How do Courts Treat Property Owned by a Party Prior to Marriage in Making a Property Settlement?

As a general rule, a party who brings property into a marriage, and keeps that property separate from marital property is awarded their pre-marital separate property in the event of a divorce.  There are two exceptions to this rule:

1.  the spouse contributed to the “acquisition, improvement or accumulation of the property MCL 552.402, or

2.  the award to the spouse out of assets acquired during the marriage, also referred to as marital property, is “insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance” of the spouse and any children in his or her care MCL 552.23.

In the two situations outlined above, a court will invade a party’s separate, pre-marital assets.


1.  If real property, keep it titled in your name alone.

2.  If cash, stock or other securities, place it in accounts in your name alone.  DO NOT ADD YOUR SPOUSE’S NAME TO THE ACCOUNT.

3.  Pay any real estate or other taxes on pre-marital property with funds from pre-marital or separate assets.

4.  Use pre-marital funds to “fix-up” pre-marital real estate.

5.  Have a pre-nuptial agreement drafted and have both husband and wife sign it before the marriage.

6.  DO NOT COMMINGLE PRE-MARITAL PROPERTY WITH MARITAL PROPERTY.  Once a spouse’s name has been added to a deed or bank account, it is hard to argue to a court that the parties’ intention was that the property not be considered marital property.

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