In Michigan, legal separations are called separate maintenance. The difference between separate maintenance and divorce is that, if granted, the parties are still legally married and are not free to remarry. However, during both legal separation and divorce processes, the court will decide property division, child/spousal support, child custody and parenting time.
Parties may choose separate maintenance rather than divorce when ending the marriage may negatively impact immigration status, insurance coverage, property division, or religious beliefs. It may also be that the parties simply aren’t ready to end the marriage. Interestingly, in order for the court to grant either a divorce or separate maintenance, the parties must prove that the marriage has broken down to the point that there is no likelihood of reconciliation.
Divorces are final. Once the divorce decree is signed and approved by the court, the parties are free to remarry. Since separate maintenance does not sever the marital relationship, there can be estate planning consequences if one party dies during the course of the separation. The surviving spouse may maintain his/her rights by statute and potentially under the deceased’s estate plan.
Obviously, both divorce and separate maintenance are complicated processes. The decision to enter either cause of action should be given careful consideration and should be undertaken based on concrete facts, not temporary emotions. If you’re contemplating divorce or a legal separation contact Great Lakes Legal Group to discuss your options!