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Asset Division

Skilled Sterling Heights Attorney Advocates for Equitable Distribution

Knowledgeable Michigan Divorce Lawyer Advises on Asset Division

In a divorce, disagreements about the division of property can lengthen the legal process and cost both sides money. Michigan applies the rule of equitable distribution, which requires courts to divide assets and debts fairly, but not necessarily evenly. That’s why it’s important to retain an attorney who takes the time to assess how a judge might conduct the division in your circumstances. At Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights, I have more than 40 years of experience representing Michigan clients in equitable distribution and other aspects of divorce. Once you entrust your case to my handling, I’ll press for a resolution that protects your interests and fulfills your objectives.

Defining marital assets

The court granting your divorce doesn’t divide all of the assets of you and your spouse. Assets owned individually by one spouse prior to marriage are considered separate property and generally remain with the original owner. On the other hand, most assets accumulated during the course of a marriage, including each spouse’s earnings, are classified as marital property and are subject to equitable distribution. Exceptions are made for inheritances and gifts intended for one spouse. 

Sometimes, the distinction between marital and separate property can become complicated, as with the following: 

  • Commingling of assets Separate property can lose that status and become marital if it is mixed with marital property, such as when you deposit money you inherit into a joint account that is used routinely by both spouses.
  • Contributions Your separate property can become marital property to the extent your spouse’s actions cause an increase in value. For instance, your solely owned real estate might appreciate due to improvements paid for in part by the non-owning spouse. 
  • Debts Spouses can accumulate debts before and during their marriage. Pre-marital debts are treated like separate property, while debts acquired during marriage are divided by equitable distribution.

Although sorting marital and separate property can be complicated, I have the knowledge and experience to make sure all assets are accurately identified and evaluated.

Equitable distribution in Michigan

In dividing marital property, judges may consider whatever information they think is necessary to make a fair determination. Factors that are frequently used include the length of the marriage, each spouse’s age, health, income-earning potential and financial needs, the primary residence of any children, the spouses’ past relationship and the cause of the divorce. It is also necessary to determine the value of each item. Whether your marital estate includes homes, cars, investments, retirement accounts, business ownership shares or other sophisticated assets, I will develop a thorough, accurate valuation and advocate for a fair property allocation.

What to expect

Once you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you should retain qualified counsel who can avert problems that can reduce your share of the marital estate. The process of equitable distribution requires that you and your spouse disclose all assets and debts. The court will need to resolve any disputes over their existence, classification and values. Unfortunately, whether you’re dealing with financial holdings or items that have great personal value, assets sometimes can be hidden. I will pursue investigation and discovery to ferret out any hidden assets. If the court decides that there is an unfair disparity between your financial situations and not enough marital property to care for your needs, it can order part of your spouse’s separate property to be treated as though it were marital property. 

A number of tricky issues can come up, such as what will happen to your marital residence. One option, in order to avoid having to sell the house and split the proceeds, is to allow one of you to stay there in return for giving up other marital assets. Likewise, if you each own part of a family business, one of you may essentially buy out the other in cash or with shares of other property. 

Equitable distribution may take weeks or several months, depending on the issues involved. Property matters can often be worked out through negotiation. If so, my firm will prepare a detailed settlement agreement that can be incorporated into the judgment of divorce.

Contact a Sterling Heights lawyer for advice on asset division

Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights advises Michigan residents on how to achieve a fair distribution of assets during divorce. To schedule a free consultation at my office in Sterling Heights, please call 833-671-4445 or contact me online.

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Office Location
  • Sterling Heights Office
    43805 Van Dyke Avenue
    Sterling Heights, Michigan 48314
    Phone: 586-731-7400
    Fax: 586-731-6370
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