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How Does Separation Affect Property Rights and Custody Rights?

Separation can, but won't necessarily, affect the property division in a subsequent divorce. Michigan is an equitable distribution of property state which means the court applies certain factors in allocating assets and debt regardless of the parties living apart before or at any point during the divorce process.

One of those factors is the contribution by each party to the accumulation of assets and, as such, assets or debt that was accumulated post-separation could be primarily awarded to the party who earned them. The bottom line is that remaining married while separated puts any assets you have at risk and may make you liable for debts your spouse is incurring as well as a longer term of alimony than if you had divorced at the time of separation. Living apart without the protection of a custody order is leaves you no way to enforce parenting time

It will certainly affect your custody rights if you are living apart from your children. The police typically won't assist you without a court order, which results in custody being dictated by the party who is in possession of the children. Further, the longer the person moving out is on the outside looking in so to speak, the more likely it is that the court will award custody to the parent with whom the children reside.

It can also affect issues involving personal property, and can trigger child support or spousal support to be paid. If you move out of the marital home, you may lose any control of what's happening at the home on a day to day basis, and you may also lose control over any valuables or personal property at that home. If you leave, your spouse could destroy, remove, or try to hide property from you. Therefore, moving out of the home is something that needs to be done when both parties can trust each other and both parties feel they have a valid agreement.

There needs to be a meaningful discussion prior to vacating the home, and ideally, this agreement should be a written agreement. If parties find it necessary to separate, it is advisable to file a Complaint for Divorce or Complaint for Separate Maintenance (legal separation) and obtain temporary court orders addressing custody, parenting time, support, payment of bills, and other financial matters before vacating or moving out of the house. This allows for a temporary agreement to be made regarding whatever issues are relevant. If there are minor children, you can make a temporary agreement regarding custody, parenting time, child support, and payment of monthly bills prior to vacating the home.

Keep in mind; moving out with no plan and no agreement can cause devastating consequences. If you are married and do not have minor (under eighteen years) children, there still should be some understanding and agreement prior to moving out regarding issues of paying monthly bills. It is better to know prior to moving if you're responsible for all of the bills at the house or a large majority of those bills before committing yourself to rent and other expenses at a second home.

About ADAM

If you have any questions about whether a Separate Maintenance Judgment 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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