Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Which Should I Choose?

If you are having difficulties in your marriage, you may be considering the possibility of filing for divorce. At the same time, you might have heard people discussing the benefits of legal separation, and you might be wondering whether this could be easier in the long run than actually going through the process of divorce. We want to address questions concerning legal separation and divorce and discuss the limitations and potential benefits of a legal separation (as opposed to a divorce).

There is no short answer to the question of whether you should choose legal separation or divorce, but we can tell you that legal separation is almost always just as complicated and stressful as the divorce process. However, legal separation can be beneficial for some families due to religious or cultural matters.

What is a Legal Separation?

Michigan divorce law (MCL 552.7) provides for separate maintenance, also known as a legal separation. However, a legal separation typically involves a couple going through the court system, or sometimes an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, in order to settle matters connected to the separation such as property division and parenting time schedules. To be clear, a legal separation does not change the legal status of the parties' relationship-they remain married-but it does allow the parties to go through many of the same processes involved in getting a divorce.

In sum, legal separation comes with some of the same benefits as divorce without a change in the legal "married" status.

What can Happen With a Legal Separation?

By going through a legal separation, you can deal with some of the following matters that also arise in the divorce process:

  • Spousal maintenance;

  • Property division;

  • Parenting time; and

  • Child custody; and

  • Child support.

Are There Benefits to Choosing Legal Separation Instead of Divorce?

If you were thinking about legal separation instead of divorce to save some of the stress associated with divorce, you should know that legal separation likely is not the best choice. As we discussed above, the steps involved in getting a legal separation typically are just as complex, time-consuming, and stressful as those involved in getting divorce.

What are the benefits of a legal separation, then? For some couples, there may be financial benefits of remaining legally married, which can include the benefit of filing a joint tax return. Another significant financial benefit may be related to health insurance. One of the spouses may cover both parties through an employee insurance plan, and it may be impossible to keep both spouses covered once a divorce is finalized. By remaining legally married, both spouses may be able to remain on a single insurance plan. Military spouses also can receive certain benefits when the marriage lasts 10 years or more, which can be another reason to remain married (but separated).

Some families also have religious or cultural reasons for wanting to avoid divorce and legally ending the marriage, despite the fact that they want to live separate and apart, and to deal with some of the same issues that arise in a divorce.

Contact a Divorce Attorney in Michigan

If you have questions about legal separation or divorce, you should speak with a divorce attorney in Michigan about your case. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins today.