Legal Separation

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In Michigan, a legal separation is sought after by many. However, there are a few important things to know about legal separation in Michigan. 

First, the official term for a legal separation in Michigan is “separate maintenance.” Second,  this option is available if both spouses agree to it. Thirdly, it simply allows the couple to live apart while still being legally married, and they can later decide whether or not to get divorced.

There are a number of factors that can affect whether separate maintenance or divorce is best for a couple. We will discuss legal separation in detail so you may be better informed about the process.

What is Legal Separation and What are the Grounds for it in Michigan?

Legal separation is a process in which a married couple separates their lives while still remaining technically married. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to allow one spouse to maintain health insurance coverage or to pursue a divorce at a later date. In Michigan, there are several grounds for legal separation, including adultery, desertion, and imprisonment. If the couple has children, they will need to address issues such as custody and child support.

The Process of Legal Separation: What Happens During the Process and What are the Steps?

The first step is filing a petition with the court. You will need an attorney to help you with this. This petition will state that the couple wants to legally separate. It must be filed in the county where the party who is filing the petition resides. In order to successfully file the petition, you must show the court that you or your spouse have resided in the state for at least 180 days prior to filing. In the case that it is your spouse who has resided in Michigan for at least 180 days, you must have resided here for at least 10 days.

After the petition is filed, the court will issue a summons. This document notifies the other party that a legal separation has been requested. The next step is for the other party to file an answer to the petition. 

The respondent may agree to the separation, or they may ask for a divorce. If the respondent agrees to the legal separation, the court will take steps to finalize the separation. If the respondent asks for a divorce, the court will take steps to commence and finalize the divorce.

Is There a Waiting Period for Separate Maintenance in Michigan?

Before a judge may rule on your case, Michigan law mandates that a statutory waiting period be put in place. For couples without children, this waiting period is 30 days. Couples with children, on the other hand, must wait for at least 180 days.

During this period of waiting, it is ideal to come up with a plan for how to divide property and debt, how to divide custody and visitation, how to pay child support and spousal support, etc.

What May You Do Once You Both Have Come Up With a Separate Maintenance Plan?

The plan should be put in a separate maintenance agreement. This agreement must be in writing and should be signed by both parties. The court will approve this agreement and close the case if the contract is equitable (fair) for both spouses and the custody arrangements are in the children’s best interest. In the event that the drafted agreement is considered inequitable (unfair), the court can choose to either overturn it or modify it to make it more equitable.

The court will make any final decisions if there are any disagreements and will issue an appropriate order for enforcement.  

Why Do Several Couples Go for a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce?

There are a few reasons why couples in Michigan may choose to go through a legal separation instead of a divorce. For one, a legal separation may be seen as a way to test the waters before making a final decision about getting divorced. Additionally, some couples may want to still be able to communicate and cooperate effectively even after they are no longer living together. 

Another reason may be religious beliefs–some faiths prohibit divorce, so a legal separation may be the only option available to the couple. The final reason may be financial–a legal separation allows the couple to live separately without having to divide their assets and debts right away, which can be complicated and expensive.

Is There an Alternative to Legal Separation or Divorce in Michigan?

There is an alternative to legal separation or divorce in Michigan known as a trial separation. During a trial separation, the couple lives separately but still remains married. This option allows the couple to explore different living arrangements and determine if they want to continue to be married or end their relationship. If the couple decides they want to continue to be married, they can resume living together. If the couple decides they want to end their relationship, they can proceed with a legal separation or divorce.

If a couple decides to go through a trial separation, it is important to involve an attorney who will put it in writing. This is because if they decide to get legally separated or divorced later on, the date of the trial separation could be used as evidence. Additionally, in order to ensure that both parties are on the same page, it is important to have a written agreement outlining the terms of the separation. This can help avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts further down the road.

Can You See Other People After a Separate Maintenance?

A legal separation does not end the marriage, but it does establish certain rights and obligations for the spouses. Michigan law does not allow for post-separation dating or sexual relationships. Specifically, the law disallows “dating, courting, or engaging in a sexual relationship with another person” during the separation period. This, of course, is because you are still legally married. 

This prohibition applies regardless of whether the parties are living separately or still residing in the same household.

Can a Person Still File for Divorce After Already Getting a Legal Separation in Michigan?

A person can still file for divorce after getting a legal separation, but the divorce will be granted more quickly if the couple had decided on divorce straight away before a legal separation. On the other hand, a couple may file to cancel the legal separation order if you and your spouse reconcile and are no longer living apart.

Artisan Legal Services, PLLC

In conclusion, a legal separation in Michigan can provide many benefits to couples who are experiencing difficulty in their marriage. A legal separation may help to preserve the couple’s assets, allow for the determination of child custody and support, and provide a framework for the couple to eventually divorce. If you are considering a legal separation, it is important to speak with an experienced Michigan family law attorney at Artisan Legal Services, PLLC who can advise you on the best course of action for your specific situation.


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