Part of going through a divorce involves the division of property – separate and marital. The division of marital property in Michigan is based on the legal idea of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is based on fairness, not necessarily equality. The goal of equitable distribution is to weigh the needs of both parties to a divorce. Courts consider equitable distribution on a case-by-case basis.

Michigan law uses equitable distribution

Marital property is all property a couple obtains after they get married. The name on the title of property does not always determine who owns it. Marital property is owned by both parties and is divided during a divorce. Separate property is property one party owns before the marriage and goes back to that party during divorce, it is not divided among the parties.

Equitable distribution requires Michigan courts to determine a fair distribution of property. This usually means each spouse gets half of all property, but not always. A court may still decide that fair distribution is something else – for example, debt may be divided unequally where: one spouse has the ability to pay more; one spouse is responsible for incurring the debt; or one spouse is more at fault for the marriage ending.

Uniform Disposition of Community Property Rights at Death Act

While community property — property owned jointly by a married couple — is not the process used in Michigan, the state has adopted Uniform Disposition of Community Property Rights at Death Act. The statute states that upon death of a married person, half of the property is the property of the surviving spouse and is not subject to disposition by the decedent, or distribution.

Half of marital property automatically belongs to the surviving spouse and cannot be distributed according to succession or testamentary laws of Michigan. Talking with an attorney when going through a divorce can help people understand convoluted laws and ensure equitable distribution of assets.