If you are considering divorce, your first step might be to separate for a period of time before making a final decision. In Michigan, the courts legally recognize separate maintenance as a form of separation.
Are you thinking about pursuing a separation from your spouse? You may find that separate maintenance is advantageous for you and your spouse for these reasons.
Separate Maintenance Provides Time
When you divorce, you make a permanent decision. An advantage of legal separation is that you can take time to consider other options, go to therapy, or get your finances together before filing.
Some couples want to take care of shared debts before they divorce each other. During the period of separation, you can pay off debt and divide remaining assets without court involvement.
Separate Maintenance Lets You Test the Waters
After a period of separate maintenance, some couples decide that they would like to continue the marriage. You may decide that divorce is not the right option and may want to move back in after having some time apart and perhaps even to go to counseling.
Alternatively, even if you do decide to divorce, separate maintenance can stave off some of the more hostile aspects of divorce. You are still married, so it is possible that other partners may not be in the picture. You might also not be asking for spousal support or child support, so the emotional aspects of separation may not be as intense.
Separate Maintenance Provides Time to Consider Division
You and your spouse may come together to make important decisions during separation. In fact, you can smooth out the divorce process by using your time apart to consider asset division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. Coming to court with constructive ideas is helpful.
When you come to court to settle your divorce, the judge may ask if you have established a written agreement. You have the opportunity to divide the assets as you see fit rather than relying on the judge's decision.
Separate Maintenance May Align With Faith
Some people believe in religions that do not allow for divorce. Separate maintenance is not a divorce, but it does allow each spouse to live separately and maintain their own lives. You are still technically married, but you have the opportunity to pursue your own financial or emotional endeavors in the meantime. So this option may offer a good solution to those who disagree with divorce but need some separation from their spouse.
Separate Maintenance May Save Money
Divorce is expensive. Not only are you struggling with the costs of lawyers fees, but you also have to divide your assets and perhaps even move out of your home. You might consider separate maintenance as a way to save money until you can afford a full divorce.
Additionally, you can also still maintain tax benefits as a married couple when you file your documents jointly. You are still legally married, you may consider this option if it is beneficial for your family.
Separate Maintenance Means You Need a Lawyer
While hiring a lawyer is not a legal requirement for pursuing separation, you certainly should have legal counsel. Filing for separate maintenance requires some of the same steps as filing for divorce, so you want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you enter the process.
Keep in mind that if you intend to move from separate maintenance to divorce, you will have to start the process of divorce from scratch. This is just one more reason you should hire a lawyer.
Bahrie Law offers legal services for families who need them. Call our office today to speak with an attorney who can walk you through the steps of separate maintenance or divorce. We understand the process can be complicated, but we can provide assistance along the way.