When confronting the breakdown of their marriage, some couples don’t want to rush headlong into divorce. They choose instead to separate and there are variations on this theme. Some states have types of separation — trial separation, permanent separation and legal separation. Michigan, however, doesn’t engage in these distinctions.
In Michigan, if a married couple lives apart, in the eyes of the law they’re a married couple living apart with all the attendant rights and obligations that marriage confers. But if the couple living apart decides to legally separate, then they must proceed with a separate maintenance legal action.
The separate maintenance action moves along in much the same way and on the same grounds as a divorce proceeding. Taking all the same factors into consideration as would be done in a divorce proceeding, the judge sorts out property division, spousal support, child custody, child support and visitation rights.
But at the end of the day, the couple is still legally married.
The move to a final divorce has been stayed until some unspecified later date. Should that day arrive, the terms of the separate maintenance judgment will be enforceable. A divorce action will have to be filed, but it’s more or less a formality. The legal legwork has been done.
With separate maintenance, the couple retains a few marital privileges including but not limited to:
- Social Security benefits
- Pension benefits eligibility
- Inheritance rights
- Insurance beneficiary rights
- Filing taxes jointly
- Health insurance – If one spouse is carried on the other spouse’s health insurance policy, that may continue depending on the policy’s rules.
It’s a long and winding road to marital dissolution and there are several paths to choose from. Deciding which legal action is best to pursue can be sorted out with an attorney experienced in this area of the law. If you’d like to learn more, contact us to schedule a free consultation.