What is Legal Separation in Michigan, and How Does it Apply to You?

Is legal separation the same as divorce, or are you still tied together?


A lesser known fact about divorce is that it’s possible, in Michigan, to have one in all but name. What does that mean? It means the act of legally separating from your spouse is in many ways just like a divorce. However, it’s an entirely different legal act, which comes under the title of ‘Separate Maintenance’.


Why would you choose separation over divorce?


When a couple no longer lives together and considers their marriage to be irreconcilable, they may consider divorce. But if they don’t want to formally file for divorce, they can petition the court for a Judgment of Separate Maintenance.


Just like a divorce judgment, this filing requests that the court divide all of the couple’s assets, and make a determination with regards to child custody arrangements and child support payments. All debts, financial assets, and co-owned property is divided by the court. If necessary, spousal support is also determined.


How do you become legally separated in Michigan?


If the separating couple are willing and able to resolve all of their financial, custody, and support related issues before the judgment is filed in a settlement agreement, then the court will incorporate this into the judgment, as long as it finds all aspects of the settlement to be fair and agreeable.


The one distinct difference in this proceeding is that when all is said and done, the couple is still married. So while it may feel for all the world like you are divorced after a Judgment of Separate Maintenance, you cannot legally remarry. You must go through the process a second time and file for divorce.


Under Michigan law, the only legally recognized grounds for a separate maintenance judgment is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is also known as “irreconcilable differences.” This means that the couple believes that there is no likelihood whatsoever that their marriage could be preserved.


Are there benefits to legal separation?


Initially, separate maintenance was used when a couple no longer wished to be married but wanted to continue sharing the health insurance benefits that marriage provided them. But in recent years, many health insurance companies have changed their policies to include the fact that a judgement of separate maintenance is treated in the same way as a divorce.


Why would a couple want to be divorced in all but name? Many people don’t believe that divorce is morally acceptable for religious reasons. However, they’re sometimes trapped in marriages with abusive partners, or partners who are struggling with addictions that make them a possible danger to children. For them, a Judgment of Separate Maintenance gives peace of mind without a violation of conscience.


Are you considering getting legally separated from your spouse?


If you’re considering a legal separation, contact The Kronzek Firm and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. We would be glad to meet with you and discuss all of the options available to you in this, and other, areas. In the event that you decide that a divorce is actually what you want, then we can help you with that as well.