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Are there legal alternatives to divorce?

| Sep 1, 2020 | Divorce |

When you find yourself at odds with your spouse and you cannot see a way to resolve your differences, you may be wondering if divorce is your only option.

Legal divorce alternatives do exist in Michigan — such as separate maintenance and annulment — but these are only appropriate in a minority of cases.

What is separate maintenance?

Separate maintenance is Michigan’s term for legal separation. Some people consider this option when religious, personal or family beliefs condemn divorce. Other couples want to remain legally married for business or public appearances. Whatever the reason may be, Michigan law does not require that you disclose your grounds for separate maintenance.

During the legal proceedings, a court will determine property division, child custody and spousal support, just as a court would for divorce. The difference is that you remain married on paper at the end of the proceedings.

Is it a good alternative to divorce?

Separate maintenance is generally not a long-term solution. If you become legally separated but not divorced, you may not remarry, even though you are separated. If either of you decides to seek a divorce later, you will most likely have to start over with the divorce process. Even so, the terms established for separate maintenance may establish a status quo that stands during and after divorce proceedings. Before seeking separate maintenance, talk to an experienced family law attorney.

What about annulment?

Annulment may sound like another appealing way to avoid divorce, but annulment is only a legal option in a few narrow situations. A court may grant an annulment if there is sufficient evidence that your spouse or someone else coerced you to marry or if the marriage itself was unlawful — such as in the case of underage spouses, bigamy or incest.

While separate maintenance and annulment may be good alternatives for a select few, these options are not viable for most couples.

For spouses who want to minimize conflict and avoid a courtroom battle, mediation is a process to consider. Mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution that allows spouses to reach the terms of their divorce with the help of a trained mediator. If you choose this route, it is still very important to seek counsel from a divorce attorney.