Fundamentally speaking – How property is divided and the role of fault.
I have published many articles for the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Journal with the headline: “Fundamentally Speaking”. The articles were geared towards the divorce and family law bar and discussed the seminal cases on Michigan divorce and family law. This video series is directed towards clients and lawyers. In this video, we examine the seminal Michigan Supreme Court case of Sparks v. Sparks, 440 Mich. 141 (1992) The Sparks case addresses how property is divided and the role of fault in a Michigan divorce.
In this divorce case the Michigan Supreme Court was asked to consider the element of fault as it relates to the division of marital assets in a divorce. The Michigan Supreme court noted that: “While marital misconduct remains one of the considerations for establishing the division of property, it is only one of several relevant factors that the trial court must consider to reach an equitable division.” Simply put, fault matters in a Michigan divorce.
Mr. & Mrs. Sparks were married for 26 years when a Complaint for Divorce was filed. At the time of the divorce, the wife was 42 years old and unemployed and the husband was 45 years old earning approximately $41,000.00 per year. The trial court found the wife’s sexual infidelity and her desire to get out of the marriage caused the divorce and she was at fault. In making the determination, the trial court awarded the wife only 25% of the property and the husband 75%. The trial court also precluded the wife from receiving alimony. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed determining that the award was inequitable because disproportionate weight was ascribed to fault, and remanded the case for a new hearing before a different judge. While the fault of a party is relevant, the court must consider all of the relevant factors in determining how property is divided in a Michigan divorce.
The court must consider the following factors when determining how property is divided in a Michigan divorce:
(1) duration of the marriage;
(2) contributions of the parties to the marital estate;
(3) age of the parties;
(4) health of the parties;
(5) life status of the parties;
(6) necessities and circumstances of the parties;
(7) earning abilities of the parties;
(8) past relations and conduct of the parties;
and (9) general principles of equity.
There may even be additional factors that are relevant to a particular case in determining how property is divided in a Michigan divorce. For example, the court may choose to consider the interruption of the personal career or education of either party. The determination of relevant factors will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. In addition, there may be cases when some, or even most, of the factors will be irrelevant. However, where any of the factors are relevant to the value of the property or the needs of the parties, the trial court must make specific findings of fact regarding those factors.
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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 are compassionate, creative and always prepared. 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