Individuals who file for a divorce in Michigan may wish to learn whether their soon-to-be ex-spouse may still have a right to any property they acquire before finalizing the marriage dissolution. Because the Great Lakes State uses an equitable distribution system, the courts will consider assets acquired while separated as part of the couple’s marital property.

When a man who had separated from his wife purchased a Mega Millions lottery ticket for $1, he had no way of predicting that he would be the lucky winner. The jackpot he won was reportedly worth $80 million before taxes and deductions. Because he purchased the ticket less than two years after filing for a divorce and before the finalization of the marriage dissolution, the court determined that the $1 he used to buy it belonged to the couple’s marital property. The judge ordered the man to pay his ex-wife $15 million out of the proceeds of his winning lottery ticket, as reported by NBC News.

Equitable distribution

Generally, the court divides complex property and assets by determining what is fair, which is not always 50-50. Rather than dividing an asset equally between the two spouses, a family court judge may take fairness rather than equality into consideration. Issues such as who uses the property the most, or how it may benefit the couple’s children may take priority over a half-and-half equal split.

Separate Property

An asset or property that an individual purchased before the marriage is separate property according to Michigan’s divorce laws. Under some circumstances, there is no requirement for the other spouse to receive half of the asset or a portion of it. Separate property, however, may require proof that it was either purchased or maintained by an individual.

Property purchased through funds from a separate account instead of a joint account may help in asserting that it is not part of the marital property. Michigan courts will consider gifts that an individual received during the marriage as separate property. If the couple created a prenuptial agreement, anything listed as a spouse’s separate asset or property may be honored as such during a divorce.