Divorce is a tedious, emotional, and complex legal process. As a result, many couples tend to proceed with caution before filing a divorce petition.
In some states, couples opt for a legal separation instead of a divorce. A legal separation is a process that’s similar in some ways to a divorce in that the court helps couples resolve issues, but in the end, the couple is still married. Some couples choose this option due to religious beliefs, financial reasons, or a desire to keep the family together.
Does Michigan offer legal separation?
Michigan does not offer legal separation as an alternative to a divorce. Instead, couples may pursue a divorce alternative called separate maintenance, which is similar to a legal separation. With separate maintenance, the parties remain married, but the court may divide marital property and order spousal support.
How does someone file for separate maintenance in Michigan?
Separate maintenance is filed in the same manner and on the same grounds as divorce. The first step involves finding an attorney who specializes in family law, especially if you have children or property or if you and your spouse cannot agree on terms. The attorney will help you file initial paperwork to commence the proceeding.
To file for separate maintenance in Michigan, both parties must meet the court’s residency requirements. One spouse must reside in the state for 180 days and in the county of filing for at least 10 days before filing the complaint.
Just as in a divorce case, the court may help couples decide issues such as spousal support, child custody, or the distribution of assets/liabilities to the spouses (usually through their respective attorneys) if they cannot do so on their own.
Why would a couple choose separate maintenance?
If the couple has a religious objection to a divorce or wishes to stay married for other reasons, they may consider this divorce alternative. Separate maintenance may allow couples to continue healthcare coverage, depending on the terms of their plan.
If the couple wishes to pursue a divorce after the separate maintenance order is established, a new cause of action must be filed.
The family law attorneys with O’Reilly Rancilio in Sterling Heights are available to help you if you are considering a divorce or separate maintenance. For more information, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.