Sometimes people think about getting a legal separation because they think it will cost less than a divorce, but in reality, a legal separation can cost as much as or more than a divorce. Every case is different, so the costs will vary, based on factors like whether you and your spouse have already resolved your issues amicably or if you will have a knock-down-drag-out trial. A Michigan divorce attorney can talk to you about how much a legal separation costs in Michigan.
The Process for a Legal Separation
You will have to go through the same steps for a legal separation that you would have to do for a divorce. Michigan law requires you to submit the same financial documents as for a divorce. You will have to file a petition that is quite similar to a divorce petition, except it requests a legal separation instead of a divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on all of the terms, you will need to have a trial for a judge to determine those issues.
If you get a legal separation, you are still married. Neither you nor your spouse can marry other people. Some people seek a legal separation to preserve health insurance coverage, but many insurance companies treat a legal separation the same as a divorce and deny coverage.
Issues a Legal Separation Must Cover
Just like in a divorce, a legal separation has to address these issues:
- Splitting up the assets of the parties, including marital and separate property
- Dividing the debts of the spouses
- Determining whether spousal support is appropriate, and if so, the amount and duration
- Deciding who will pay child support and how much
- Choosing between sole physical custody and joint physical custody
- Working out the details of a co-parenting schedule
- Deciding if the parties will have joint legal custody or one parent will have sole legal custody
- Addressing special factors, like whether one parent will be the decision-maker of things like educational or medical issues
If the parties can work out all of these issues among themselves, they will simply need their lawyers to draft the settlement agreement and other required documents and get a judge's signature on the judgment. Non-contested cases like these still have filing fees the parties must pay to the court and legal fees for the attorneys.
Still, non-contested cases are far less expensive than hotly contested legal separation cases. A high-conflict legal separation case can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. These cases often involve multiple court hearings, depositions, interrogatories, and the exchange of documents.
You might need to hire an expert in a contested legal separation case. For example:
- A financial forensics expert could help you find out if your spouse has hidden assets.
- An appraiser can tell you the true value of things like an art collection, antiques, or jewelry.
- A vocational expert could testify about the extent to which either spouse's age, educational level, job skills, or disability could affect that person's ability to self-support through gainful employment.
- A business valuation expert could perform an audit to discover the value of a closely held or family business.
These are but a few examples of experts that might be helpful during a complicated legal separation case. Expert witnesses will add to the cost of the case significantly.
After going through all the cost of a legal separation, either party could then file for a divorce. Depending on the circumstances, the parties might have to go through all the same steps and incur the full cost of divorce on top of the expenses they paid for the legal separation.
A Michigan divorce attorney can talk to you and help you determine if a legal separation or a divorce is your best option. Contact us today.