In some cases, a couple may want to separate before filing for divorce. They may want to work on their marriage through marriage counseling or couples therapy. However, there could be legal implications in seeking a legal separation. It is wise to consult experienced Michigan divorce attorneys before deciding between legal separation and divorce.
What is a Legal Separation?
Illinois does not recognize legal separation as a court action. Parties can agree to live separately and party under an agreement they draft, but the court does not enforce any agreement for legal separation.
However, Michigan does recognize separate maintenance. A separate maintenance action is similar to a divorce, but it does not end the marriage. Issues related to child support, parenting responsibilities, spousal support, and property are settled and ordered by the court in a judgment of separate maintenance.
Because Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, a spouse simply needs to state that the marriage is irrevocably broken to request a divorce. Therefore, if a spouse files for divorce in response to his or her spouse filing an action for legal maintenance, the court will only consider the divorce action.
How Do I Obtain an Order of Legal Maintenance in Michigan?
For the terms of the separation to be enforceable, you must obtain a Judgment of Separate Maintenance. One spouse must file a court action seeking a legal separation. The process of obtaining a Judgment of Legal Maintenance is similar to that for obtaining a divorce. One spouse files a petition with the court and serves the petition on the non-filing spouse. The non-filing spouse has the right to respond to and file counterclaims to the petition for legal separation.
The judge uses the same standards to decide issues related to the separation as the judge would use if the parties were divorcing. For example, matters related to custody and visitation depend on the best interest of the child. Child support payments and spousal maintenance are calculated in the same manner as the obligations would be calculated if the parties were requesting a divorce order. Property division and debt division are also handled in the same manner as a divorce.
The only difference between a divorce and legal maintenance in Michigan is that the parties are still married. The spouses are not permitted to remarry with first obtaining a Judgment of Divorce.
Is a Legal Separation Right for You?
Deciding between legal maintenance and divorce can be difficult for some couples. Some religious beliefs or cultural beliefs do not allow for divorces. Therefore, a couple who no longer wishes to live together as man and wife might prefer a legal separation. In some cases, a couple may wish to remain married so that a spouse can retain health insurance coverage under the other spouse's coverage, or there could be immigration issues to consider.
Call Our Michigan Divorce Attorneys for More Information
Before you decide between a divorce action or a legal maintenance action, it is best to discuss your situation with our Michigan divorce attorneys. Contact our office today. We will review your goals, needs, and legal options to help you determine what type of action is in your best interest.