Trial Court Reversed for Failing to Consider Property Division Factors


Case: Morgan v. Morgan

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Issues:

Divorce; Marital property division; Gates v. Gates; Sands v. Sands; Cunningham v. Cunningham; Berger v. Berger; McDougal v. McDougal; Sparks v. Sparks; Book of business; Postema v. Postema; McNamara v. McNamara; 401(k); Dissipation of marital assets; Reeves v. Reeves; Woodington v. Shokoohi; Whether there was “confusion” in the judgment; Spousal support/health insurance; Moore v. Moore; Attorney fees; Stoudemire v. Stoudemire; Reed v. Reed; MCL 552.13; MCR 3.206(C); Reasonableness; Miller v. Meijer, Inc.; John J Fannon Co. v. Fannon Prods., LLC

Holding that the trial court did not consider the necessary factors in dividing the marital estate (e.g., the book of business, the 401(k), and the dissipated marital assets), the court reversed in part and remanded. However, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in the grant of 24 months of spousal support and in awarding attorney fees to the defendant-ex-husband.

The plaintiff-ex-wife argued that the trial court’s award of 25% of the value of her book of business to defendant was inequitable. He argued that it was inequitable to award only 25% of the value when 50% was the goal. The trial court appeared to have “relied primarily upon the concerted family effort doctrine as described in Postema.” The only fact it used to rule that defendant should receive 25% of the value was that he “contributed and sacrificed little to the Book of Business and this was not a concerted effort.” The court did not disagree; the record fully supported “the view that defendant contributed very little, if anything, to allow plaintiff to acquire and grow her book of business.” His claim that he was a stay-at-home dad and maintained the household was “diminished by the fact that plaintiff hired a full-time nanny until the oldest child reached the age of 16. Further, there was evidence that in addition to a nanny, other household tasks were hired out, including house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and snow removal. While defendant certainly contributed ‘something’ to the household, to equate his contributions to that of a ‘traditional’ full-time, stay-at-home mother” responsible for “maintaining an entire household (with no nanny assisting) is specious.” But the lack of contribution to the book of business “would only be one relevant factor to consider.” It seemed to fall under “factor (2) (the contribution of each party to the marital estate) and/or (9) (any other equitable circumstances). The trial court should have considered all of the pertinent property-division factors.” Yet it did not refer to these factors. As to its award of one-half of the balance of plaintiff’s 401(k) to defendant, the court held that although this was an equal division of a marital asset, the same problems that existed as to the division of the book of business existed here. “The trial court did not refer to or rely on the property-distribution factors.” Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

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