Beginning the emotional process of divorce can be overwhelming and disheartening, and it could leave you wondering if legal separation is a better idea for your situation. In Michigan, legal separation is also known as “separate maintenance.” Essentially, this legal action is between a married couple and can divide property and debt; determine child support, custody, and parenting time; and award alimony, or spousal support. This court case may sound a lot like a divorce to you, and it is. The only real difference is that the couple stays married at the end of it.

Here at John R. Foley, P.C., we can help with both divorce and legal separation, and we can also discuss options and differences with you to help you know what is right for you. Our team of family lawyers in Dearborn is eager to help clients arrive at a solution for their family, and we want you to be as knowledgeable about it as possible. Because of this, we regularly update our blog with information pertaining to family law. Today’s blog covers the advantages and disadvantages of legal separation before divorce. Keep reading to learn more and be sure to contact John R. Foley, P.C. today to meet with a family lawyer in Dearborn.

Advantages of Legal Separation Before Divorce

There are a variety of reasons someone may want to choose legal separation instead of divorce. If any of these reasons listed below are beneficial to you, then be sure to discuss the option of legal separation with one of our family lawyers.

Access to Insurance, Tax Benefits

When you are legally separated instead of divorced, you can still legally remain on your spouse’s insurance. If you have preexisting conditions or high costs associated with medical care (or even if you don’t), then this could be a good option for you. Especially if you are considering legal separation leading up to divorce, then this could be good because it allows you more time to work through paperwork and finalize your future insurance without being penalized for not being insured. 

Tip: While it is common, not all insurance policies provide coverage to a spouse once legal separation is finalized. Do your research to make sure this is a benefit you can take advantage of.

As a legally separated couple, you can also still take advantage of tax benefits because you are still legally married. You may also qualify for social security benefits.

Control Over Finances

Our family lawyers consistently see finances as a source of arguments and contention within a marriage. If this sounds like you and your partner, then some separation may do the two of you good because your finances will be separate. After finalizing legal separation with the help of your family lawyer, you will have complete control over your finances. If you do decide to move forward with divorce after legal separation, then this will prove invaluable as you have a better idea of your monthly income and spending, along with your future financial needs. Be sure to check out our blog post 8 Financial Tips When Going Through a Divorce for more information regarding finances and divorce.

Potential to Save the Marriage

If you and your partner are hesitant to divorce because you think you may be able to “save” the marriage, then legal separation can be a good idea for now. Our family lawyers have seen separate maintenance to be beneficial for couples who want to work on their marriage because it allows you to work through issues without fighting as much or living in the same household. It allows an opportunity for you and your spouse to reconnect and re-learn what it takes for you to be a happy couple (and if that is even what you want).

However, it is not recommended that you go into a legal separation expecting it to save your marriage. It is essentially a “baby step” toward divorce that can allow you and your partner to see how you truly feel about living apart and divorcing.

Religious or Ethical Objections

Some people have religious or ethical obligations to divorcing but are comfortable with the idea and legal action of separate maintenance. If your personal or religious beliefs, and those of your partner, are against divorce, then legal separation may be a good alternative that can still meet your financial and emotional needs. After all, you are still legally married but you can live your life in a way that is more independent and conducive to your needs.

Disadvantages of Legal Separation Before Divorce

Likewise, there are many reasons it may be more beneficial for you and your partner to divorce instead of meet with a family lawyer about separate maintenance in Dearborn. If these disadvantages outweigh the advantages, then consider contacting John R. Foley, P.C. today to meet with a family lawyer about divorce.

Decreased Communication

While we listed an advantage of separate maintenance as the potential to save the marriage, this may actually be more difficult because you have decreased communication after obtaining legal separation. If your main goal is to save your marriage, then you will have to work harder than usual to improve your communication skills because the two of you will not live together or even necessarily see each other daily.

Increased Spending

Even though you will have increased control over finances if you choose separate maintenance before divorce, there will likely be increased spending for both parties involved. You will spend more money than usual because of a move or because you now rent an apartment or home; you will spend more money on legal services for a family lawyer; and you will even spend more money on basic shopping costs and monthly expenses. 

It is also important to consider that joint accounts or financial agreements with both of your names are still, well, joint. This means that you may still be liable for any debts in both of your names (such as a mortgage or a joint credit account). 

If you do decide to move forward with a divorce after separate maintenance, then you may be in a more financially precarious situation because of your decision to legally separate first. However, it is important to note that divorce proceedings may be shortened because you have already done much of the “heavy lifting” of figuring out division of assets, etc.

Longer Divorce Process

Of course, legal separation may simply prolong the divorce process and make the relationship between you and your partner tenser. While it has the potential to improve communication, let you know what you want, or even save the marriage, separate maintenance can also add financial and emotional strain to an already stressful situation. If you do decide to divorce, will you look back on the time and wish you had done it sooner rather than moving forward with legal separation? No one can answer this for you, but the pros and cons in this blog may help. Discussing options and possibilities with your family lawyer may also help you make a decision.

You Are Still Married

If you are ready to move on and be done with the marriage, then legal separation is most likely not the right option for you and your partner because you are still legally married. If the two of you are learning how to be apart and learning who you are outside of marriage — without yet deciding on divorce — then separate maintenance may also be a bad idea in terms of dating, etc. Because you are still legally married, romantic relationships outside of your partner could be considered an extramarital affair and complicate legal matters and emotions.

Legal Separation? Divorce? Our Family Lawyers Can Help

When you and your spouse are interested in separation, divorce and separate maintenance are both viable options. Our family lawyers know that no divorce case will ever be the same. There are varying needs, wants, and problems, and all of this affects your case and civil litigation. Divorce is emotional even when it is amicable, and separate maintenance before divorce has proven to be a beneficial decision for some parties. For some, divorce is the best option. For others, mediation is a wonderful alternative. Whatever it is, the family lawyers at John R. Foley, P.C. can help.

Our family lawyers are skilled divorce attorneys, custody lawyers, and child support experts who can guide you through the often murky, overwhelming waters of divorce, separate maintenance, and mediation. Finding the right solution for you will be paramount to your financial and emotional well-being — both now and in the future. 

Family law has been one of the primary practice areas of John R. Foley, P.C. since our law firm began in 1994. In this time, our family lawyers have become experts in Dearborn regarding child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, and property division. No matter your need with family law, we are sure to have experience with it and be able to help. Contact us today to meet with a family lawyer in Dearborn regarding divorce, separate maintenance, or mediation.