What does equitable division of property mean?

In 2015, Michigan had a divorce rate of 6.0. This came out to over 29,000 divorces in that year alone, according to data from the state's Department of Health & Human Services.

Before pursuing a divorce in earnest, it is good if both parties have a complete understanding of the process. This means understanding that property becomes divided equitably and not equally. While people typically use the terms interchangeably, there is a big difference.

Fairly, not equally

A judge dividing property equitably attempts to ensure everything is fair, and that may not always mean it comes down to a 50/50 split. For example, a judge considers both separate and marital property. Separate property is something one spouse owns and the other does not while marital property accounts for things both people own. For instance, one spouse may own a house prior to the marriage, so he or she would still have it after the divorce. A judge could not take that house away, but the judge could award more marital property to the other spouse to make things equitable.

Personal factors

The judge will also look at the lifestyles of both spouses to see if one deserves more over the other. For example, when one spouse earns considerably more than the other, then the court may provide more funds to the latter. Additionally, one spouse may suffer from health problems. A judge may provide more money to this spouse, provided the other spouse will be all right after the divorce.

Agreement beforehand

With the knowledge of equitable division, it may benefit spouses to reach an agreement before the court appearance so that both people can be sure they receive a fair amount. In many cases, the court will not engage in equitable division if the couple brings an agreement to the table. This benefits couples who may want to protect an inheritance, various stocks and bonds, and gifts.

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