Grand Rapids Complex Property Division Attorney
In a divorce, asset division is one of the main components of the couple’s settlement. In Michigan and many other states, divorce courts divide couples’ property according to the doctrine of equitable distribution, which means that each partner receives a share of their marital property based on his or her personal and financial needs after the divorce.
Dividing assets equitably can be complicated. Often, other aspects of the couple’s divorce settlement have to be considered, like the couple’s child custody arrangement. The number of assets a couple owns and their values can substantially complicate the property division process, especially if the couple does not have a prenuptial agreement.
What is Marital Property?
Marital property is the property obtained and developed during a couple’s marriage. In contrast, separate property is property that belongs to only one partner, which can include assets obtained before the marriage or through inheritance.
Marital property can include the following:
- Retirement accounts;
- Savings accounts;
- Real estate, including the marital home;
- Tangible assets, like vehicles and personal items;
- Small businesses;
- Shares in businesses and partnerships; and
- Workers’ Compensation and Social Security disability benefits if the receiving partner was injured or disabled during the marriage.
What Does the Court Consider when Dividing a Couple’s Property?
Rather than cutting the marital estate down the middle, the court must determine each party’s personal needs to divide the property fairly. Factors the court considers include, but are not limited to:
- Each party’s current and potential income;
- Each party’s age and health;
- The length of the marriage and each party’s contributions to the marital estate; and
- The tax obligations of each asset and how they would affect each partner as single owners.
Issues that Can Complicate your Property Division
Beyond simply determining an equitable way to divide a couple’s marital assets, additional issues can crop up and complicate the process. A few examples of these include:
- Attempts to hide assets from one’s spouse. This can be done through large cash purchases, moving assets into hidden accounts, and delaying promotions and bonuses until the divorce is finalized;
- Determining the marital value of a piece of commingled property. Separate assets that grow in value during a marriage, such as a home owned beforehand that benefited from the spouse’s maintenance, can be considered to be partially marital assets. This portion must be valued and divided;
- Evidence that marital conduct detracted from the value of the marital estate. For example, if one partner had an affair and spent marital funds on his or her affair partner, the spouse may receive a larger share of assets to compensate for this loss; and
- Valuing a small business and determining its future. A couple might choose to sell their business or have one partner buy out the other’s interest in it.
Work with an Experienced Grand Rapids Divorce Lawyer
Getting divorced is rarely easy. If you are considering ending your marriage or if you have already begun the divorce process, it is important that you work with an experienced divorce lawyer who can act as your advocate and ensure that your rights are protected. To learn more, schedule your initial legal consultation with a member of our team at Van Den Heuvel Law Office today.