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Exploring a legal separation

Legal separation is more than just a stepping stone to a divorce. Some couples might treat it as merely a part of the divorce process, but separation is an important legal process in itself. A legal separation is a court order that stipulates the rights and obligations of a couple that has decided to live separately. Spouses may choose to live apart from each other at any time during the marriage, but it is the formal declaration by the court that makes a separation legally official.

When exploring whether a legal separation is right for you, there are several important factors to consider.

How is a legal separation different from a divorce?

The primary difference between a separation and a divorce is that in a separation, the marriage is still legally intact. In a divorce, the couple is seeking a divorce decree to end the marriage. Important issues such as property division, child support and visitation are frequently decided during separation, but these can be revised during divorce proceedings.

The state of Michigan requires a waiting period after declaring a divorce in order to ensure that both parties are certain that they want to proceed. A separation, however, does not require any waiting period.

Is legal separation right for me?

If you are considering a legal separation, you might be a good candidate if you fit one of these criteria:

  • You are unsure whether you want to file for divorce
  • You are religiously opposed to divorce
  • You don’t want to live as spouses, but wish to retain the benefits of marriage such as tax and social security benefits, or insurance coverage

How to obtain a legal separation

Once you decide that you want to legally separate, your attorney will help file a petition with the court. It can include the stipulations for managing child custody or finances during the separation period. If your spouse and his or her attorney don’t have any objections, the court will likely approve the petition. If there are objections, then a hearing may be required before the separation is given. After the terms of separation are agreed upon, both spouses will be legally separated.

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Exploring a legal separation | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC