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DIVORCE 31: Separate assets may lose their character as separate property.

Defendant married plaintiff in 2015, and they had a daughter in December 2015. Defendant was unemployed at the time of their marriage and did not come to the marriage with significant assets. Plaintiff, however, had a high-paying job earning approximately $120,000 per year, real property, and significant assets. In November 2017, Plaintiff filed for divorce. At the time of trial, Plaintiff was 28 years of age and Defendant was 27 years of age. In September 2018, the trial court entered a judgment of divorce that divided the marital estate.

Trial courts have broad authority to divide real and personal property that came to either party to a divorce action by reason of the marriage. Generally, marital property is property that was acquired or earned by the parties during the marriage, and separate property is generally property that the parties obtained or earned before the marriage. When considering how to divide property in a divorce proceeding, the trial court’s first step must be to determine the parties’ marital and separate estates.

In this case, Plaintiff had three bank accounts: bank account, an account that he referred to as the farm account, and a savings account with a credit union. It appeared that the farm account predated the marriage; however, the other two accounts appeared to have been started and funded during the marriage with marital funds. From the testimony, one could infer that Plaintiff and Defendant used all three accounts for income received and expenses paid during the marriage. Additionally, the evidence strongly suggests that Plaintiff comingled whatever funds he earned during the marriage with any funds that might have been premarital.

Separate assets may lose their character as separate property and transform into marital property if they are commingled with marital assets and treated by the parties as marital property.

In this case, all the accounts should be treated as part of the marital estate.

In Michigan, marital 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 several factors into consideration.

Aldrich Legal Services has more than 20 years of experience and, together with our legal team, we will guide you through the property division process, negotiating and fighting for the best possible outcome with your divorce decree or separation agreement.

Contact Aldrich Legal Services

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