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separate maintenance

Separate Maintenance

Separate Maintenance: Many people ask if they can get a “legal separation”, instead of a divorce.  A “legal separation” does not exist under Michigan law.  In Michigan, whether you live together or not, if you are married, you are still marital partners and your legal status is married.

However, Michigan law does allow you to file an action for “Separate Maintenance”. 

Steps to Legal Separation in Michigan

The steps to obtain separate support and maintenance is virtually the same as a divorce, except you are still legally married. 

The process of filing for Separate Maintenance is the same and the same legal issues can arise as in a divorce case.  In a this kind of action, all of the property is divided and an agreement, or a trial, can determine:

  • spousal support
  • child custody
  • parenting time
  • child support.

Then why file for Separation and not a divorce? 

Typically, there is a special reason or reasons for asking for a judgment like this.  Here are a few examples:

  • Religious reasons for separate support and maintenance – getting legally separated often gives both parties the results that they’re looking for while maintaining religious traditions.  
  • Health Insurance concerns are also very common.  Long term care, medications and existing conditions are all reasons couples legally separate but don’t divorce.
  • Estate Planning  It is possible that legal separation could be an estate planning technique, but that would likely be in a highly complex and high asset situation. And this is not a very common approach.
  • Immigration and Legal Separation in Michigan – Another reason to ask for what many consider to be a kind of alimony, could be immigration issues, but again, that could be a complex situation.

Requirements to get Separated

Both spouses must agree to a Judgment of Separate Maintenance.  And that is a primary difference between divorce and separation here in the state of Michigan.

If you’ll notice from the reasons list above, each one of them either carries an inherent benefit to both parties or at least a clear agreement in priorities.

So if one spouse requests a separation agreement, the other spouse can refuse and demand a divorce.  There’s no legal compulsion to accept this Michigan version of “getting separated”, unlike a divorce which one party and a judge can execute.


No matter what your situation requires, The Smart Law Group will be there to help you make the smart decision.

Michigan separation of marriage or separate maintenance agreements

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