Is Social Security Disability Money Considered Marital Property in Michigan Divorce Cases?

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Divorce means dividing one household into two, and a central question is what asset belongs to which spouse. Michigan courts operate on the equitable division of property system, with the goal of giving each spouse a fair share of the property they accrued during the marriage. Disability payments awarded to one party for an injury that occurred during the marriage are part of the marital estate and can be considered by the court when ordering family support obligations.

Michigan Is an Equitable Division State

  • States fall into two categories when it comes to dividing up marital property. Some use the community property system, under which any income earned by either spouse during the marriage -- and everything purchased with it -- is divided equally between the spouses upon divorce. Michigan statutes, however, provide for the other type of marital property division -- equitable division -- where the court works for a “fair and equitable” division of marital property. The equitable division system takes into account such factors as the age of the spouses, their work histories, the length of the marriage and any marital misconduct. If necessary to achieve fairness, a spouse's separate property can be awarded to the other spouse.

Disability Payments Can Be Marital Property

  • In Michigan, Social Security disability benefits can be considered part of the marital property. If the disabled spouse became disabled during the marriage, the court treats the payments as belonging to the marital estate. That does not necessarily mean that each spouse will be awarded half of the payments; rather, the court will include the value of the disability benefits in the total marital property subject to equitable division. Even disability payments that are separate property because they relate to an injury that occurred before marriage can be awarded to the other spouse if the court finds it equitable.

Disability Can Be Used to Calculate Support

  • Each parent has a legal duty to support his minor children financially. During a Michigan divorce, the parent who does not have physical custody is generally ordered to pay child support to the other parent on a monthly basis. The amount is calculated under the state's formula, using such factors as the number of children supported, their ages and the income of each spouse. Disability payments are included when determining the income of the recipient for child support purposes. They are also included in a determination of spousal support.

Disability Can Be Garnished for Family Support

  • Garnishment is when the court requires an employer or agency making payments to you to withhold a part of the money to pay your debts. While Social Security disability payments are generally exempt from garnishment from commercial debts, the government can garnish them for taxes due and your ex-spouse can garnish them for child or spousal support ordered by the divorce court. In Michigan, a garnishment order can be part of a family support order.

References

  • Photo Credit Huntstock/DisabilityImages/Getty Images
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