What if I am not prepared to file for divorce? Is there an alternative to filing for divorce?
You may file to obtain a legal separation. This process in Michigan is called "separate maintenance". The procedure for obtaining a Judgment of Separate Maintenance in Michigan is practically the same as the procedure for a divorce, but when a Judgment of Separate Maintenance is entered you are divorced from everything except the bounds of matrimony. If you have a Judgment of Separate Maintenance in Michigan rather than a Judgment of Divorce, you cannot remarry. If you receive a Judgment of Separate Maintenance in Michigan and then later decide you do want a divorce, you will need to start a new case for a divorce.
Why would I want a Judgment of Separate Maintenance rather than a Judgement of Divorce?
There are several reasons for deciding to file for separate maintenance over filing for divorce. Religious, moral, or economic reasons can all influence your decision. The ability to maintain insurance coverage, retain military benefits, and retain tax benefits are all considerations when determining what option is best for you.
- RELIGIOUS REASONS: Some people may fear being ex-communicated from their church if they were to divorce, so they may choose use the Separate Maintenance procedure instead of a divorce.
- HEALTH CARE REASONS: If a party has health concerns and requires continuing medical insurance, but if they divorced their insurance would terminate, they may use the Separate Maintenance procedure to be able to continue on their spouse’s health insurance. Note that it is becoming more frequent that employers are considering a Separate Maintenance Judgment to have the same terminating effect as a divorce with respect to health care benefits.
What can be determined in a separate maintenance action?
A separate maintenance action is similar to a divorce action wherein property, debts, child custody, child support and parenting time are determined by the court. The difference between divorce and separate maintenance is that after the completion of the separate maintenance action, you remain married to your spouse.
To obtain further information regarding filing a separate maintenance action, please contact Laurie Schmitt, Attorney at Law.
Laurie Schmitt of Schmitt Law, PLLC is a West Michigan family law attorney specializing in collaborative divorce as well as separation, divorce, child custody and support, paternity, and other family law litigation. She is licensed by Michigan State Bar and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, and has extensive advanced training in divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. Contact Laurie at (616) 608-4634 for a confidential consultation.