Michigan does make a distinction between a legal divorce and a legal separation (known as “separation maintenance”). To file for divorce in Michigan at least one of the spouses must have lived in Michigan for no less than 180 days. A divorce is the final legal termination of the marriage. Separation maintenance occurs where the couple lives separately, divides assets and child custody but does not seek a permanent termination of the marriage. Separation maintenance can occur for many reasons, for example, health insurance.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?

In Michigan, the paperwork required to be filed for separation maintenance is like that of the paperwork required for a divorce.

  • A spouse must first file an action for separate maintenance with the court, in the same way and reason as you would file for divorce.
  • The non-filing spouse will then respond with an answer. The answer may either accept the reasons for separation/divorce or deny them. This is also when they can file their own reason for divorce.
  • If a counterclaim for divorce is filed, the reasons listed in the first claim can be looked over by the court.
  • Both spouses will then present evidence as to the state of the marriage and the court can issue:
    • A judgment of separate maintenance, or
    • A judgment of divorce (called “dissolving the bonds of matrimony” in Michigan).

The proper paperwork must be filed at each step and an experienced divorce lawyer can work with you through the entire legal process.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

Michigan is considered an “equitable distribution” state, which means that divorce courts in Michigan may distribute the marital assets of spouses in a way they believe is fair, but not necessarily even. There are many factors that the courts will look at when dividing marital assets, including:

  • the length of the marriage,
  • assets brought into the marriage,
  • contributions made by each spouse to the marriage,
  • the best interests of any dependent children, and
  • any custody arrangements.

Divorces and separation maintenance can require extensive records showing income expenses and marital assets. You will be able to help the process by understanding your current financial situation and have the proper records.

What Should You Do If There are Children Involved?

In Michigan, children are given certain protections by courts and a court managing a divorce involving children will always put an emphasis on the best interests of the children. This means that the court will consider things like the child’s safety and stability when making custody decisions

A Michigan court may also make determinations about child support – financial payments made by one or both parents to pay for the costs associated with having children. Child support may be required to pay for the child’s basic needs, as well as any other needs that the court deems fit. 

As with marital assets, divorcing spouses should take an accounting of all the expenses that exist with raising children. A court will typically do everything it can to ensure that children are given are prioritized throughout the divorce process. Failure to pay child support can lead to further court involvement, including (but not limited to) wage garnishment or jail time.

Do You Need to Pay Alimony?

Michigan law may require you or your former spouse to pay alimony. Alimony is payments made to a former spouse to ensure that he or she can continue living in a fair way after the divorce. Alimony payments can be particularly contentious during a divorce and it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side fighting for your rights.

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

If you are thinking of filing for divorce or may be facing a divorce, then it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Michigan devorce lawyer. Divorce is a complicated issue, and each state has their set of divorce laws.