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Does Someone Need to go to Court to Legally Separate from Their Spouse?

Two of the most commonly asked questions in our Michigan divorce law office are, “How do I get a legal separation?”, and “Do I need to go to court to get legally separated?” The short answer is that there is nothing in the State of Michigan specifically called a legal separation – you aren’t legally required to be separated from your spouse to file for a divorce in Michigan, nor are you required to be legally separated before the entry of the final Judgment of Divorce. The terms “legal separation” and “separate maintenance action” are often confused and interchanged.

What is a Separate Maintenance Action?

When people refer to a legal separation, they are usually referring to what is called a “Separate Maintenance Action”. The procedure for obtaining a Judgment of Separate Maintenance is essentially the same as the procedure for obtaining a divorce in Michigan, except that when your Judgment of Separate Maintenance is entered you are divorced in every way except for the bonds of matrimony. That means that if you have received a Judgement of Separate Maintenance, instead of a Judgment of Divorce, you are prohibited from remarrying. If you decide after you have received a Judgment of Separate Maintenance that you do want to divorce, you will then need to begin a new case for divorce. Generally, the existing Judgment of Separate Maintenance’s terms will transfer into the new Judgment of Divorce.

Separate Maintenance Judgment or Judgment of Divorce?

There are many reasons why a married person in the State of Michigan would forgo filing for divorce and choose to obtain a Judgment of Separate Maintenance instead, such as health care, immigration or religious reasons:

Health care reasons – If you have health issues that require continued medical insurance coverage, which would be terminated with a Judgment of Divorce, you may choose to use the Separate Maintenance procedure in order to continue coverage from your spouse’s health insurance.

Immigration reasons – There are situations that involve immigration status when one spouse has brought the other into the United States. If the second spouse’s citizenship status is dependent on being married to the first spouse, a Separate Maintenance Judgment will facilitate that.

Religious reasons – There are some religions that do not allow members of their congregation to be divorced. For example, you may be ex-communicated from your church if you were to divorce, but not if you remain married with a Separate Maintenance Judgment.

If you have any questions about whether a Separate Maintenance Judgement or a Judgment of Divorce is best for you and your unique situation, contact our experienced Michigan law team today. A seasoned family law attorney will provide you with legal information and discuss the best way for you to protect you and your family. If you're looking for a family law firm and skilled divorce lawyers for men, contact ADAM for a consultation. 

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