Separate maintenance, similar to legal separation, is a judgment that awards child custody, child support, parenting time, spousal support and divides property. However, you and your spouse are still legally married.
The judgment reads very much like a judgment of divorce. The parties separate their finances, as though they were divorced. Under the federal tax code, the couple files separate income tax returns as single people or head of household, not married, filing separate returns.
Over time, some people choose to convert separate maintenance to a judgment of divorce, for example, when a spouse becomes eligible for Medicare. They can agree to keep their separate maintenance agreement in place after a divorce. However, some courts require that a divorce case must be filed, while others allow the parties to sign an order converting the separate maintenance judgment to a judgment of divorce.
If you have a separate maintenance judgment or have questions about how it may apply to your situation, schedule a consultation to explore your options.