Valuing Property in Divorce
Abstract: Property in divorce can be a hotly contested matter. Understanding how to value property in divorce can help you save time and money by focusing your efforts on the property that has the most value. Property value can also be important in defending against a spouse’s attempt to defraud you of your rightful portion of the estate.
Judgment of Divorce and Property Division:
In order to make a divorce final, a judgment of divorce must be drafted and ordered by the court. One of the mandatory sections, which must be included in the judgment of divorce, is property division. Here, the court orders the division of real and personal property as well as marital debt.
How is Property Divided?
The court has two choices when it comes to property division: 1) the court may award the property to one of the parties, or 2) the court may award the value of the property to one of the parties (see MCL 552.19).
How Does the Court Assign a Value to Property?
If the value of the property in dispute is not consented to by both parties, the court must assign a value to it. Olson v Olson, 256 Mich App 619, 671 NW2d 64. The court should not just let the parties come to a value after the judgment of divorce is entered.
Knowing the court must set a valuation date does not preclude the parties from arguing over when a piece of property should be valued. Here, the court has options; it can value property on 1) the date of trial, 2) judgment, or 3) any more applicable date. Valuation date is especially important to individuals with large stock portfolios, real estate, or other such concerns.
What Happens if Property Value Increases or Decreases During the Divorce?
Often, when a case drags on for a significant time, the value of property changes during the pendency of the divorce. The court may take notice of changes in value of property that happen during the pendency of the divorce. However, the court is not required to take notice where the party seeking to update the value of the property has contributed to the delay of the case and therefore the change in value. Nor does the court have to take notice of changes in value that are due to one party’s bad actions.
How is Value Established?
-Divisible Assets: if an asset can be divided between the parties, the court will generally not determine a value. Maake v Maake, 200 Mich App 184, 503 NW2d 664. However, it would be rare for a court to force ex spouses to run a business together (see McDougal v McDougal, 451 Mich 80, 91 n9, 545 NW2d 357 (1996)).
–Use of Expert Testimony: The court may always base its findings of fact as to value on expert testimony (however, expert testimony is not required). Young v Young, 354 Mich 254, 92 NW2d 328 (1958).
–Parties’ Testimony and Stipulations: Property value can be set based on the parties’ testimony. Sullivan v Sullivan, 175 Mich App 508, 438 NW2d 309 (1989).
–Judicial Notice: as with other matters of fact, the court may take judicial notice of property value calculations.
–Court Findings: When parties’ evidence conflicts, the court may reject both parties’ experts and make its own findings. Pelton v Pelton, 167 Mich App 22, 421 NW2d 560 (1988). The court may also find that the parties’ testimony is insufficient and therefore appoint its own disinterested appraiser. Steckly v Steckly, 185 Mich App 19, 23, 460 NW2d 255 (1990).
Divorce and property settlements can be difficult and can feel overwhelming. Before agreeing to any property settlement and certainly before taking any legal action with your property in divorce, contact our experienced legal team in Grand Rapids at 616-698-0000 or www.clickforhoward.com
Statutory and Other Links: MCL 552.19