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CONTRACTS 7: In the absence of a written agreement, plaintiff was not entitled to the house.

This case involves a dispute over the ownership of a multi-unit home located (the house). In January 2010, plaintiff and defendant began living together as a couple, and on December 21, 2011, the parties’ daughter was born. On December 26, 2012, defendant purchased the house; according to plaintiff, she provided the funds for the purchase of the house, but the couple agreed to title the house in defendant’s name alone upon the advice of the real estate agent.

The reason for this is disputed; plaintiff testified that she wanted to receive favorable tax treatment by declaring another property as her principal residence, and she believed that defendant could receive favorable tax treatment by declaring the house to be his principal residence. She testified that she believed that the owner had to live in the house for one year before renting it to qualify for the tax exemption, and for that reason, she and defendant agreed that the property would be titled in his name initially, then after one year he would convey the property to her.

By contrast, defendant testified that plaintiff was reluctant to title the house in her own name because she feared deportation. In any event, the parties do not dispute that they intentionally titled the house in defendant’s name alone.

Defendant testified that the parties discussed that future real estate purchases might be titled in plaintiff’s name or in both their names, but that he did not agree to convey the house to plaintiff.

In January 2016, defendant moved out and plaintiff continued to live in the unit with the parties’ daughter. Defendant thereafter mailed to plaintiff a Notice to Quit, directing plaintiff to vacate the house. Plaintiff then filed a complaint to quiet title.

At the conclusion of the bench trial, the trial court noted that the conflicting evidence regarding who paid for the house was not pertinent to the outcome of the case because plaintiff had not demonstrated the existence of a contract.

The trial court held that in the absence of a written agreement, plaintiff was not entitled to have the house conveyed to her because an oral agreement to transfer the house was barred by the statute of frauds. The trial court entered an order dismissing plaintiff’s claim for quiet title to the house and dismissing defendant’s counterclaim.

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FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

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FAMILY LAW 77: Court awarded plaintiff sole legal custody; defendant was unwilling to work with plaintiff.

For joint custody to work, parents must be able to agree with each other on basic issues in child rearing including health care, religion, education, day to day decision making and discipline and they must be willing to cooperate with each other in joint decision making. If two equally capable parents are unable to cooperate and to agree generally concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of their children, the court has no alternative but to determine which parent shall have sole custody of the children.

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