Is Legal Separation The Same as Divorce in Oakland County?

Unhappy couple

Legal separation is similar to divorce, but under the law is completely different!

Did you know that it’s possible, right here in Oakland County, to have a divorce in all but name? Not sure what we mean by that? It’s simple –  the act of legally separating from your spouse is very similar to getting a divorce. However, under Michigan law, it’s an entirely different legal act, which comes under the title of ”Separate Maintenance”. You should think about this as a legal separation under Michigan law.

What exactly is a separate maintenance in Oakland County?

When a couple doesn’t live together anymore, and considers their marriage to be over, but they don’t want to formally file for divorce, they ask the court for a Judgment of Separate Maintenance. Under Michigan law, the only legally recognized grounds for a separate maintenance judgment is “the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”, which is also known as  “irreconcilable differences.” This means the couple believes there’s no chance that their marriage could be saved.

Separate maintenance is similar to divorce in many ways

Just like a divorce judgment, this filing asks the court to divide all of the couple’s assets, decide alimony, divide debts and also make a determination for child custody and child support payments. All debts, financial assets, and co-owned property is divided by the court. Sometimes, court also choose to divine assets that are not marital property, but that’s a whole different topic.

Do you need the court to figure out how to end your marriage?

No you don’t. If the separating couple is willing and able to resolve all of their financial, custody, and support issues before the judgment is filed in a settlement agreement, the divorce lawyers will incorporate this into the judgment of divorce or your judgment of separate maintenance.

When would you choose to separate instead of divorce?

Why would a couple want to be divorced in every way except the name? It’s a good question. Many people don’t believe that divorce is morally acceptable for religious or personal reasons, but if they’re trapped in a marriages with an abusive partner, or with a partner whose struggling with addictions that make them a possible danger to children, it may be the only option. For them, a Judgment of Separate Maintenance gives peace of mind without violating their conscience. There are also other reasons for getting legally separated rather than getting divorced. Here in Oakland County, legal separation cases are relatively rare when compared to actual divorce cases.

How does legal separation affect health insurance?

Initially, separate maintenance was used when a couple didn’t want to be married anymore, but wanted to continue sharing the health insurance benefits that marriage provided. In recent years however, many health insurance companies have changed their policies to deal with this. Now, many insurance companies treat a judgement of separate maintenance in the same way as a divorce. This is called a “triggering event” and the legal separation can be treated in the same way as the medical insurance company would look at a real divorce.

Remember, when it’s all over, you’re technically still married!

The one distinct difference in this whole process, is that when it’s all said and done, the couple are still married. So while it might feel like you’re divorced after a Judgment of Separate Maintenance, you can’t legally remarry. If you happen to meet another special someone, and want to tie the know, you’ll have to go through the process a second time and file for divorce.

Do you have questions about divorce and separation in Oakland County?

Whether you’re considering divorce, an annulment or a separate maintenance (legal separation), you’re going to need an experienced Oakland County family law attorney to help you through the process.Finding the best attorney that you can is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your future. If you’re facing divorce, legal separation, a paternity case, PPO, problems with child support or spousal support, call us today at 248 479 6200. We’re available 24/7 by phone, or you can meet us at our Farmington Hills office. We’ve helped thousands of clients over the past decades; we’ll get you through this.


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