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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, December 29, 2017

Top Six Reasons to File for Legal Separation

Legal separation (called “separate maintenance” in Michigan), is a divorce alternative that few people use. When you get a legal separation, you are still legally married. Neither of you is free to marry someone else. In some situations, however, a legal separation can meet at least some of the needs of a couple that wants to end their relationship but not get a divorce. If you are considering putting an end to your marriage, talk with a Michigan legal separation lawyer before you make any decisions.

  1. Religious convictions. Some religious sects forbid divorce, and others frown on it. Even if one’s church does not prohibit divorce, a person’s individual religious beliefs can render divorce an unacceptable option.
  2. Secular convictions. Some people are adamant that they will never divorce. Many of these people lived through the nasty, bitter divorce of their parents and swore they would never follow in their footsteps. Other may feel that they took a vow and they will honor it.
  3. Health insurance. When one spouse has a severe medical condition or disability, and the other spouse provides the health insurance, the couple might opt to get a legal separation instead of a divorce. Some employer-provided health insurance companies, however, deny coverage to the nonemployee spouse when there is a legal separation.
  4. The children. A legal separation may be a temporary measure until the children are grown. A legal separation can be converted into a divorce at a later date.
  5. Inheritance. One’s parents or other relatives may have threatened to disinherit anyone who gets a divorce. Depending on the amount of money at stake, a couple might agree to pursue a legal separation until they receive the inheritance, at which time they can convert the legal separation into a divorce.
Social stigma. While the social stigma of divorce is far less an issue than it used to be, some couples would rather live separately although still legally married rather than have the label of being divorced.

Differences Between Divorce and Legal Separation

In a legal separation, just as in a divorce, the spouses can formalize their arrangements for child custody, child support, and spousal support. They can distribute the marital and separate property and apportion the debts. The couple can reach an agreement between themselves or have a full-blown trial in court. Either way, for the terms to be enforceable, a judge must approve and enter a judgment. The primary difference is that after a divorce case you are no longer married and after a legal separation case you are still married.

Consider All Factors Before Deciding on Legal Separation

You should consider these factors before pursuing a legal separation. If you file for separate maintenance in Michigan, your spouse can counterclaim for divorce. If your spouse does this, the court will handle the case as a divorce action, not a legal separation.

Also, if your sole motivation is to preserve health insurance for one spouse, legal separation might not achieve this end. If your spouse incurs new debt after you get a legal separation, it is marital debt that can affect your credit score and that you might have to pay. The husband will be the legal father of any child born to the wife even after the legal separation.

Divorce and legal separation often involve complex issues. Contact Michigan divorce attorney Cameron C. Goulding today to schedule a consultation and explore your options.

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