House Inherited During Marriage not Marital Property


house

Case: Szcygiel v. Szcygiel

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Judges: Per Curiam – Borrello, Murphy, and Ronayne Krause

Issues:

Divorce; Whether real property received by one of the parties during the marriage was marital property; Woodington v. Shokoohi; Dart v. Dart; Statutory exceptions to the doctrine of non-invasion of separate estates; MCL 552.401; Reeves v. Reeves; A trial court’s credibility determinations; Pierron v. Pierron; Factual findings; Fletcher v. Fletcher; Property division; Berger v. Berger; Jansen v. Jansen; Spousal support; Moore v. Moore; Olson v. Olson; Healy v. Healy

Summary:

The court held that the trial court did not err in finding that the real property at issue was not marital property, that MCL 552.401 did not apply, that the trial court’s property division was equitable, and that the award of spousal support to the defendant-ex-wife was not excessive. Thus, it affirmed the divorce judgment. Defendant obtained ownership of the property after her mother’s death. The deed effectuating the conveyance was made in exchange for $1. The court concluded that regardless of whether her receipt of the property was “characterized as a gift or an inheritance, property that is transferred in this manner is generally considered separate from marital property.” As to the statutory exceptions to the doctrine of non-invasion of separate estates, plaintiff-ex-husband only argued that MCL 552.401 applied. The trial court made a credibility determination that the court reviewed only for clear legal error or an abuse of discretion. Thus, it deferred “to the trial court’s decision that neither exception was met” and that plaintiff did not meet his burden of proof. Further, while he produced “estimates on the amount of money he spent on” projects on the property, “it does not follow that the property’s value was increased equal to those amounts.” As to the distribution of the marital property, the court held that it was equitable. Under the “circumstances, a ‘roughly congruent’ distribution” was achieved. Finally, as to spousal support, the trial court considered many of the Olsonfactors. It was “cognizant that this was a 34-year marriage and that defendant undisputedly has health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and fibromyalgia. Despite her health, defendant continues to work. Given the circumstances, the trial court thought it should try to equalize the parties’ respective incomes with the spousal support award.” The court was “not ‘left with a firm conviction that the decision was inequitable.’”

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