Types of Marital Dissolution—Frequently Asked Questions

There are three legal proceedings to dissolve a marriage: divorce, separate maintenance, and annulment.

In the State of Michigan, there are three legal proceedings used to dissolve a marriage: divorce, separate maintenance, and annulment. There is no provision in our law to allow for the filing of a "legal separation," but a pending divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment act as a legal separation.

Below is a brief description of each type of proceeding:


An annulment is instituted for the purpose of determining by judicial ruling that a valid marriage never took place due to some defect that existed at the time the parties were married.

By contrast, a divorce proceeding is instituted in order to terminate a valid marriage for reasons that occurred after the marriage was entered into.

Grounds for annulment include bigamy, fraud, insanity of one of the spouses at the time of the marriage, underage, sterility or impotency, and marriages between parties related by blood or marriage. Since these grounds rarely exist, few annulments are granted.

Separate Maintenance

Separate maintenance is a legal proceeding, quite similar to divorce, which declares the rights and responsibilities of the parties, without actually dissolving the marriage. Typically, persons with very strong religious convictions against divorce may use a separate maintenance proceeding. However, if one party wants a divorce, and not a judgment of separate maintenance, the court must grant that party's request, and enter a judgment of divorce.


Michigan has adopted the concept of "no fault" divorce, and has eliminated the use of "grounds" for divorce. Under our law one must simply prove that there has been "a breakdown in the marital relationship to the extent the objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and there remains no reasonable likelihood the marriage can be preserved." Few people ever contest the granting of a divorce, and judges almost never deny a divorce. However, "fault" can still play a part in the determination of custody, property settlement, and spousal support.

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