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What is the benefit of filing for legal seperation as opposed to getting a divorce

Dearborn, MI |

We have been married almost 12 years and have had lots of genuine problems. Ihave two children and of course want whats best for all the family. I guess I am holding out any last hope before a final move is made. I am a stay at home mom and have been dependent on his income(our)

We got in a fight and he left, instead of staying with someone he got a 1 year lease on a condo and has changed his mailing address! What now.

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Attorney answers 5


Generally people sue for separate maintenance where divorce is not an option for religious reasons. The judgment of separate maintenance divides up the marital estate and thereafter each party manages that party financial matters.
I suggest that you see if therapy for you and your spouse is an option. Also, consult with a divorce lawyer so you can learn what to expect from a divorce. Let me know if you would like further assistance from me.

I am licensed to practice law in Michigan and Virginia and regularly handle cases of this sort. You should not rely on this answer. You should consult a lawyer so you can tell the lawyer the entire situation and get legal advice that is precisely tailored to your case.


There is little practical difference between divorce and legal separation, the main difference being the ability to remarry.
If you believe that there is a chance the marriage can be saved, do all in your power to work toward that result. There are generally no winners in divorce or separation.
You might wish to discuss you situation with an attorney now to understand the probable result of exercising your various options.

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Hi, The first thing is to see if there is any way that your husband would consider marriage counseling with a trained therapist. If not then your only options are to wait and see what he does or else you can file one of two actions. In Michigan there is no separation action. There is an action for separate maintenance which is identical to a divorce except that you are asking to live separate and apart but not be divorced. The danger is that if you file for separate maintenance if your husband responds with a divorce then the action automatically turns into a divorce action. I urge you to talk to an attorney who specializes in family law for more specific advice and information. Good luck to you.

Henry Gornbein


There is no such thing as a "legal separation" in Michigan, although you can sue for Separate Mainttenance. With Separate Maintenance, everything gets decided just like in a divorce case, including property division, child custody, parenting time and support, as well as alimony. The only difference is that when it is all over you can't get married because you are still married. Separate Maintenance is usually used by people who are religiously opposed to divorce. Sometimes people will use Separate Maintenance to maintain health insurance for a spouse who would lose the benefit in a divorce. However, many insurance now treat the two the same, so if that is an issue, it is wise to check with your insurer to ascertain whether Separate Maintenance will act to terminate benefits for the spouse. One thing should be clear, and that is Separate Maintenance is not a stopgap measure. If you are uncertain whether you want to be divorced, refrain from filing until you know what you want. One final note, even if you file for Separate Maintenance, your spouse can choose to counterclaim for divorce.

This comment is designed for general information only, and should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.


Dear Avvo Subscriber,

You should consult with a family law attorney regarding all your options and rights. If your husband is willing to attend family therapy, this may be beneficial for you and your children. If there is a breakdown in the marriage, you may want to mediate the issues before you attempt to file for either an action for separate maintenance or divorce.

In Michigan, what you refer to as "legal separation," is called "separate maintenance." The legal procedure for both actions is identical. The relevant statute is MCL 552.7.

The time periods for when a certain event may occur, however, can be different. Unlike a divorce with minor children, an action for separate maintenance with minor children does not require a 6 month waiting period to finalize and enter a Judgment. Nor is there a mandatory 60 day waiting period requirement in entering judgments involving minor children. Most courts, however, treat both actions similarly and generally courts will wait at least 60 days to enter a Judgment of Separate Maintenance. The relevant statute pertaining to the applicable waiting periods is MCL 552.9f which makes no reference to actions for Separate Maintenance.

In the end, the real difference between divorce and separate maintenance is that you are still married to your husband even after a "Judgment of Separate Maintenance" is entered by a family law judge.

You should know that if you file a complaint for separate maintenance, your spouse my file an answer and counter-claim for divorce. You cannot force your husband to enter a Judgment for separate maintenance in this event, but you may be able to negotiate with your spouse for the entry of a judgment of separate maintenance instead of a judgment of divorce if your husband is willing to agree to this. One reason for doing this is because you may have religious or personal reasons for wanting to stay married.

Again, you should consult with a family law attorney to assist in marshaling all the relevant facts of your case relative to your applicable legal issues which will help you make a more informed decision that is best for you and your family.

I wish you and your family the best of luck.

Lana Panagoulia

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