as they make decisions about who retains certain resources and who has to assume responsibility for marital debts.

Factors including the duration of the marriage, the current income and earning potential of each spouse and even the custody arrangements for the family can influence how a judge divides their property. Judges may sometimes award more marital property to one spouse or might make them responsible for more of the marital debt.

Particularly when spouses have a complex estate or very specific goals for property division matters, they may find that cooperation is preferable to litigation. Spouses can theoretically set their own terms through an agreement if they pursue an uncontested divorce. There is effectively no way to predict the exact outcome of litigated divorce proceedings in Michigan because so much is left to the discretion of the judge.

Understanding the rules for property division can be helpful for those preparing for a Michigan divorce. Those who understand the concept of equitable distribution can potentially advocate for a more appropriate property division settlement accordingly.