What is “separate maintenance?”

A “separate maintenance” action is a kind of court action filed between married persons. Many people know the action by its more common name, “legal separation.”

A “separate maintenance” action does not dissolve the parties’ marriage. A “separate maintenance” action does not “divorce” the married parties. A “separate maintenance” action does request that the court issue orders about the rights that each party to the marriage has regarding:

property and debt

children, including child custody, child support, residency, parenting time, and third party visitation

spousal support and maintenance (previously known as “alimony”)

A “separate maintenance” action is basically a holdover from earlier times in history when divorces were difficult to obtain. Separate maintenance cases are not commonly filed. And filing a separate maintenance case instead of a divorce may increase costs. If one spouse files a separate maintenance action, the other spouse can ask for a divorce instead. And if a divorce is requested by either spouse, the court must grant the divorce rather than grant the separate maintenance request.