If a medical degree or other advanced degree is obtained during a marriage, it can be considered a marital asset if it was part of a conserted family effort. Postema vs. Postema, 189 Mich App 89, 471 NW2d 912 (1991).
The court stated –
“Fairness dictates that a spouse who did not earn an advanced degree be compensated whenever the advanced degree is the end product of a concerted family effort involving mutual sacrifice and effort by both spouses.” The relevancy of fairness is that, in Michigan, equitable considerations form the underlying basis for recognizing a claim for compensation involving an advanced degree, and that the ultimate goal in every divorce case is to do what is necessary to accord complete equity under the facts and circumstances of the case.
The concept “concerted family effort” stresses the fact that it is not the existence of an advanced degree itself that gives rise to an equitable claim for compensation, but rather the fact of the degree being the end product of the mutual sacrifice, effort, and contribution of both parties as part of a larger, long-range plan intended to benefit the family as a whole.
The valuation of a nonstudent spouse’s equitable claim involving an advanced degree involves a two-step analysis. First, an examination of the sacrifices, efforts, and contributions of the nonstudent spouse toward attainment of the degree. Second, given such sacrifices, efforts, and contributions, a determination of what remedy or means of compensation would most equitably compensate the nonstudent spouse under the facts of the case. The length of the marriage after the degree was obtained, the sources and extent of financial support given to the degree holder during the years in school, and the overall division of the parties’ marital property are all relevant considerations in valuing a nonstudent spouse’s equitable claim involving an advanced degree upon divorce.
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