In some states, courts will not grant a divorce to a couple unless they have been living “separate and apart” for a period of time, in some cases a whole year. As you can imagine, this places a significant financial burden on some families who are not ready to bear it.
Fortunately, Michigan has no such requirement. If a couple chooses to remain in the same household while their divorce is pending, they are able to do so, simply noting in their divorce pleadings that they are no longer “living together as husband and wife.” So there are no legal impediments to continuing to live together.
There are also no legal disadvantages to living apart. Many people feel that they will be at a disadvantage with regard to division of marital property if they have “abandoned” the marital home by moving out. This is not true. Michigan does not recognize the concept of abandonment of any type of marital property.
Legally speaking, then, you’re not obligated to live with your spouse while the divorce is pending, and you’re not obligated to live apart. How do you decide whether to stay or go ? Here are some things to consider.
How amicable is your relationship?
Obviously, people choose to divorce because they feel their marriage isn’t viable in the long term. But many couples still have fond feelings for one another, even as they know divorce is the best decision. The better you get along, of course, the easier and more pleasant it will be to live together while the divorce is pending. Living together may also give you the opportunity to discuss and resolve some issues in the divorce, like parenting time schedules and property division, so that you don’t have to pay attorneys to argue about those details.
What are your finances like?
For many couples, the emotional cost of living with a soon-to-be-ex is more than offset by thousands of dollars in living expenses saved while the divorce is pending. However, all the money in the world won’t make up for it if you’re miserable every day and night.
Will you each have your own space?
It’s one thing for one of you to move into the guest bedroom while one stays in the master. But think about living space–what happens if one of you wants to have a family member or friend visit, or just relax without the other person nearby? Make sure the home’s layout, or your schedules, allow each of you private space and time in the home.
How will expenses and chores be divided?
We’ve all had roommates who were slobs, mooched groceries or chronically late with their share of the rent. By living with your soon-to-be ex, you’ll be effectively creating a roommate relationship. It will work better if you are able to establish ground rules, respect each others’ rights, and live up to your responsibilities.
Do you have kids?
This is a big one for many people. A huge advantage to living together while a divorce is pending is that both parties get to spend more time with the kids. However, if you and your spouse are constantly bickering or tense, living together means you’re just extending the time your kids have to live with that stress.
Do you feel safe?
Continuing to live with your spouse during your divorce can offer a lot of benefits, but none of them are worth it if your safety, or that of your kids, is at risk. If domestic violence has been an issue in your marriage, one of you should move out of the home while the divorce is going on.
If you are considering a divorce in Oakland County, Wayne County, Macomb County, or anywhere in Southeast Michigan, you should speak to an experienced Michigan divorce attorney who can advise you regarding your particular situation. Contact our Bloomfield Hills office to schedule a consultation with Jim Hubbert, so that you can get support in making the best decisions before, during, and after your divorce.