Proposed changes to divorce rules rile judges, lawyers

Jun 23, 2011

A bill that would rewrite the rules for dividing property and assets when a married couple splits up will move ahead slowly, if at all. That’s the promise from the chair of a state House committee after judges and family lawyers crowded into a hearing room to oppose the measure. It would make it easier for one person in a couple to hang onto a business or some other asset that’s grown in value during the course of a marriage. 

Clinton County Probate Judge Lisa Sullivan testified in opposition to the bill:

“The people that get hurt are the spouses who go into this marriage and stay in the marriage, making decisions, perhaps, not to follow a career, not to invest money in a certain way in hopes of building a better life together.”

Sullivan says the proposed changes would turn the current rules on their head. Amy Yu chairs the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. She says the measure seems to be carefully written for the benefit of a very wealthy person contemplating divorce. But she says it would also affect spouses who’ve given up careers to raise a family, or supported a partner who was building a business:

“So, it’s a lot of people. It’s not just the very wealthy, but we think it’s tailored for someone who is very wealthy.”

And that has people wondering - if it’s true - who might be so wealthy and intent on protecting their position in a future divorce proceeding that they would pay a small fortune for the lobbying and legal muscle to push for a new law.

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