A recently published Oregon opinion found that a wife's wedding ring was her own separate property, and not a marital asset that was "acquired during the marriage." The Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed with the grail court's finding that the $8,320 ring was a marital asset. Although there was scant evidence on the record of whether husband followed the traditional custom of giving the ring to the bride as a gift after the wedding, the parties did agree that the ring had always been treated as "wife's ring." Given the limited amount of evidence, the Oregon court inferred that the ring was a gift received by wife either shortly before or shortly after the marriage. It held that the precise timing was not relevant because in either case the ring should have been treated as wife's separate property. Under Oregon law, had it been given before the marriage, it would have been treated as premarital property.
One of the largest assets in most divorce cases is the retirement accounts held by the parties. Not all retirement plans are the same and it is important for an attorney to understand what types of retirement plans a QDRO can (and cannot) divide.
When a marriage ends, it's important to pay close attention to the property division issues. That is especially true in a challenging economy, such as the one we've had in Farmington Hills and throughout Oakland County in recent years.
Statistics show that increasing numbers of couples are signing pre-nuptial agreements before they get married. And the news does not mean that more and more cynics are heading down the aisle with clouds of doubt hanging over their heads. Instead, the growth of pre-nups reflects changing societal views about marriage and the purpose of pre-nups in modern families.
Two proposed pieces of Michigan legislation aim to create a dramatic shift in the distribution of assets for divorces where a spouse owns a business that prospers during the marriage. Presently, the law treats the growth or appreciation of a business occurring during the marriage as marital property, resulting in a 50/50 split between the spouses. The new law proposes a complete policy change and would generally classify appreciation in the business during the marriage as property of the spouse owning the business.
Playing hide 'n seek was fun as a kid, but not when you're an adult trying to find assets hidden by your soon to be ex-spouse.
Given the downward spiral of real estate values during the past 5-8 years, more couples divorcing today are faced with the very real problem of what to do with a house that is worth less than what is owed on it. There are no easy answers, but there is help available. On July 5, 2009, Public Act No. 29 was enacted to help homeowners facing financial difficulties keep their homes. The Loan modification laws found at MCL 600.3205a require banks to consider modifying a mortgage prior to initiating the foreclosure process. Another good source for help with credit problems in general is FindAid.org.
In Zuidgeest v Zuidgeest, an unpublished case decided by the Court of Appeals on February 1, 2011, the higher court reversed the trial court's property award to the wife. The husband owned a house and business interests prior to marriage. Wife moved in with husband and paid half the utilities and expenses and then they married a few years later. Husband subsequently sold the house and deposited the proceeds of the sale into a joint bank account. These monies were later used to purchase the marital home. Husband also sold his business interests and deposited those monies into the joint account. The trial court determined that the proceeds of the sale from the first house and the business were husband's sole and separate property. It then awarded husband the marital home, and awarded wife a lump sum of money to compensate for her marital interest in the house. The trial court deducted the value of the net proceeds from the sale of husband's separate property. The COA reversed, finding that while these assets were separate, they nevertheless lost their distinction as separate property when husband deposited the monies into a joint bank account, co-mingling them with marital assets. The Court reversed the property award and remanded to the trial court with instructions to include the value of the sale of the prior home and business when dividing the marital estate. The lesson here: don't co-mingle what you had when single.