When a couple determines that it is time to end their marriage, they have two options. They can divide their assets while leaving the marriage intact with an action for separation, or they can end their marriage in divorce. In the state of Michigan, a couple can file for divorce, but there is no such thing as a legal separation. Instead, if a couple wants to stay married, they can file to have separate maintenance.
The procedures for the two are nearly identical, with the only major difference being that in a divorce the marriage is ended, and in separate maintenance, their lives are divided but they are still legally married.
How Does Separate Maintenance Work?
In Michigan, the filing requirements for separate maintenance are similar including grounds and residency. Child and spousal support, child custody, and division of property procedures also work the same. The biggest difference is that separate maintenance does not terminate the marriage. A separation action will also allow one spouse to keep the other spouse on the health insurance because they are legally still married. Couples can still file a joint tax return, as well.
Equitable Distribution in Separate Maintenance
Whether a couple chooses to divorce or file for separate maintenance, the court will divide their assets equitably. Equitable distribution does not, however, always mean equal. Spouses will each retain their separate property such as gifts and inheritance they received individually or owned before the marriage. Then the court will divide their marital property as fairly as possible. Several factors will be used in determining the distribution such as each spouse’s income, the length of the marriage, marital conduct of each spouse such as abuse and adultery, and other relevant circumstances.
Just like in a divorce, spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, may be ordered during a separation. The court may award alimony to one spouse if they do not have assets or income sufficient enough to take care of themselves. There is no set calculator for determining this support, and the court will take into consideration many of the same factors they do when determining distribution of property. Spousal support awards during separations of typically temporary, and they may be modified if the circumstances of either spouse change.
Considerations for Children
Michigan courts will determine custody of children during separate maintenance based on what they believe to be in the best interests of the children. The court will examine each parent’s ability to have custody, relationship with the child, ability to provide for the child, moral behavior of the parents, and the preferences of the child.
After child custody is determined, the court will then make an award for child support. The non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay support based on the income of the parents and the number of children involved.
Contact a Divorce Attorney Today
If you are struggling in your marriage and feel that a divorce or order for separate maintenance might be the best option for you and your spouse, contact the law offices of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. today. Their attorneys have decades of experience helping their clients navigate the complex and stressful process of divorce and legal maintenance.