For a couple who does not want to divorce or are not ready to do so, a legal separation is a way to ensure that both parties receive an equitable share of their marital assets and that their needs are covered while they live separately.
In Michigan, a legal separation is known as “separate maintenance.” A separate maintenance agreement covers all of the same topics that a divorce settlement covers, such as division of the couple’s marital assets, child custody, child support, and spousal support. The only difference between a divorce and separate maintenance is that with separate maintenance, the couple remains legally married.
Like with a divorce, an individual must file for separate maintenance in the circuit court in the county where he or she resides or the county where his or her spouse resides. Filing for separate maintenance follows basically the same pattern as filing for divorce. Just like with a divorce, there is a six-month waiting period for a couple’s legal separate maintenance to go into effect and in order to file for separate maintenance, at least one spouse must have lived in Michigan for six months or longer. When an individual files for separate maintenance, his or her spouse can counter it with a petition for divorce.
Once the claim is filed, the court determines an appropriate distribution of the couple’s assets, child custody and child support arrangements, and a spousal support arrangement according to Michigan law. Once the final judgment is entered, the court’s rulings are legally enforceable.
Although the terms of a separate maintenance ruling and a divorce settlement can be identical and the processes for these legal rulings are nearly the same, there are many differences between having separate maintenance and being divorced. These stem from being legally married and include:
Couples choose separate maintenance for a variety of reasons. For some, it is a “trial divorce.” For others, it is for the couple’s financial benefit because they can continue to file their taxes jointly and co-won their marital assets. Separate maintenance is also an option for couples whose religious beliefs prohibit divorce.
When you are facing difficulties in your marriage, divorce is not the only answer. An order of separate maintenance could be the right choice for you and your spouse either as a precursor to divorce, a chance to work on your conflicts and reconcile, or as an alternative to divorce. To discuss separate maintenance in Michigan in greater detail with an experienced divorce lawyer, contact Van Den Heuvel Law Office today to set up your initial consultation with a member of our team.
To talk with our attorney about your legal concerns, contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office by calling 616-698-0000. You may also complete our online contact form. After-hours consultations are available by appointment. We are also available on Skype by appointment.