Court Includes Home in Marital Estate


house

Case: Price v. Price (Unpublished Opinion )

Judges: Per Curiam - O'Brien, Cavanagh, and Stephens

Issues:

Divorce; Property distribution; Marital assets; MCL 552.19; Skelly v. Skelly; McNamara v. Horner; Polate v. Polate; Pickering v. Pickering; Separate assets; Cunningham v. Cunningham; Principle that whether a couple holds property jointly or individually is not dispositive of whether it is classified as separate or marital property; Korth v. Korth

Summary:

The court held that the trial court did not err by including the parties’ marital home as a marital asset subject to division. Plaintiff-ex-wife’s father (B) purchased a parcel of land and, along with defendant-ex-husband, constructed a house that he eventually quitclaimed to plaintiff. The parties subsequently divorced. In dividing the property, the trial court found that the home was marital property subject to division because defendant contributed to it by working on it, helping with expenses, and living in it with plaintiff. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred in finding that the home was a marital asset subject to equitable division, noting that the facts tended to “establish that the home was marital property used and encumbered upon for the benefit and enjoyment of both parties—not just plaintiff.” It was acquired during the marriage, the parties lived in it with their children from the time the home was completed until the proceedings were initiated, and they both paid for expenses and improvements. The court also rejected her claim that it should look to B’s intent in transferring the property to her as proof of the property’s separate nature, noting that, regardless of his intent, the record indicated that the parties “lived in the home with their daughters, commingled their salaries at points to finish the home to their unique specifications, managed marital funds together by obtaining a mortgage on the property to service their separate and collective marital debts and pay for materials and services for the home, and defendant made mortgage payments in 2014 on the property. Given this evidence, the trial court was correct to find that the property lost any separate character it may have had when transferred” by B in 2012. Affirmed.

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