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What is Separate Maintenance?

by | Oct 2, 2021 | Uncategorized |

When you are having significant problems in your marriage that cannot be resolved, yet you have specific reasons for wanting to avoid divorce, you should consider the possibility of separate maintenance. For example, perhaps one of the spouses needs to remain on the other spouse’s health insurance for an extended period of time, or maybe the parties have religious reasons for wanting to remain married. When it comes to separate maintenance, the term itself is a bit misleading because it suggests a legal decision solely concerning financial maintenance or support. However, what the term actually means under Michigan law is something much closer to what other states call a “legal separation.” With an order for separate maintenance, the married parties can have the court award financial support and child custody, and the parties can even divide marital property. Yet the parties will remain legally married.

Separate Maintenance Under Michigan Law

Michigan law expressly states that a person can file for separate maintenance with the court just as they would file for a regular divorce. When a party files an action for separate maintenance, that party does not have to explain the reasoning behind their decision. 

In short, there are no fault-based grounds for separate maintenance. Instead, the party who files the action should state that the marriage has broken down and that there is no likelihood that it can be fixed. If the court finds evidence to support that information, it can enter a judgment of separate maintenance for the parties. However, if one of the spouses files a counterclaim for divorce, then the court can enter a divorce judgment.

Spouses Must Agree to Separate Maintenance Instead of Divorce 

Since a counterclaim for divorce—when one party files a petition for separate maintenance—can result in the court entering a divorce judgment instead of a judgment of separate maintenance, the spouses will need to agree, in effect, to seeking separate maintenance instead of divorce.

You Can Still Get Divorced

If the parties later decide that they do prefer a divorce instead of separate maintenance, they can still get divorced under Michigan law. To be sure, a judgment of separate maintenance does not preclude a divorce later on if the parties’ circumstances change.

Seek Advice from Our Divorce Lawyers in Michigan

If you are considering the possibility of separate maintenance, or if you want to learn more about options outside of divorce while still asking the court to order support or to make a determination about child custody, one of our Michigan divorce attorneys can speak with you today. We have years of experience handling a wide variety of family law matters in Michigan, and we can work with you to find a solution that meets your needs. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins for more information about separate maintenance under Michigan law.