DIVORCE 28: Trial court declined to invade plaintiff’s separate property.

The parties were married in September 2004 and had two minor children. The family lived in a home that had been owned by plaintiff and plaintiff’s mother before the marriage. Plaintiff’s mother lived on the main floor, while plaintiff, defendant, and their children lived in lower level. Plaintiff’s mother paid the mortgage and the property taxes, while plaintiff and defendant paid the utilities, including plaintiff’s mother’s cell phone bill, and insurance on the house. Plaintiff and defendant also bought groceries and other household items.

The parties separated in May 2017, and plaintiff filed for divorce soon after defendant left. Plaintiff requested child support and spousal support. The trial court temporarily awarded plaintiff $87 in monthly child support.

Plaintiff requested $977 in monthly spousal support and half of defendant’s retirement accounts. The parties each proposed how to divide the personal property; defendant did not contest that the home she and plaintiff lived in while they were married was plaintiff’s separate property because it belonged to plaintiff and his mother before the parties were married. Defendant requested $100,000 in compensation for contributions she made to the home while the parties were married, and she opposed plaintiff’s request for spousal support on the basis that she could not afford to pay it.

The trial court declined to invade plaintiff’s separate property and declined to award defendant any portion of the value of the home. The trial court’s observation that defendant was able to live in the house rent-free for 14 years was an additional equitable reason for rejecting defendant’s claim that she should be awarded part of the value of the real property.

The trial court awarded plaintiff $213 in monthly child support and $550 in monthly, modifiable spousal support for 30 months. The trial court further divided the personal property largely in accordance with the parties’ wishes.

A trial court awards spousal support to balance the needs and incomes of the parties so that neither party is impoverished, and the trial court awards spousal support based on what is just and reasonable under the circumstances of the case.

The trial court considered the abilities of the parties to work. The trial court found that plaintiff was employed, had a current income of around $18,000, and had the potential to work his way up considerably from that. The trial court found that defendant had done well for herself, working as a nurse and earning an annual income of almost $50,000. The trial court only awarded spousal support for 30 months because it expected plaintiff to be in a much better position financially in two or three years.

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? 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.

You do not need to face your family law dispute on your own. Let us help you resolve all the issues involved in your divorce. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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