Separate but Married: The Basics of Legal Separations in Michigan
For most people, you are either married or you are not, and there is very little leeway for interpretation. For lawmakers in Michigan, however, you can be married but separated, which is referred to as “separate maintenance.” Separate maintenance is a confusing and often contradictory concept to many—after all, you are either married, divorced, or single, but you cannot be both married and single—yet, it exists seemingly for the sole purpose of allowing individuals to avoid the taboo of divorce. If you and your spouse want to know if separate maintenance is right for you, call the Grand Rapids separation lawyers at Van Den Heuvel Law Office today.
What Does the Separate Maintenance Process Entail?
The separate maintenance process is nearly identical to the Michigan divorce process. Assets are divided, custody arrangements are made, and spousal and child support obligations are determined. However, unlike with a divorce, at the end of the separation process, both parties are still “married” by legal definition.
What does this mean for you? You can still enjoy the benefits that come with divorce, such as exploring new relationships, but both you and your spouse are entitled to the same rights and social privileges of a married couple. Those include:
- The right to remain on your spouse’s employer-sponsored insurance plan;
- The right to access healthcare information regarding your spouse and to visit him or her in the hospital if he or she becomes injured;
- The right to file taxes jointly with your spouse;
- The right to legally live in the U.S., if you yourself are not a citizen, and vice versa; and
- The right to continue to attend your place of worship, if your religion strictly forbids divorce.
However, the biggest pitfall of legal separation, for most individuals, is the inability to remarry. Because you are technically still married according to the law, you cannot marry a new partner unless you decide to divorce your old one.
Divorcing Your Spouse After Separation
Some might think that legally divorcing their spouse post legal-separation would be easy, but that is far from the truth. If you decide that you want to get remarried, or if you decide that you want to officially divorce your spouse, you will be forced to go through the entire divorce process over again. That means you will be forced to revisit property issues, custody matters, and all other concerns that arise in a typical divorce. For this reason, most couples that want to separate just opt for divorce the first time around.
Remarrying Your Spouse Post Separation
Unlike trying to divorce your spouse post-separation, remarrying him or her is easy. All you have to do is inform your local courthouse that you and your spouse have decided to “rejoin maintenance” and that you are living under the same roof once again. This is generally the only reason that couples ultimately opt for legal separation over divorce—because they are not sure that separation is really what they want.
Work With an Attorney to Solidify Your Separate Maintenance Status
For all intents and purposes, separate maintenance is divorce in Michigan. You are still forced to go through the property division process, establish custody arrangements, and determine spousal and child support payments. For this reason, you should not enter the legal separation process without a skilled Grand Rapids divorce attorney on your side. If you and your spouse are interested in separate maintenance, reach out to Van Den Heuvel Law Office to discuss your case today.