We hear it all the time. “My wife didn’t earn a penny of this money, so why should she get half of it?” Or “My husband doesn’t deserve to get half the house. After all, we paid for it with money I earned while he was in school racking up debt!” Clients are constantly explaining to us why they should get more than their spouse in the final divorce settlement.
We get it. We really do. It seems unfair to have to split your assets with someone who you don’t think did anything to deserve them. But can we be blunt here for a minute? We can? Good, here goes: the court doesn’t care about your feelings on the matter! Yup, we said it. And it’s true. Hiding assets because you don’t want to share them with your spouse can get you into a LOT of trouble here in Michigan!
Why can’t I just keep the money I earned during my marriage?
Michigan is an “equitable distribution” state. This means, the family court tries to divide a divorcing couple’s assets as fairly as possible. (And the court has a different idea of what’s fair to you!) It also means that each spouse is legally entitled to a portion of their combined assets, but not necessarily half. So this raises the question, how exactly are your assets going to be divided?
Well, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. The court looks at a variety of factors when deciding how to split up a couple’s debts and assets. Things like how long you’ve been married, what each spouse contributed, and where the money came from are all considered. There’s actually a list Judges use, but even then, this is flexible depending on the situation.
How does the court know how much money I really have?
At the start of a divorce, attorneys go through what is called “the discovery process.” This is when a couple gathers information about their combined and separate assets. This includes all kinds of financial information, like bank statements, account balances, 401K and retirement plans, trusts, and mutual funds. This is used to create a picture of your financial worth, both as a couple, and individually.
Now, you and your spouse and your two divorce attorneys have to work together to fairly divide up all of your assets. If you can’t come to some kind of agreement, the divorce will go to trial where a family court judge makes the final decision. But this is where your honesty come in – if the court discovers that you lied about assets, or hid them before the discovery process, you could be in big trouble!
Always be honest with your attorney about your assets!
Punishments for hiding assets (called sanctions) can range from mild to severe, depending on how much money you stashed, and how the Judge feels about it. You could lose some, or even all of your assets to your spouse. You might be held in contempt of court, or even be charged with fraud! Either way, it’s a big deal and the results are usually long-lasting, and awful!
So always be honest with your attorney about your assets! The risk of losing more than you get to keep is never really worth it. Regardless of how angry you are at your spouse, honesty is always the best policy. If you have questions about how your assets would be divided, or would like to protect your assets in future with a prenuptial agreement, talk to one of our experienced family law attorneys at 866 766 5245. We’re here to help.