WHAT HAPPENS TO PROPERTY WHEN AN ENGAGED COUPLE BREAKS UP?

As we have discussed before property division in a divorce case involves dividing the marital property. For an explanation of marital property please visit https://williamslegalfirm.com/dividing-assets/. Obviously under Michigan Divorce Law there has to have been a marriage for marital property to exist. The question arises though what if the couple purchased property either before they were married or had no marriage plans at all?

Michigan law does not recognize common law marriage. Common law marriage means that if a couple holds themselves out as married even though there was no marriage ceremony or marriage license. In states where common law marriage is recognized the couple can file for divorce and the marital property will be split. That is not the law in Michigan.

If a couple was never married they do have some avenues to pursue to get their fair share of the property. A recent case from the Michigan Court of Appeals Broadbent v Wojcik (on September 17, 2020) addressed a situation where an engaged couple that broke up had brought a duplex. They lived in one of the houses and rented the other side out. Only Defendant’s name was on the deed to the property because Plaintiff had poor credit.

The couple broke up. Defendant sold the property at a profit. If it was in a divorce the property would have been divided.

However the court ruled that the couple did have a contract, an agreement about buying the house together. Plaintiff did and paid for home improvements. Plaintiff sued and won. The court held that Plaintiff and Defendant had a joint agreement, a joint business venture and that Plaintiff should be compensated.

Because of the Broadbent decision there is now a remedy for unmarried couples who break up to get a share of the property. If you have any questions please call me at (248) 474-0670.