Separate Property

Traverse City, Michigan Property Settlement Lawyer Jeanne Hannah

In Michigan, the distribution of property in a divorce is controlled by statute. If a husband and wife cannot agree upon a property distribution, they’re going to have to accept the trial court's decisions. The first issue a trial court will address is a determination of what property is marital property to be divided between the parities, and what property is separate property that belongs to one of the spouses.

Generally speaking, the marital estate is divided between the parties, and each party takes away from the marriage that party's own separate estate with no invasion by the other party. No matter how long the parties lived together prior to marriage, the trial court's analysis must be limited only to the time the parties were married.

When a party has used separate property and “commingled it” with marital property, then it will be considered as marital property by the trial court. However, courts in Michigan may rule that if one of the spouses owned a house prior to the marriage, that party will keep the pre-marital equity that he or she owned, regardless of any later joint ownership that may have arisen during a re-financing. It’s only where it is clear that a spouse intended to give the premarital interest to the other party that a court should hold that it has become joint property.

Nevertheless, Michigan law allows the trial court to invade the separate assets of a party under two distinct exceptions: First, "if the estate and effects awarded to either party are insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance of either party" and second, "if it appears from the evidence in the case that the party contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property."  Even if separate property of one party is awarded to the other spouse, the ultimate property division is to be fair and equitable under all of the circumstances of the case.

If you owned substantial property prior to your marriage, you should fully explore the extent to which the facts will support its award to you. An analysis of the other party’s arguments might suggest that you need to spend some time documenting transfers between retirement accounts, etc. to see whether you can trace your assets. This is a complex subject and should be fully addressed with your lawyer.

You may have additional questions concerning a premarital or cohabitation agreement.

To schedule an initial meeting with divorce lawyer Jeanne Hannah or just ask a question, call or send an e-mail today. You will find property and fact-gathering questionnaires on this website. Fill them out and mail them in to Ms. Hannah's office or schedule an appointment and bring them with you.

Contact Traverse City, Michigan divorce lawyer, Jeanne Hannah at 231-275-5600  E-mail family law lawyer Jeanne Hannah.

Family lawyer Jeanne Hannah serves clients throughout Michigan, including Traverse City, Kalkaska, Petoskey, Charlevoix, Beulah, Cadillac, Bellaire, Grand Traverse County, Kalkaska County, Emmet County, Benzie County, Antrim County, and Charlevoix County. © 2005 Jeanne M. Hannah

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Jeanne M. Hannah, Family Lawyer
Postal address:5922 Deer Trail Drive, Traverse City, Michigan 49684 • E-mail: jeannemhannah [at]

Practice Areas: Divorce  Custody  Parenting Time  Child Support Post-Judgment Modifications  Paternity  Adoption  Personal Protection Orders  Spousal Support  Property Distribution  Pre-Nuptial / Post-Nuptial Agreements Estate Planning Guardianships/Conservatorships  Neglect/Abuse Cases 

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Send mail to jeannemhannah [at] with questions or comments about this web site.

Copyright © 2005 Jeanne M. Hannah. All rights reserved. Last updated November 2009

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