Generally speaking, a separate maintenance case is Michigan’s version of what some states call legal separation.
In practice, separate maintenance is similar to divorce. If a married couple no longer want to live in the same home, they while have to file in court for separate maintenance. Unless the couple agrees on them, a judge still will ultimately decide issues like custody and parenting time, child support, property division and spousal support when hearing a separate maintenance case.
The big difference between separate maintenance and divorce is that the couple remains legally married after the case ends.
A couple of words warning are in order. First, the spouses in practice have to agree to separate maintenance. If one spouse wants a divorce and files the right paperwork, Michigan’s courts are very likely to grant it and disregard the separate maintenance request.
Second, once a couple completes a separate maintenance case, they can always file for a divorce down the road. However, they cannot use the divorce as a do-over because they do not like the existing court-approved separate maintenance decree.
Why would I want to consider a separate maintenance case?
One common reason people pursue a separate maintenance case is that they have deeply held religious or moral convictions against divorce.
However, there are other reasons to consider this process as an alternative to divorce.
Sometimes, an Oakland County resident, or his or her children, might not be ready for the finality of a divorce. In other cases, there may be some financial or professional reason to stay married.
An experienced family law attorney can explain this legal option to residents, but it is important for anyone considering separate maintenance to remember that it is not any simpler than divorce.
Someone going through the process will need to be well aware of their legal options.