Like many other states, Michigan law has options for West Michigan couples who may wish to remain married but otherwise live separate lives and have separate homes and finances.
Many couples may be interested in this option, which Michigan officially calls separate maintenance, for a number of reasons.
In some cases, a person may have strong religious or moral objections to ending a marriage. In other cases, people may feel like they or their kids just are not emotionally or otherwise ready for the finality of a divorce. Sometimes, a couple may even wish to avoid or postpone divorce for financial or other considerations.
In practice, a separate maintenance case is very similar to divorce
As is the case with a divorce, in a separate maintenance action, the court will award custody and parenting time, order child support and spousal support and divide the couple’s property and debts.
Again as in a divorce, the couple that is choosing to separate can elect to negotiate on these issues privately and file their agreement with the court. However, it is important to remember that either side can instead choose to contest these issues in front of a judge.
Just because a couple is not divorcing, it does not mean that the separate maintenance case will be simple or free of conflict. Those interested in separate maintenance or going through a seperation should be sure they understand how the law applies to their circumstances.
There are some important features to separate maintenance cases
In practice, a couple has to agree to use separate maintenance instead of a divorce in order to part ways. If either party opts for a divorce instead, the court will honor that party’s request.
People who enter a separate maintenance agreement will need to remember also that they will remain legally married. In addition to not being able to remarry, their status can have other often unintended legal consequences. If you want to learn more about whether a separate maintenance action is right for you, contact our office to learn more.