Plaintiff and defendant were married in 1995 when they were in their mid-50s and after both of their first marriages ended. At the time of marriage, defendant had an IRA valued at approximately $800,000. After three years of marriage, due to a change of employment status, defendant stopped contributing to that IRA. Throughout the marriage, plaintiff obtained various retirement accounts amounting to approximately $120,000. In 2012, plaintiff filed for divorce. The case proceeded to a bench trial on the issues of property distribution and spousal support.
At trial, plaintiff argued that defendant's IRA, then valued at around $400,000, should be classified as marital property and divided equally between the parties. Plaintiff also argued that she was entitled to spousal support. Defendant urged the trial court to grant each party the property that was titled in his or her own name and to forego any spousal support award.
Following a bench trial, the court issued a written opinion and order, concluding that defendant's IRA was separate property and that plaintiff had not established the requirements of either statutory ground to invade the separate asset. The trial court also awarded plaintiff spousal support of $350 per month, an amount lower than what she requested.
On appeal, the court rejected her argument that the trial court improperly classified defendant's IRA as separate property. Noting she failed to offer any evidence on appeal, other than her own testimony, to support her assertions that the IRA was treated by the parties as a marital asset and commingled with marital property. It also rejected her claim that even if the IRA was separate property, the trial court erred by refusing to invade the asset pursuant to MCL 552.23(1) or MCL 552.401. It found that, in light of the lack of evidence, she could not show that she assisted in the growth of the account in a sufficient manner to warrant invasion of the separate property. However, the court agreed with her that the trial court improperly reduced her spousal support award. The court reversed the trial court's award of spousal support and remand the case to allow the court to structure an award using the facts in the record.
Are you facing a divorce in Michigan? Do you have questions about how your assets and your debts will be divided with your soon-to-be ex-spouse?
Financial issues are often the biggest concern for individuals and families who are facing divorce. It is important the you find an attorney that understands the struggles you may face. In Michigan, marital assets - assets acquired during the marriage - are divided equitably during the divorce process. This does not mean that the property division will be equal, however. The court will seek a "fair and equitable" division by taking a number of factors into consideration. Make sure your legal team guides you through the property division process, negotiating and fighting for the best possible outcome with your divorce decree or separation agreement.