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Legally Reviewed by: Ryan Kelly
Partner, Divorce Lawyer

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Every divorce involves a division of assets. In some cases, a couple may have limited funds and no real property. Even though every divorce is painful, high asset divorces remain more complicated. High net-worth couples may have extensive stock portfolios, 401K’s, expensive real estate, businesses, fine art, jewelry, professional practices, numerous cars and extensive savings. Sometimes one spouse may attempt to “hide” assets from the other spouse in an attempt to lower alimony or child support payments. For that reason, it is imperative to hire an experienced attorney to navigate your high asset divorce.

High asset divorces involve a variety of issues including:

  • Finding hidden assets
  • Determining appropriate alimony
  • Determining adequate child support
  • Protecting reputation of business
  • Evaluating estate worth
  • Protecting a famous client’s reputation
  • Determining debt responsibility

Michigan Laws On High Asset Divorce

High asset divorce is a complex and serious matter. The high value of assets often causes these divorces to be contested, making them some of the most stressful and unpleasant divorces an individual can go through. However, understanding Michigan’s laws surrounding high asset divorce can help an individual navigate this difficult and trying time in their lives and ensure they retain as much of their assets as possible.

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to assets in a divorce is the fact that unlike most states, Michigan is an equitable distribution state. This means courts may divide assets up between spouses in a way that they believe is most fair and not necessarily an equal 50/50 distribution like most other states. What is determined to be equitable is often up to the interpretation of the court, which makes having expert legal representation extremely important to ensure an individual keeps as much of their assets as possible.

Because of this equitable distribution of assets, in many cases involving high asset divorces, one spouse may try to hide a portion of their assets to prevent them from being redistributed by the court to the other spouse. Despite this being illegal in Michigan, it does happen and depending on how well their assets are hidden, uncovering them can prove to be a difficult task. A skilled divorce attorney can dig into this and discover hidden assets that otherwise may be under the radar, bringing them to the court in order to ensure the most equitable distribution of total marital assets possible.

Expert Testimony

High net worth couples possess expensive assets. Their entire estate must be evaluated by professionals. In a high asset divorce expert testimony is provided by: certified public accountants (CPA’s), real estate appraisers, and business appraisers. Additionally, notarized documents (explained later) must be provided which show income, debts, credit card information and loan accounts.

Equitable Distribution

Blank legal form titled Domestic Relations Verified Financial Information FormMichigan is NOT a community property state where property is split 50-50. In Michigan, a Judge may divide property based on what’s fair. Basically, the Judge will look at all the circumstances in the divorce case and decide how to split the property. One important consideration involves which parent has custody of the children. This factor may influence the ability to remain in the marital home with some financial considerations attached. An experienced attorney will help you navigate the complicated divorce laws regarding division of assets.

Marital Property or Separate Property

In Michigan, any property or assets you attained while married is considered “marital property.” This includes: money in a pension plan, a 401K, real estate acquired after marriage, all business profits gained after marriage and all savings. The only exception is inherited property. However, if you inherit money and place it in a joint account with your spouse, it now becomes part of “marital property.” If you inherit money or property and keep it in your name only, it is considered separate property. A Judge only considers marital property when dividing assets. So, inherited money, property or assets that remain in your name are not included in property division.

Marital Property Division Factors

Marital property is divided in divorce proceedings. A Judge looks at numerous factors when determining how to divide assets including:

  • Length of marriage
  • Age of spouses
  • Spouses’ financial needs and ability to work
  • Spouses’ earning potential
  • Fairness
  • Spouses’ conduct
  • Age of children
  • Which spouse gets the home

Recent Michigan Supreme Court Rulings

The Michigan Supreme Court revised three Michigan Court Rules effective January 1, 2020. The updated rules should reduce some stress regarding the exchange of financial information in all divorce cases. The first change, MCR 3.206(C) states that each spouse has 28 days to fill out a Domestic Relations Verified Financial Information Form. This form must be notarized and you must include supporting documentation. Some documentation required may include: pay stubs, loan account information, credit card statements, bank account information and tax returns. It’s vital to meet with your attorney immediately for assistance with this form.

The second law, MCR 3.201(C) deals with interrogatories. Couples are now limited to 35 of this type of formal discovery. This new limit should keep costs down and speed up the divorce process.

The third revision by the Michigan Supreme Court, MCR 3.206(D) involves attorneys’ fees for spouses who receive numerous discovery notifications. Your attorney will guide you through these new statutes and explain them if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is high asset divorce?
This type of divorce involves large amounts of personal property and/or monetary assets. High asset divorces can either be contested or uncontested, but do to the high value of assets involved they usually are contested.

Q. What makes a high asset divorce?
The difference between a high asset divorce and a normal divorce is the amount of assets involved. High asset divorces involve a large amount of valuable assets, such as real estate, personal property and/or monetary assets.

Q. What experts are needed in high asset divorce?
Due to the high monetary value in assets involved in these types of divorces, it is critical that legal experts such as divorce attorneys are consulted during the process. This will ensure that the best interests of the client are taken into account, and protect their assets they often have worked their entire life to accumulate.

This page was legally reviewed by Ryan Kelly. Ryan has been a practicing family law and divorce lawyer for over a decade. Throughout this time she’s represented clients through various complex issues involving the family court system. This includes divorces, child custody, contested divorces, alimony, and more. She previously served as President for both the WLAM and the Women’s Bar Association and is recognized among the top 10 lawyers under 40 by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys. She also contributes regularly to the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) as a speaker on issues involving family law and child support.