At Melissa Pearce & Associates, we understand how traumatizing the legal separation process can be, not only for the spouses choosing to separate, but especially for minor children involved. With every case, we seek to find common ground and settle the separation as peacefully and amicably as possible. This helps to minimize the psychological and emotional effects on the spouses and children involved. We believe that when our clients understand the process, it makes legal separation a much more manageable process.
Many couples believe they can file for legal separation without an attorney. However, our experience demonstrates that even the most amicable separations can become very emotionally charged. For couples seeking a legal separation, it is in their best interest of all involved to hire an experienced Michigan family lawyer early in the process.
Unlike a divorce, a legal separation does not legally end the marriage. Separation is functionally similar to a divorce, though at the end of the process, the marriage remains legally intact. After a divorce, some people choose to remarry; after a separation, however, neither party may remarry. For some couples, this choice is preferable to divorce, whether for medical or religious reasons. In other cases, couples may believe that they can work out their conflicts eventually, while choosing to live separately.
In Michigan, legal separation is referred to as “separate maintenance,” and the process is almost exactly the same as that of a divorce. Spouses filing for separate maintenance must have lived in Michigan for at least 180 days and the separate maintenance petition must be filed in a county where at least one of the spouses lives.
The separate maintenance process begins with one spouse filing a request for separate maintenance with the family court in the appropriate county. There is a waiting period for the judge to be able to grant your request. For families with minor children, the waiting period is 180 days, while for families without minor children, the waiting period is only 30 days. During this time, the spouses will work together to agree on the important decisions that come with legal separation, such as:
Like divorce, the filing spouse does not need a legal reason to seek legal separation because Michigan is a “no-fault” state. This means that there need not have been any cheating, abandonment, abuse, or other legal reason a spouse might seek separate maintenance. There only needs to be a breakdown of the marriage that is unlikely to be reconciled.
While separate maintenance may be the best choice for some couples, there are some downsides to this arrangement as well. For example, health and life insurers may consider this a “qualifying event” that would disqualify the spouse from insurance coverage. Another notable issue with separation is that any future children born to a mother after separation will still be legally considered the child of her husband, even if he did not biologically father the child. For couples who anticipate dating or remarrying after separation, there may be additional legal and social impacts to consider. Speak with an experienced family lawyer to better understand the possible consequences of a Michigan separation.
At Melissa Pearce & Associates, we have worked with many clients who were deciding whether to pursue divorce or legal separation. We work cooperatively and transparently with our clients to determine the best path forward. Although separate maintenance does not legally end the marriage, the emotional and social impact can be just as severe as with a divorce. Our attorneys are especially empathetic to families with minor children during what can be a confusing time. We are experienced in helping minimize the traumatic effects that divorce and separation have on children. And we help our clients understand how to communicate and care for their children during the process.
Contact us today to schedule your pre-engagement meeting. We listen closely to our clients’ stories and work to understand your goals and desired outcomes. We pride ourselves on not only providing legal guidance, but emotional support as well. Melissa Pearce & Associates will support you during this challenging time.