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Could the court award your separate property to your ex-spouse?

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2024 | Blog, Property Division |

Michigan law recognizes the concept of separate property, which refers to assets one spouse acquires before the marriage or obtains through inheritance or gifts during the marriage. The general principle is that each spouse maintains ownership of their separate property in a divorce.

However, there are times when a court could award ownership of separate property to the other spouse.

General rule

In Michigan, the court primarily focuses on achieving a fair division of marital property rather than directly redistributing one spouse’s separate property to the other. Marital property includes assets acquired during the marriage, and the court aims to divide this fairly, considering factors such as each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, the length of the marriage, and their respective needs.

Separate property typically remains with the spouse who owns it. The exception is when it commingles with marital assets.

Commingling situations

Commingling occurs when separate property and marital property mix. When this happens, it can make it challenging to distinguish one from the other. In such cases, the court may need to carefully examine the nature and origin of the property to make equitable decisions. Michigan law states that if a spouse can prove they assisted with the acquisition, improvement or maintenance of a separate asset, the court can divide it or award it to the other spouse.

Divorce courts in Michigan do not typically award one spouse’s separate property to the other directly. However, the distinction between separate and marital property can become murky. When this happens, it may require a judge to decide the actual ownership of an asset, which might lead to the division of separate property.