How to Use Separate Maintenance as an Alternative to Divorce

While Michigan law doesn’t provide for legal separation like you will find in some states, couples can create a status known as “separate maintenance” if they wish to stay married but want to live separate lives.

There are several reasons why a couple may want to enter a separate maintenance agreement, such as:

  • Religious beliefs — A couple may be required to stay married to keep in good standing with their religious affiliation.
  • Health concerns — One spouse may be seriously ill and need ongoing health insurance benefits that would be severed if the couple divorced.
  • Possibility of future reconciliation — The couple may want to delay divorce while they attempt to repair their relationship.
  • Concern for Children — The couple may wish to stay married to spare the children the mental anguish and alienation that can result from divorce.

Michigan law recognizes that couples may need to stay technically married while living apart for a lengthy period or even indefinitely. To establish separate maintenance, the couple must go through a formal court process that is in some ways similar to a divorce. The court will address such issues as property division, spousal support and child custody and support if the couple has minor children.

Just like in a divorce, you and your spouse can work out an agreement setting forth the terms of separate maintenance. However, you still need to go through the formal court process to make your agreement binding and enforceable. This is especially important if one spouse will be paying child or spousal support. It’s also important to note that both spouses must be seeking separate maintenance. If one of them seeks a divorce instead, the court will treat the case as such.

The key aspect of separate maintenance is that you remain married, so you can’t marry someone else while you are in this status. A separate maintenance agreement is not a divorce. However, a divorce following a period of separate maintenance is usually completed quickly and easily, since most or all of the terms have already been worked out.

If you are considering entering into a separate maintenance agreement, the experienced Michigan family law attorneys at Shatzman & Shatzman are ready to assist. We serve individuals throughout Shelby Township, Chesterfield Township, and Rochester Hills. To schedule your free consultation, call 586-800-3018 or contact us online.