“Legal separation” as the term is commonly understood, does not exist in Michigan. If married parties separate and live apart from each other, they are just a married couple living separately and there is no means for enforcing rights or obligations. Married parties can separate with a formal, written separation agreement which contains a settlement between the parties and which can be binding in a later divorce. Enforcement of the agreement would still require a divorce filing in order to have the court involved as an enforcer of rights and obligations.
A separate maintenance action is a recognized proceeding in Michigan. It is used where there is either a religious objection to divorce or where an unemployed spouse wishes to have continued health care coverage (many employers today consider a judgment of separate maintenance as a trigger to end the health care benefit). It is basically the same as a divorce, except that at the end of the case, the parties are still married. Property is divided, and spousal support can be ordered by the court where appropriate circumstances exist. To remarry, a divorce action must be later filed.