The longer your marriage has lasted, the more things you and your spouse have likely accumulated. It’s never easy parting ways with what you have, but it’s necessary when your marriage comes to an end. You must also divide any marital debts that you have.
These property division discussions are negotiable, but it helps to better understand your rights and options before you start.
What rules does Michigan follow when it comes to marital property?
Michigan follows the equitable distribution property division model. This means that a couple’s assets and debts are supposed to be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. If a couple cannot agree on what that means, the judge will attempt to do so for them.
During negotiations, you and your spouse only need to agree on what to do with marital assets and debts. These are the ones that you jointly acquired during the marriage instead of the separate ones you might have brought into it. (In some cases, assets or debts acquired during a marriage may be considered one spouse’s personal property. That often requires more negotiation.)
Judges tend to weigh various factors when determining whether the agreement you and your spouse reached or if the one they plan to impose is fair. You may even be required to pay back debts that you didn’t really think of as yours.
In the case of student loans, for example, before a judge would require you to pay off any portion of this debt that your spouse amassed during your marriage, they’d want to know more about your role while your husband or wife was in school. They might inquire about whether you:
- Had to put your career on hold to relocate for your spouse’s academic pursuits
- Wholly supported your family during your spouse’s enrollment in school
- Benefitted from your spouse’s receipt of student loans (such as whether the money went to pay some household expenses or just tuition and books alone)
When you find yourself having to assume more debt than you expected in your divorce, you may try and negotiate an increased share of tangible property to offset such an obligation.
As you likely can tell, property division is quite a delicate matter to try and sort out. Be strategic in doing so to ensure your financial interests are best protected.