Separation, Divorce, Separate Maintenance

Divorce Attorney

There are many reasons for separating.  Some parties want to separate, perhaps to test the waters to determine if living apart is better than living together.  Some separate with the intent to work on the marriage during the separation.  Some separate so that they can test out an already existing illicit relationship to see how that works out before deciding to divorce.  Some parties think that the spouse would react too negatively to the request for a divorce, so they ease into it by suggesting a “trial separation.”  Separation may be suggested by one party after that party has decided to get divorced, as a tool to get the other side out of the house or to establish a preferable custody and parenting time situation in the hopes that the Court will later adopt it in a more permanent form.  Some also use separation as time to hide assets.

Some are devious and first consult with an attorney.  She* then may bring up the topic of separation while holding out the hope of reconciliation.  She leads the other party to think that if he is reasonable in dividing assets and otherwise is generous in negotiating settlement terms that he is reducing the chance for divorce.  When the other party finally figures out that they have been taken advantage of, it might be too late to effectively turn back the clock.  He feels doubly betrayed and perhaps a little naïve or stupid.

If you have evil intentions, this law firm should not be your choice.

An alternative to filing a complaint for divorce is to file a Complaint for Separate Maintenance (JOSM).  An order granting a JOSM economically divorces the parties, but technically preserves the marriage.  A JOSM divides marital assets, deals with or rules out spousal support, and where applicable, deals with issues of child support, custody, and parenting time.

Because divorce is now societally acceptable, one main reason for seeking a Judgment of Separate Maintenance (JOSM) is gone.  In Western Michigan, Separate Maintenance was sometimes known as a Christian Reformed Divorce. In Michigan, if you have a JOSM rather than a Judgment of Divorce, you cannot remarry. If a party with a JOSM wanted to remarry, he* must first file a Complaint for Divorce; with the hopes of retaining the terms of the JOSM in the ultimate Judgment of Divorce.

If one party files for an action for Separate Maintenance, the other party has an absolute right to seek entry of a Judgment of Divorce.

If a party obtains a Judgment of Separate Maintenance and then later seeks entry of a Judgment of Divorce containing the same terms, the other side may allege that adopting the terms of the earlier Judgment are unfair due to changed circumstances; perhaps including post-judgment intermingling of assets, etc.

Some parties wish to maintain work related health care coverage for both spouses, so they file an Action for Separate Maintenance as opposed to a Divorce.   But, many employers now consider a JOSM as sufficient cause to terminate coverage for the non-employee spouse.

Immigration status may be another reason for filing a Complaint for Separate Maintenance rather than a Complaint for Divorce.

Please contact Pater Law, PC if we can be of assistance.

* In this article, she is used interchangeably with he.  No inference should be drawn by use of either he vs. she.