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Michigan Family Law Blog

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What Date Will the Court Use When Valuing Property or Dividing Accounts in a Divorce?

Custody, parenting time and child support are only an issue in cases where people have children.  Alimony may be applicable in cases where there is a serious wage disparity or other grounds to order it.  Property division is an issue in almost every single divorce case.  One thing the court or the parties must determine is the date the court or the parties use to value the property, retirement savings and other accounts when dividing it between the parties. 

Why Does it Matter What Date is Used to Value Accounts or Property?

In a very simple divorce, the date of valuation might not make much difference.  However, consider the following: what if the parties separated before filing for divorce, should the court use the date of the separation, the date the plaintiff filed for divorce or the date that the court starts the trial?  What if the parties were separate for a number of years during which the value of the home increased and one party's bank accounts and other assets increased while the other's did not?  This can be a serious concern for parties that separate before the divorce is filed in particular, but it can be an issue even in a relatively simple ones where there has been a significant fluctuation in value since starting the case.   

Case law in Michigan states that the proper time for valuation of an asset is within the discretion of the trial court, that means it is up to the judge.  Further, it is well established in the law that the parties’ manifestation of intent to lead separate lives, such as by filing a complaint for divorce or maintaining separate homes, can be of crucial significance when apportioning the marital estate. However, property earned after such a manifestation of intent should still be considered a marital asset, although the presumption of congruence that exists with respect to the distribution of marital assets becomes attenuated and may result in the nonacquiring spouse being entitled to no share or a lesser share of the property in light of all the apportionment factors.  This means that property acquired after separation or value increases after the separation are often included in divorce cases and the other spouse is given up to half of the property or increase in value. 

In practice it seems that virtually all courts attempt to use a date as close as possible to the end of the divorce (the start of trial, the date of the mediation or the date the parties reach a settlement).  The upshot is that waiting to file for divorce means that the both parties will continue to share in each other's earnings, investments and often debt.

Working with Michigan Divorce Attorneys to Protect Your Rights

Many people that are separated believe that their spouse is no longer entitled to their earnings and the increase in value of retirement accounts, pensions or other property.  This is simply not true and further steps are required to protect the earnings and investments of one party in such a situation.  Even if not separated, if one is considering a divorce and there are other factors that may come into play financially in the near future, then it is very important to schedule a consultation with a good divorce attorney.  Please contact us at (248) 608-4123 to schedule an appointment, email to goulding@camerongoulding.com, or through the web site at northoaklandmichigandivorcelawer.com.


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