Can You Execute Your Own Divorce Separation Agreement in Michigan?

By A.M. Hill

Michigan law allows a divorcing couple to execute their own separation agreement -- sometimes called a settlement agreement. A separation agreement is a legal contract that spells out exactly how the parties will divide all debts and assets. It also addresses spousal and child support, child custody and visitation rights. You are not required to have an attorney prepare this document.

Michigan law allows a divorcing couple to execute their own separation agreement -- sometimes called a settlement agreement. A separation agreement is a legal contract that spells out exactly how the parties will divide all debts and assets. It also addresses spousal and child support, child custody and visitation rights. You are not required to have an attorney prepare this document.

Understand the Terms

A validly executed separation agreement becomes a legally binding court order once it is incorporated into the divorce decree, so take care to thoroughly understand all the terms before you sign. Because this agreement addresses all property accumulated during the marriage, separation agreements can be complex documents. Familiarize yourself with Michigan's method of dividing marital property, which follows equitable distribution principles and awards marital property fairly -- if not necessarily equally -- according to a list of factors. You must also understand the difference between marital and separate property.

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Modifying the Agreement

Once the court adopts your separation agreement and the divorce is finalized, any modifications to the original agreement must be approved by the court after you file a motion for modification. If your ex opposes these changes, modification can quickly become a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Some modifications, like child support, are especially difficult to obtain. Under Michigan law, courts will not consider modification of child support obligations unless there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last order was established.

Legal Separation

Rather than go forward with divorce right from the start, some couples -- typically for religious or financial reasons -- choose to become legally separated: a process that allows for a division of property without ending the marriage, but this option is not available in Michigan because the state does not recognize legal separation. A married couple who opts to live separately can still enter into a written separation agreement, but it will not become binding until the spouses either file for divorce, and the agreement becomes part of the divorce decree, or file for a judgment of separate maintenance.

Separate Maintenance

Michigan recognizes an action called separate maintenance, which is similar to divorce, except the couple remains married. To obtain a separate maintenance order from the court, you must go through all the steps of a divorce, including dividing property and determining spousal support, if any, child support obligations and custody rights. If you later decide to end your marriage, however, you must start the process from the beginning and file a new action for divorce.

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Arizona Divorce Settlement Statements That Can Be Binding

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Common Law: Separation Agreement

If your marriage is legally recognized as a common law marriage by your state, you can terminate it only through divorce. If you're not ready for divorce, you can instead choose legal separation if your state provides this option. With either separation or divorce, you have the option of drafting a separation agreement, also known as a marital settlement agreement, with your spouse. In this agreement, you and your spouse will outline your agreed-upon arrangement for property division, alimony and custody.

What Forms Are Required to File for Divorce in Michigan?

Michigan has afforded spouses the opportunity to obtain a no-fault divorce since its divorce laws were revised in 1972. Since that time, divorces have been relatively easy to obtain, especially if both spouses agree on all the terms of their divorce, starting with the no-fault ground of breakdown of the marital relationship. The timetable for divorce in Michigan can vary, depending on the complexity of issues and cooperation of the parties.

Indiana Laws for Separation Before Divorce

Indiana law provides couples with two options if they want to end or change their marital relationship: dissolution of marriage, which is a divorce, or legal separation. A dissolution of marriage officially ends a marriage, while a legally separation simply allows the couple to live apart for a specified amount of time to decide whether they want to save the marriage or divorce. Before seeking a legal separation, it’s essential to know the rights and responsibilities of each party.

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