Fault.  Another fight of the century – Ali v. Ali (not really)

In the case of Ali v. Ali, the husband took an appeal from the trial court’s decision to award the wife 80% of the value of the marital home.  Why? Because the court found him at fault for lying to the court about his assets and income.


While there is no requirement under Michigan law for property to be divided equally, the property division must be fair.  In fact, the goal in distributing marital assets is to reach an equitable distribution in light of all of the circumstances.  In the legal context “equitable” means “fair” and “fair” does not necessarily mean “equal”.  Simply put, fault can play an important role in determining a fair property distribution.

The trial court determined that the 80/20 distribution in favor of the wife was “equitable” (fair) in light of the husband’s efforts to conceal and minimize his assets during the divorce proceedings in an effort to prevent his wife from obtaining her rightful share (his fault) and because of her lessor earning capacity.

  • The trial court determined (and the Court of Appeals upheld) that Mr. Ali lacked credibility in his argument that his mother was actively involved in the purchase of the  marital home home, the trial court noting that his mother lacked sufficient income to do so.  Simply put, Mr. Ali was attempting to cheat Mrs. Ali from an interest in the home by arguing his mother owned the home, not him, finding him at fault.
  • The trial court determined (and the Court of Appeals upheld) that Mr. Ali’s claim that he only made $800-$900 a month not credible given his work experience and cash transactions that took place in his business.    Simply put, Mr. Ali was falsifying his income to reduce his financial obligations to Mrs. Ali, finding him at fault and the trial court determined (and the Court of Appeals upheld) that Mr. Ali had an unexercised ability to earn income and imputed income to him.

Mr. Ali argued on appeal that the 80/20 distribution in favor of wife gave undue weight to “general principles of equity” and the Court of Appeals disagreed determining that Mr. Ali’s fault justified the 80/20 distribution.

In this fight of the century, Mr. Ali lost 30% of the equity in the home essentially because he was untruthful and not credible during the court proceedings.  The trial court found him at fault and awarded his wife, Mrs. Ali, 80% of the equity in the former marital home.

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling

change custody


Michigan divorce law update: Fault matters

The case of Fault in Michigan divorce – Property division

Consider fault when a 50/50 property division is not fair

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