Couples choose to legally separate instead of getting a divorce for several reasons. Religious reasons are often the cause of a legal separation, but individuals also often choose this route for insurance or tax purposes. Many states do not allow for legal separation, but they are valid in Michigan and these arrangements are known as separate maintenance. Like divorce, separate maintenance has certain requirements and an agreement must be reached, or an order issued, in order for the two people to legally separate. Any married couple seeking separate maintenance should understand the basics of the process, which are outlined below.
Separation agreements are legally binding contracts that both spouses must sign. A separation agreement can outline the terms of the separation. These terms are similar to those involved in a divorce and can include property division, alimony, child support, and child custody. The two spouses can come to a mutual agreement on their own, although even in these cases, it is best that both spouses work with a Michigan divorce lawyer that can help.
Also, like divorce, separate maintenance has certain grounds, or the reason for the legal separation. In Michigan, the only grounds for separate maintenance is that the marital relationship has broken down to the extent that there is little to no chance that the marriage can be restored. Also known as irreconcilable differences, these are the only valid grounds for separate maintenance.
To file for separate maintenance, the individual petitioning the court must live in Michigan. The petitioner must have also lived in their county of residence for a specific period of time.
When seeking spousal maintenance, the process begins when one spouse files a petition with the court of the county in which they live. The petition asks the court to divide marital property, including liabilities, as well as issue orders for spousal support and, when children are involved, child custody and child support matters.
Once the spouse seeking separate maintenance has filed a petition with the court, the other spouse is served with the Petition and Summons for Separate Maintenance. The petition outlines the complaint, while the summons informs the spouse of the date, time, and location of the hearing they are required to attend. During that hearing or a subsequent hearing, a judge will make a decision on all terms of the separation if the couple has not yet come to an agreement, and the judge will grant the separate maintenance order.
Many people would not think of entering into a divorce without the help of a Grand Rapids family lawyer, and you should not consider seeking separate maintenance without legal counsel, either. If you wish to obtain a separate maintenance order, contact our experienced attorneys at Van Den Heuvel Law Office. Our attorneys have the necessary experience with these matters and can help you obtain the most favorable terms possible. Call us today or reach out to us online so we can get started on your case.
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