Divorce laws in some states recognize what is referred to as a legal separation. A legal separation in those states defines a situation in which the parties are living separate and apart. A court order dictates the duties and rights of the couple while they are living apart. In states in which a minimum amount of time living apart is required to obtain a no-fault divorce, legal separations are used to settle various matters while the parties are waiting until they may petition the court for a divorce. If you contact a Michigan legal separation lawyer regarding legal separation, he will inform you that our state does not recognize legal separations.
However, Michigan does have something remarkably similar to a legal separation called separate maintenance. A Michigan divorce attorney can help you seek separate maintenance, provided you meet the requirements under Michigan Compiled Laws Code §552. 7.
How Does Michigan Law Define Separate Maintenance?
Separate maintenance is a situation in which couples do not want to obtain a divorce by they cannot continue to live together. A spouse must petition the court for separate maintenance in the same manner and using the same grounds for a divorce. However, the party is not requesting the court dissolve the marriage. The party is requesting the court to enter an order granting the spouses the ability to live separate lives while still being legally married.
In other words, the parties may go on living their lives as if they are not married to the other person. However, they are not free to marry another person because the marriage has not been legally dissolved. At some point in the future, one or both spouses may petition the court for a Judgment of Divorce to legally dissolve the marriage.
If a spouse petitions the court for an Order of Separate Maintenance and the other spouse counterclaims for a divorce, the action converts to a divorce action. Therefore, both parties must agree to remain legally married, but live separate and apart to obtain an Order of Separate Maintenance.
Obtaining Spousal Support During Separate Maintenance
An Order of Separate Maintenance settles the same issues that a Judgment of Divorce settles. The order awards custody and child support; establishes parenting time; divides marital property and debt; and, awards of denies spousal support.
An award of spousal support in a separate maintenance action is based on the same elements and criteria as it is in a divorce action. The court considers the relevant factors to determine if spousal support is warranted and, if so, the amount of spousal support to be paid.
In most cases, judges consider the factors cited in the case of Parish v Parish when determining spousal support in a separate maintenance action. Those factors include:
- The conduct of the parties;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The ability of both parties to earn a living;
- The amount of property and the source of property awarded to each party;
- The age, needs, and health of the parties;
- The standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage;
- Whether the parties are responsible for supporting others;
- General principles of equity;
- The parties' present situations; and,
- The ability of either party to pay spousal support.
Contact a Michigan Divorce Attorney for More Information
Issues related to spousal support can be complex in an action for separate maintenance just as in any divorce action. A Michigan legal separation attorney can provide advice and guidance to help ensure your legal rights are not violated, and your best interests are protected. Schedule a consult with seasoned Michigan legal separation lawyer, Cameron C. Goulding today to advise you of your rights and legal options.