In 2014 this very issue was raised on appeal before the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Court said “… because tax consequences are routinely considered by Michigan courts when exercising their broad discretion in resolving property issues, we hold that it is within the broad discretion of a trial court to compel a party to sign a joint tax return when, under all the circumstances, it is in the best interests of the marital estate …”
The Court further stated the trial court must consider the ability for the court to make up the difference in tax liability through an allocation of property. Is there is no history of tax problems with the requesting spouse. Do the parties have a history of filing joint tax returns during the marriage? And the court must orders the spouse (absent an agreement to do so) to indemnify and hold harmless the reluctant spouse for any resulting tax liability.
While this is not the law in all other states, it is now the law in Michigan as of November 2014. If you want to read the entire opinion, click here.
It should be noted that the Law Offices of Steven Heisler, Esq PLLC was the trial law firm and the firm that handled the appeal where we argued that the Court could order a joint tax return. The other side argued against the idea a trial court could order a joint tax return. There were also several other issues raised and the Law Offices of Steven Heisler, Esq PLLC was successful on every other area of the appeal.