When a marriage ends, many divorcing couples wonder if they are getting a fair deal when it comes to the division of the assets and property. Even though most people don’t plan on getting a divorce, divorces are still common. Thus, it is important for a divorcing couple to understand how state law impacts family law issues such as alimony, assets and property division.

Michigan residents may be aware that laws governing alimony and property division vary from state to state. How property is divided depends on the state in which a couple is seeking divorce. In essence, there are two types of property division: equitable distribution and community property. In a community property state, the court divides all the assets in half without giving consideration to any other factors, such a party’s ability to work, age, source of income post-divorce and the like. Currently, only a few states are community property states.

In an equitable distribution state, such as Michigan, the courts divide property fairly between the couple. This means a presiding judge takes into consideration factors such as the length of marriage, health, age, ability to work post-divorce, career opportunities forgone to raise a family and more when deciding who gets what. Further, some judges may consider the amount of child support and spousal maintenance a party receives in deciding property division.

Regardless of whether one is seeking a divorce in a community property state or an equitable distribution state, a divorcing couple should understand that they can always negotiate the terms of their divorce settlement. In fact, a couple can draft a post-marriage agreement to distribute their assets and property in a fair manner that best suits their situation. In the event that a couple cannot agree, the court will apply state laws to determine the appropriate manner in which the property should be divided. Thus, it is in the best interest of the parties to work together to determine the most appropriate property division.

In some cases, negotiating with a soon-to-be ex-spouse can get complicated or heated, and to avoid being short-changed it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand what one is getting into and if it is the right agreement to make.

Source: Huffington Post, “Why Where You Divorce Matters: Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property,” David Centeno, Aug. 28, 2013