When spouses decide to end their marriage, many issues must be addressed. For example, if the parties have children, questions related to custody, visitation, and child support must be resolved. In some cases, a spouse may seek alimony or temporary spousal support.
Even when the parties do not have any minor children and neither spouse is seeking alimony, the parties still must decide how to divide the marital property and debts. One of the most beneficial ways to accomplish this task is to consent to a property settlement agreement. A property division lawyer can assist in helping the two of you come to an agreement.
Equal Division of Property and Debt?
To divide marital property and debts into equal parts and give one-half to each spouse seems like an effective way to resolve issues related to property division in a divorce. However, in many cases, property division is not as simple as a 50-50 split. Issues that can complicate property division include inheritance, non-marital property, and pre-marital property.
Therefore, because of the various issues that may need to be addressed in the divorce, a judge may need to issue an order dividing the property and debts between the spouses. The court may issue a 50-50 split, but an equal division is not required. There are some reasons why a judge might award an uneven division of marital property and debt.
A judge may consider numerous factors when dividing marital property and debt including:
- The length of time the parties were married;
- The age and health of each spouse;
- Earning capacity of the parties;
- Life status of each spouse;
- Contributions by each spouse to the marital estate;
- Circumstances and requirements of each party;
- General legal theories of equity; and,
- The conduct of the parties.
The goal for property division in Michigan is to ensure an equitable distribution of marital property and debt between the parties. Equitable does not mean equal, but it does mean a fair and appropriate division with equity in mind.
As seen above, the court may consider a spouse's actions (i.e. abuse, adultery, etc.) when making his decision about property division. The law allows the judge to deviate from the presumption of equitable distribution, but the judge must explain his reasons in the final court order.
Can Parties Enter a Voluntary Property Agreement?
Instead of allowing a judge to divide your property in a court setting, you and your spouse can enter a property settlement agreement resolving all issues related to dividing property and debts. For many parties, a property settlement agreement is a way to retain control over decisions regarding property division.
Spouses understand the significance and sentimental value of various items that have been accumulated during the marriage. Additionally, spouses understand what items they have, need, and could do without. By working together to arrive at a mutual property settlement agreement, spouses are usually happier with the final agreement compared to spouses who are handed an agreement by a judge.
Using a Mediator for Property Division
In some cases, spouses utilize a mediator to settle the issues in their divorce, including property settlement agreements. Using a mediator can save time and money, in addition to providing a better result. You also have a higher level of privacy and confidentiality when using mediation to settle disputes compared to cases that are litigated in court.