Date of Division

Michigan cases are legion that the valuation date is within the broad discretion of the trial court. See Thompson v. Thompson, 189 Mich App 197, 199 (1991) and Natevayko v. Natevayko, 198 Mich App 163, 164 (1993). Thompson holds that a court only needs a "plausible reason" for choosing a particular time (this seems OK) and suggests (wrongly, to my mind) that where "the objects of matrimony have been destroyed" that a pension plan may be valued before the date of the entry of the JOD. I would agree there might be reasons for valuing a plan prior to the JOD entry, but destruction of the "objects" of matrimony is too lame and spongy a notion upon which to hook such a result.

Byington v. Byington, 224 Mich App 103, 114 (1997) agrees with Thompson but suggests the use of firm, interim valuation dates to forestall gamesmanship by litigants. I would agree that trial courts should attempt to minimize behaviors in divorce litigations predicated upon gaining some sort of a financial edge by seeking to delay or protract the proceedings. But this is the tip of the iceberg. The more relevant considerations would seem to be (a) the nature of the interim financial arrangements after evaluation of the parties’ financial responsibilities to children and (b) the length of the marriage and (c) the respective financial abilities of the parties and (d) other factors outlined by the appellate courts in the divisions of estates.

I would argue that the rule that makes sense vis a vis pension plans is the date of the JOD, unless there is some reason to pick another date. As to other assets the logical rule would be date of trial or view by the neutral, with the caveat that the court or neutral has the broad discretion to pick other times for "plausible" reasons, these reasons laying within the financial realities of the family, and the soft notions advanced by Thompson and Byington.

See also Boonstra v. Boonstra, 209 Mich App 558, 563 (1995) and Kilbride v. Kilbride, 172 Mich App 421, 436 (1988). Recent cases are Cook v. Cook, No 217462 (Unpublished, April 20, 2001) and Mennetti v. Mennetti, Case No. 226474 (Unpublished, December 21, 2001). Mennetti holds that "assets typically are valued at the time of trial or at the time judgment is entered…however, the trial court retains considerable discretion to see that equity is done by valuing the asset…(at) a more appropriate date."