Family Law

Issues: Divorce; Validity of the parties' antenuptial agreement; Reed v. Reed; "Change in circumstances" (COC); Woodington v. Shokoohi; Justus v. Justus (IN App.); Whether "fault" in a divorce can constitute an unforeseen change in circumstances; Hutchison v. Hutchison (Unpub.); "Duress"; Liparoto Constr., Inc. v. General Shale Brick, Inc.; Farm Credit Servs. of MI's Heartland, PCA v. Weldon; Whether the "unlawful" aspect should be removed; An "unconscionable" contract; Clark v. DaimlerChrysler Corp.; Division of the parties' property; Berger v. Berger; MCL 552.23 & 552.401; Reeves v. Reeves; Dicta; Allison v. AEW Capital Mgmt., LLP; People v. Peltola; MCL 557.28; Statutes that are in pari materia; Michigan Deferred Presentment Servs. Ass'n, Inc. v. Commissioner of the Office of Fin. & Ins. Regulation; Whether property the plaintiff-husband acquired during the marriage was his separate estate or part of the marital estate; MCL 552.19; Cunningham v. Cunningham; A limited liability company (LLC) as an independent legal entity; MCL 450.4210; MCL 450.4501(4); Wells v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.; The doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio alterius; Hackel v. Macomb Cnty. Comm'n; "Commingling" of assets; Pickering v. Pickering; "Piercing the corporate veil" of an LLC; Florence Cement Co. v. Vettraino

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)

Case Name: Allard v. Allard

e-Journal Number: 58909

Judge(s): Wilder, M.J. Kelly, and Fort Hood

 

The court held that the parties' antenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable, concluding that to invalidate it on the basis of one party's fault would contravene the agreement's clear and unambiguous language, and that as a matter of law, the defendant-wife failed to show that a COC was sufficient to void it. Further, her claim of duress lacked merit, and the agreement was not unconscionable. The court also held that under the agreement's plain and unambiguous language, the LLCs created by the plaintiff-husband during the marriage were not acquired in his individual capacity or name, and that the parties' income was to be treated as marital income and not property subject to division as separate property. Thus, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of divorce, and remanded for further proceedings, "particularly a determination regarding the extent to which income earned by plaintiff and derived from the LLCs should be treated as marital income, and whether that marital income was utilized to purchase assets titled to the LLCs." Defendant did not provide any case law supporting "her position that someone's 'fault' in a divorce can constitute an unforeseen" COC. Further, assuming that the alleged abuse "occurred and was unforeseeable," this COC was "not sufficient to void the parties' antenuptial agreement in this instance. The types of changes of circumstances that may void an otherwise valid antenuptial agreement must relate to the issues addressed in the antenuptial agreement. Since the primary focus of the antenuptial agreement addressed spousal support and the division of the parties' assets, any changes of circumstances must relate to these aspects, and here, the domestic abuse does not." The court found that Hutchison did not stand for the proposition that abuse, alone, can constitute a sufficient COC to void an otherwise valid antenuptial agreement. While defendant also claimed that "Michigan's definition of duress is unclear and that the 'unlawful' aspect should be removed," the court disagreed, concluding that the definition "is quite clear and needs no clarification." It rejected her assertions that MCL 552.23 and MCL 552.401 "allow a party to invade the other spouse's separate estate contrary to the terms of a valid antenuptial agreement." The court found that the portion of Reed that "implied that, despite contrary language contained in a valid antenuptial agreement, both MCL 552.23(1) and MCL 552.401 permit a spouse to invade the other spouse's separate estate" was dicta and not binding.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Jurisdiction; Rains v. Rains; MCR 7.203(A)(1); "Final judgment" or "final order" defined; MCR 7.202(6)(a)(iii); Wardell v. Hincka; Docket No. 321275 - Change of domicile; Whether the child had an established custodial environment (ECE) with both parents and defendant was obligated to show proper cause or a change of circumstances that established that the move to Florida was in the child's best interests; Brown v. Loveman; Fletcher v. Fletcher; The 100-mile rule; MCL 722.31; MCL 722.31(1), (2), & (4); Brecht v. Hendry; Brausch v. Brausch; Spires v. Bergman; MCL 722.27; Gagnon v. Glowacki; Rittershaus v. Rittershaus; MCL 722.27(1)(c); Berger v. Berger; Harmless error; Kubicki v. Sharpe; D'Onofrio v. D'Onofrio; Award of attorney fees in connection with filing a motion to extend parenting time and for joint legal custody; Brown v. Home Owners Ins. Co.; Loutts v. Loutts; Smith v. Khouri; In re Temple Marital Trust; Ahrenberg Mech. Contracting, Inc. v. Howlett; Docket No. 322760 - Claim that the trial court denied the request to extend parenting time without allowing factual development concerning changes to the ECE; Attorney fees; MCR 3.206(C); Ewald v. Ewald; Spooner v. Spooner; Woodington v. Shokoohi; McIntosh v. McIntosh; Smith v. Smith; Whether the trial court was required to hold a hearing; MCR 2.119(E)(3)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)

Case Name: Sulaica v. Rometty

e-Journal Number: 58913

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Riordan, Beckering, and Boonstra

 

The court held that the trial court focused too narrowly on the 100-mile rule, and should have analyzed the requested move in the context of whether it constituted a change to an ECE, which would warrant closer scrutiny. The failure to properly apply the law constituted clear legal error. Based on the record before the court, it was unable to conclude that the error was harmless and remanded with instructions that the trial court examine the question of whether an ECE existed. The plaintiff-father argued that the child had an ECE with both parents and the defendant-mother was obligated to show proper cause or a change of circumstances that established that the move to Florida was in the child's best interests. The trial court decided the issue of domicile based only on defendant's status as the party with sole legal custody of the child. It looked to the 100-mile rule, concerning the change in a child's legal residence. The trial court properly relied on subsection (2) in reasoning that - "because defendant had sole legal custody of the child - it need not analyze the factors set forth in subsection (4)." But this should not have ended the inquiry. The question was whether changing the child's domicile to Florida constituted a change in an ECE warranting the scrutiny required under MCL 722.27(1)(c). The court held that the trial court should have analyzed this question. Brecht, Brausch, and Spires held that, "when the party seeking to change domicile has sole legal custody, the trial court has discretion to decide the change in domicile without considering the factors set forth in MCL 722.31(4)." The court held that the plain reading of MCL 722.31(2) requires that conclusion. "But none of those cases involved parties with joint physical custody. The absence of joint physical custody is an important distinction, which the panel in Spires recognized when it cited to Brown." Because the parties here had joint physical custody, the trial court should have engaged in the additional analysis of whether the proposed change in domicile had the effect of changing an ECE. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

 

Full Text Opinion
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