Alternatives to Divorce in Michigan

Divorce is not always the solution that individuals want, whether it be for religious reasons or other reasons. In Michigan, there are two alternatives to Divorce: Separate Maintenance and Annulment. Separate Maintenance and Annulment are not used as often as Divorce because these alternatives do not always encompass all of the needs for many couples.

There are many different paths to take. A client may ask for a legal separation, in Michigan this is known as “separate maintenance.” Separate maintenance differs from divorce in one aspect and that is the couple stays married versus being divorced. In a separate maintenance case, a complaint for separate maintenance is filed with the court. At the conclusion of the case there is still a division of property, assets, liabilities, allows for child support, custody, and parenting time as well as spousal support.


However, there are some potential downfalls to filing for separate maintenance, these can include but are not limited to a spouse losing health insurance from the other spouse’s employer, a husband will be deemed the legal father of any children born to the wife even if the husband is not the biological father. This applies to opposite-sex couples, Michigan law is unclear what would occur with a same-sex couple. Lastly, an individual who goes through a separate maintenance cannot marry another person until that individual gets divorced. This is the big difference between divorce and separate maintenance. Depending on the goals of the individual and even the couple themselves that will be the major determining factor of whether separate maintenance or divorce is the better option for them.


When a spouse files a complaint for separate maintenance, the other spouse can file a counterclaim for divorce. This is something that should be kept in mind as the Court will then treat the matter as a divorce.


With a separate maintenance action, at the end of the case the parties are awarded with a Judgment of Separate Maintenance. However, if one of the parties later decides that they want to file for divorce, then a new divorce case will have to be filed. The Judgment of Separate Maintenance is enforceable through a divorce as the terms do not change, this includes but is not limited to the property division set forth in the separate maintenance judgment. These terms do not get changed when a spouse decides to file for divorce after a Judgment of Separate Maintenance has been filed.


On the other hand, there is Annulment. Annulments are even more rare as they are not possible in many cases or situations. A Court has the ability to “cancel” or annul a couple’s marriage if something was wrong or unjust. The grounds for annulment are as follows:


  • Bigamy: one of the spouses is married to another person who is still alive.
  • Incompetence: one of the spouses is uncapable of entering into a “contract” at the time the marriage occurred.
  • Too young: in Michigan the spouses must be at least 18 years of age or 16 years old with parental consent to be married.
  • Spouses are close relatives: in Michigan and many other states it is illegal to marry someone who is closely related to you.
  • One spouse forced/lied to the other spouse to get married: One spouse cannot force another spouse into marriage as well as one spouse cannot lie about something that is important in order to get the other spouse to agree to marriage.


An annulment will not be granted for those who get married and then change their mind shortly after being married. This is not a valid reason for an annulment.


It should also be noted that religious annulment and annulment are not the same thing. Annulment is the legal decision about civil marriage. A Religious Annulment is through a church (normally in catholic religion) where the Church Court decides whether or not a marriage fell short on one of the elements required to make the marriage binding according to church law.


The result of an annulment is that the spouses are no longer married, the same result as divorce. In an annulment case, if there are children and property to be divided, the annulment process will take care of those issues. However, there is no standard court forms to be filed for annulment. In the case of annulment, a person should contact a family law attorney to help with this process.


Not everyone wants to divorce whether it be for religious reasons or other reasons, these are alternatives to Divorce.


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The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance.  Or contact our new location in Alexander City, Alabama at 800-809-9414. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan primarily including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties. In Alabama Kathryn practices in primarily Lee, Tallapoosa, Macon, Chambers, Coosa and Elmore Counties.