The Importance of Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements in Michigan Divorce Cases
It is a common misunderstanding that if one spouse earns more, they should receive a larger share of the marital assets. This belief was more common in past decades, especially when men were predominantly the breadwinners of the household. However, as times have changed, so has Michigan law regarding the distribution of marital assets. Judges in and around Lansing, Eaton County, Clinton County, and Ingham County generally believe in equally dividing the marital assets, with some exceptions.
In Michigan, the law mandates equitable distribution of assets and debts during a divorce. This means a fair division, not necessarily a 50/50 split. Regardless of how marital assets are titled, be it solely or jointly, their division isn’t influenced by who earned more. The concept is that both parties contributed to the marriage, making individual income much less important.
Recent studies, such as conducted by Pew Research Center, highlight the growing number of women out-earning their spouses. The percentage of wives earning more than their husbands has risen from less than 4% in 1960 to over 20% in 2020. A significant portion of wives also reported equal earnings as their husbands.
Without a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in Michigan, the equitable distribution law governs asset division in a divorce. It’s crucial for primary breadwinners to understand they shouldn’t expect to retain most of the assets in event of a divorce here in Mid-Michigan. A specialized divorce attorney who has represented hundreds of clients throughout Michigan, including in Ingham, Ionia, Eaton, Jackson, and Clinton counties, can help answer all of your important questions regarding your divorce by calling 800-576-6035.
When Does the Court Decide to Divide Assets in a Divorce?
The Michigan courts have the authority to determine the date for asset division. They usually consider when the marital partnership genuinely ended. These considerations include whether the couple lived together or sought counseling after the divorce filing. Dates that are typically considered by courts include the date of separation, the divorce filing date, or the final divorce court order date. For those anticipating a divorce, especially primary earners, it’s often advisable to open a separate bank account and monitor income and expenses post-separation if that strategy agrees with the strategic planning of your divorce attorney.
In making a decision on property distribution, a judge will consider certain factors, such as:
- The length of the marriage;
- The spouse’s contributions to the marital estate;
- The spouses’ necessities, financial needs, and circumstances;
- The life status of the spouses;
- The earning abilities of the spouses (meaning how much income each spouse could earn based on their education, job skills, work history, and employment opportunities);
- The spouses’ past relations and conduct; and
- General principles of equity (fairness).
Note that not all of those factors will apply to every case. For example, in a Michigan divorce where neither spouse is accusing the other of wrongdoing, spousal conduct probably would not be relevant. Judges around the Lansing area are seldom concerned with wrongdoing during the marriage.
After deciding which of the factors apply to a case, and reviewing the couple’s circumstances, the judge will determine the fairest allocation of the martial estate and the best method of bringing that about if the parties cannot figure that out with their attorneys.
How is Spousal Support Determined in Michigan?
In Michigan, courts possess considerable discretion in deciding the duration and amount of spousal support. Unlike child support, there isn’t a fixed formula for spousal support. The Michigan courts, under the Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) Section 552.23, take into account factors such as:
- Each party’s income and earning potential, including retirement benefits;
- Ages and physical conditions of both parties;
- Marriage duration;
- Any necessary training or education for suitable employment;
- Relative educational levels of both parties;
- Standard of living of each party;
- Assets and liabilities; and
- Other pertinent factors.
The court’s primary considerations include income disparities, the ages of the parties, and the duration of the marriage. For precise guidance tailored to individual cases, it’s essential to consult with a seasoned Lansing, Michigan divorce attorney who has represented clients throughout all counties in Lansing, as well as in Jackson, Clinton, Eaton, and Livingston counties.
Seeking early advice and planning from a highly experienced Lansing family law attorney is vital when contemplating divorce. Your earnings, whether you have children, or the reasons for the marriage dissolution don’t change this fact. Divorce laws aren’t straightforward, and every case is unique. It’s prudent to be wary of generalizations found online or advice from acquaintances. Your specific circumstances can greatly influence the outcome. Hire professional advice to navigate these complex family court matters effectively by hiring an experienced family law attorney who has represented clients for decades.
The Kronzek Firm has been helping clients throughout Mid-Michigan since the last century. Our experienced and dedicated attorneys can be reached at (517) 886-1000. We are available 24/7 for crisis intervention.