A divorce is a long process, most often beginning with separate maintenance. Some couples overlook the separate maintenance portion of a divorce. Separate maintenance is an important part of the divorce process, so it is important for you to fully understand what a separation entails. The following are some things you should know about a separate maintenance.
What Is a Separate Maintenance?
Similar to a legal separation in other states, separate maintenance is more than simply moving into separate homes. The process is essentially what begins the process of divorce.
The court requires you and your spouse to come to an agreement which defines each of your legal obligations and rights during the separation process. However, separate maintenance is not what ends your marriage.
Once you get a separate maintenance order, you will start to sort through the important aspects of divorce. This includes custody, child support, alimony or spousal support, and asset division. Once you legally separate, the process of property distribution begins. The state of Michigan is not a community property state, so your marital assets are distributed in a fair but not necessarily equitable fashion.
Another interesting part of separate maintenance is that is used when a couple no longer wants to live together or act as a married couple but wishes to preserve the marriage. Couples may do this for a variety of reasons. For instance, a separation maintenance lets one partner keep the other on a health insurance plan because the marriage is still intact.
You may also wish to pursue a separate maintenance for religious or citizenship purposes. You may also still file a joint tax return, offering you both better tax breaks than if you file individually.
How Do You Handle Finances During Separate Maintenance?
In many marriages, one partner typically handles the bulk of the finances. If you are not familiar with your marital finances, now is the time to look at all the financial statements and accounts so you know where you stand.
Gather all the statements of accounts which you share with your spouse. Look at all your debt and assets and make copies of all pertinent documents so you know where to begin.
If you do not have access to these accounts, you either need to request the information from your spouse or have your attorney do so for you. If your name is attached to accounts, you have a right to the information.
What you do not want to do is continue to use your marital assets once you legally separate. You both should cancel any joint credit accounts and bank accounts. Start new accounts in your name only. This way, neither of you will be responsible for any debt or purchases made after the separation. If you fail to do this, you will both be held liable for the debt.
Establishing credit in your own name is important. In some marriages, the bulk of the accounts are in one spouse's name. In other marriages, the credit history is poor. If you do not have credit at all, or if your credit with your spouse is poor, now is the time to start fresh.
You may initially find building credit a difficult task. However, as you open credit lines and make regular payments, you will quickly build a credit history, which allows you to get a car loan or buy or rent a home with more ease than if you had no credit at all.
If you have any questions about divorce or separate maintenance, please contact us at Bahrie Law. We look forward to assisting you with your family law needs.