Legal Separation in Grand Rapids Michigan

Live independently, without breaking the marriage by law as it is with a divorce.

You may find that a legal separation (called “separate maintenance”) is the right choice for you and your family when considering options to terminate your marital relationship. Separate maintenance means that you will live independently, but the marriage is not fully broken by law as it is with a divorce. The law office of Robert B. Relph provides legal separation services to clients in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas.

Why Separate Maintenance Instead of Divorce?

There are several reasons you might decide a separation (instead of divorce) is right for you:

  • You have a moral or religious objection to divorce
  • You desire personal space to consider repairing your marriage
  • You want to maintain health or financial benefits for you or your spouse
  • You want to plan out your divorce carefully and slowly

Obtaining Separate Maintenance

Technically, there is nothing specifically in Michigan divorce law called legal separation. However, a legal separation is achieved by the filing of a divorce or an action for separate maintenance. You are not required to be legally or physically separated from your spouse to file for divorce or separate maintenance.

The process to obtain a Judgment of Separate Maintenance is very similar to a divorce procedure, except you remain legally married. You may not remarry after a legal separation and if you later decide to divorce, generally the process to convert a separate maintenance to a divorce is rather simple, as the basic terms of a legal separation will be the same as those for a divorce.

Judgment of Separate Maintenance

Like a divorce, separate maintenance determines marital issues including:

In order for final decisions to be made about these issues, the Judge assigned to your case will typically strongly encourage you and your spouse to settle out of court, usually by way of mediation. Many times, cases settled out of court leave each party feeling more positive about the settlement than if a Judge imposed a decision on them.

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers below are intended to provide general information with regard to common questions on separation based on laws in the State of Michigan. They are not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with a divorce specialist or attorney.

Similarly, since every case is different we recommend consulting with a divorce specialist or attorney for advice related to your specific set of circumstances.

Parties can separate without a court order, but should have a private agreement between themselves regarding the issues involved in separation such as payment of bills, and parenting time with the minor children. If court action is commenced, a pending divorce acts as a legal separation between the parties. Again, a written agreement or court order is appropriate to outline the parties' rights and responsibilities regarding divorce-related issues.

A separation is not always a precursor to divorce. Parties can separate without legal action, but should have an agreement about their rights and responsibilities. Parties have been known to separate without legal action, work out their differences (often through counseling) and get back together again without any legal action having ever been filed.

There is no maximum duration for a private separation (without court action). However, for court docket control purposes, parties cannot expect to be indefinitely separated during a divorce process without the finalization of the divorce itself. If the matter is pending too long before the court, the court can dismiss the action for lack of progress toward completion. A reconciliation can end a separation, but this should be done by agreement regarding the terms and conditions regarding how the parties will get back together and what they intend to accomplish once reunited. Courts do not automatically require the parties to live in separate locations while a divorce is pending. However, typically a request by one party for a physical separation will most often lead to a judge ordering one party or the other to vacate the marital residence. Most judges do not think leaving parties together who do not want to be together will result in peace and harmony between the parties. If the parties are having serious enough problems to have a divorce filed, a physical separation will most often be the result.

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