Tis the season to be merry. . . but what if you don’t want to be? How does a court decide who gets the Christmas gifts?
Michigan law regarding property division provides the answer. A general rule of Michigan divorce property law is the notion that property acquired during the course of the marriage is fair game in a divorce. However, there are exceptions to the general rule that marital property (the legal term for property acquired during the marriage) is subject to a division in a divorce.
One of the exceptions to the general rule are gifts and in most cases, Christmas gifts are, well, gifts.
The Christmas gift rule can be summarized as follows: Christmas gifts that are personal in nature are the separate property of the recipient and not divided in a divorce. One way of determining if a Christmas gift is personal in nature is to look at the intent of the donor (gift giver). If the donor intended the Christmas gift to belong to one party and for personal use, than the Christmas gift will likely be determined to be separate property, if not, the gift will likely be treated as marital property.
The wedding gift rule is the same as the Christmas gift rule. The seminal case on wedding gifts is Darwish v. Darwish, 100 Mich. App. 758 (1980).
The engagement ring rule can be summarized as follows. An engagement ring is a conditional gift. Therefore, if the parties marry, the bride keeps the ring. If the engagement is broken off for any reason, the ring is returned. The seminal case regarding an engagement ring is the case of Meyer v. Mitnick, 244 Mich. App 697 (2001).
The leading Michigan divorce case on how property divided is the case of Sparks v. Sparks. In the Sparks case, the Supreme Court determined what relevant factors a trial court should consider when dividing property. The relevant factors are:
- The length of the the marriage;
- The contributions of the parties to the marital estate;
- The age of the parties;
- The health of the parties;
- The life status of the parties;
- The necessities and circumstances of the parties;
- The earning ability of the parties;
- The past relations and conduct of the parties (fault); and
- General principles of equity.
- A division of the real and personal property brought to and acquired during the marriage as well a the parties debts. MCL 552.19, .23, .101, .103, .401; MCR 3.211(B)(3)l Yeo v Yeo, 214 Mich App 598.
Kantor v Kantor, 133 NJ Equity R 491; 33 A2d 110 (1943)
Avnet v Avnet, 204 Misc 760 (1953)
Darwish v. Darwish, 100 Mich. App. 758 (1980)
Meyer v. Mitnick, 244 Mich. App 697 (2001)
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By: Daniel Findling
About Daniel Findling
Daniel Findling is a divorce and family law attorney in practice for over 20 years and managing director of Findling Law, P.L.C., a divorce law firm with attorneys who share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their life without compromising principles. Daniel is a proud father of three, private pilot, prolific blogger and lecturer. A 1971 graduate of Shaarey Zedek Beth Hayeld, very good student award, a 1993 graduate of Wayne State University Bachelor of Public Affairs, magna cum laude and a 1997 graduate of Wayne State University Juris Doctor, cum laude. A member of Pi Sigma Alpha – National Political Science Honors Society, recipient of the Bronze Key Certificate – Wayne State University Law School, a DBusiness Top Lawyer, Super Lawyer, Crains Detroit Business Top Lawyer, Hour Detroit Top Lawyer and Avvo Top Divorce Attorney.
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